TBs: How many different prototypes did the excavator go through before the final design was chosen? And how much has it changed from the original concept model?
AG: It’s a little hard to answer clear, because some prototypes were developed only partly to improve certain parts. These parts were then later on build in a model with all improvements incorporated. Giving a rough estimate, at least 30 significantly different models has been developed. But in between them, a lot of smaller prototypes on parts of the model were developed.
TBs: Is there any element you'd like to exist, that would have helped in the design of the Excavator? If so, how would it improve the model?
AG: It would have been nice to make a specific shovel for this model, but it would only have helped the A model, then we would have to make another B-model, so its always a compromise when you are designing LEGO models, whether it’s System or Technic, keeping elements in a system to make them useful for many different models.
TBs: What limitations do you have regarding the design of new parts? Is there a maximum number of new parts per year or is there a set budget? For instance you have used the same bucket usually used on the large Technic Front Loaders. Did you choose a B-model that justifies this choice intentionally and thus limiting the development costs of a new bucket, more suitable for large Excavators?
RK: Every year during our concept faze we come up with a long list of new possible elements; we then evaluate which elements would be best for the models we are launching in that year. These elements are then presented to the management and they hopefully approve them.
Regarding the bucket, you are absolutely right, we did choose a B-model that justifies using a bucket from a front loader. I think this was the best compromise, had we done an excavator bucket we would have had trouble finding a right B-model.
TBs: When/how do you decide which color a specific model is going to have? Who decides it?
RK: I try to find a color that fits a specific model the best and a color that you would typically find on the same model in the “real World”. The decision it made before we test the concept models. As the Design Manager it’s my decision what color a model has.
TBs: In these videos [1, 2] Markus described the design process behind the 8275 Motorized Bulldozer. This is also the process we often hear about, where kids are involved in tests and where the models are stressed to the limits. He also describes the LEGO Technic design principles of "Authenticity, Functionality, and Challenging Building." We are pretty sure that TLG continues to enforce these principles, the development process and even fosters their continuous improvement. But… how come? Was the Functionality of the 8043 and elements durability properly tested? Are you intrigued that the LA issue off was not noticed during in-house tests. What happened to TLG's own design review procedures? Did the huge complexity of this model somehow cause project delays, and lead you to lower your guard on some basic development principles?
RK: Since the 8275 Motorized Bulldozer, our process has been improved even further. Our model quality is of highest importance for us, we do extensive testing on all our models. The 8043 Motorized Bulldozer is no exception to this. When we were contacted by our consumer service about the problem, it defiantly came as a surprise as none of our models had shown any problems during the tests. I immediately took contact to a couple of fans; they were very helpful and borrowed us their models to look into. When playing with these models, it was clear that the actuators had an internal friction problem which we had not seen before. We right away started up the process of producing new actuators that did not have this friction problem. The new actuators have now been shipped out to everyone that has contacted the LEGO® consumer Service. All sets with the faulty actuators are no longer on the market. The LEGO Technic team is very sorry for any inconvenience this problem has caused.
TBs: Do you have an estimate about what percentage of those that buy Technic are AFOLs? How much influence does the AFOL community actually have on what you guys bring out?
RK: Our estimate is 10% to 15% but mainly in the higher price points. The AFOL community have a lot of influence as we are listening to all the discussions and comments on the different forums. We try to take as much in consideration as possible and at the same time develop models that are cool and attractive to our main target group; the 7 to 16 years old kids.
TBs: Is there anything you can tell us at this moment about what we can expect for next year (besides obviously that we're going to get plenty of good stuff)?
Unfortunately, Ricco did not answer this question! Perhaps he missed it...
Thank you very much for your time Anders and Ricco, we wish you many great ideas for the 2012 sets and beyond. And thank you for the great Excavator! Also congratulations to the entire team, who have brought so many other great sets in 2010.
*) Images published with the authorization of the LEGO Group.
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