Braking Down Product Management with Clay Hendricks, Hayes Performance Systems

The Brake Report recently sat down with Clay Hendricks, Product Manager for Hayes Performance Systems.

Do you mind maybe sharing a little bit about your current role, maybe a little bit about your background? 

I’m a Product Manager at Hayes Performance for our power business, we have power sports, construction, and agriculture, and a government business within the Power business. So I represent all of those and dictate our product direction as well as our current product portfolio. 

How long have you been in the product management role at Hayes? 

I’ve been at Hayes for about seven years now and in product management for about three years. I started on the engineering side, design, engineering, application engineering, and now in our product management. 

Can you share a brief overview of Hayes? Maybe who you are and what you all do? 

We just celebrated our 75th-anniversary last year. We originally started as a machining company and then transitioned quickly into developing brakes for go-karts in the 50s. That led to great partnerships in the 50s, 60s, and 70s with some Power Sports Legends and then into the construction space as well. Snowmobiles, golf carts, and go-carts were the inception of Hayes and it’s still a strong piece of our business today. 

Can you share with us a little bit about the day in the life of product management? 

We have a quarterly business review laid out for the product management role here in Q2. The primary focus for us is kicking off and reviewing the projects that are active in our portfolio and our life cycle development. So continuing with the program teams, identifying the feasibility of our projects, and making sure that the marketability is there where it needs to be successful in the market. We round into Q3 into our planning for the year into finally Q4 budgeting, and then Q1 is the kick-off and we start the cycle over again. So we’ve got a whole array of programs that are different stages of that mixed in with all that future-looking stuff is obsolescence and sun setting and looking at the products that are ready for retirement. 

Do you find yourself spending more time with engineering or sales and finance?

I enjoy my time with the sales teams because that’s the voice of the customer that I need to set our direction to make sure that our alignment is where it needs to be. I’ve got the engineering background we talked about, so that ties in well with the ongoing projects and programs and I touch base with the engineering team as they’re going through their development phases and stuff like that. So I still like to wear that every once in a while. I definitely focus on the customer side and then some into the finances. We’re looking into the feasibility of our programs and making sure that we’re where we need to be. 

Hayes Performance Systems

As far as selecting and knowing what future products to launch, is it more about listening to the customer or is it more about the market in general?

It’s both. We definitely have come through a transition now from being more customer-focused in the past to being more market-focused now. That was a change that we made within the last five years here at Hayes which was to focus on customers and to be prepared for customers that aren’t a current customer of ours. Today we need to be that market-focused company. So focusing on the customers that we have, the conversations that we have is a little too short-sighted for us. It’s definitely a focus of mine and of our companies to be a market focus company. We have different market research that’s also part of my daily is understanding what the market positions, what the different markets are doing, whether it’s a product or a vehicle segment, and then drawing correlations from those vehicles to the brakes that we will need in the future to suit those vehicle customer vehicles. 

What specific models or segments do you all typically focus on?

Our big ones are motorcycle, UTV, ATV, and snow. Those are the big four for us in the power sports space. And then we’ve got heavy equipment, which is construction and agriculture. There’s industrial, which is all kinds of other uses of brakes that are not as categorized, and then finally government.

So while we’re talking about product management, do you want to talk about any specific products launched recently? 

Yeah, absolutely. So the UTV segment is one that’s been a priority for us recently. Obviously, that segment is growing in the market space and has done really well for us. It was a growth from the ATV space. They used a lot of ATV hardware for a while, then started to get their own hardware into that side-by-side UTV category. And then now we’re progressing into borderline heavy-duty stuff, into automotive range of design, structure, and stuff like that. Our Sovren caliper is one that we’ve recently launched for our side-by-side category and does really well right now in racing and in early product validation.

What makes the Sovren product line different or special compared to the other products you’ve had or maybe other things in the market right now?

The key is the bracket. It’s got a full torque takeout bracket, which is much more robust for the high weights, vehicle weights and vehicle speeds that we see in that category and anticipate into the future. We’ve got larger pressure capability for that brake caliper that allows to lean on it harder when you need to get that vehicle to stop or slow down. So those are the two big ones, the bracket and the caliper on the pressure range that it handles with the bracket. It’s got better noise performance than our prior models do and that really brings that premium feature to the category. 

More about Hayes

Hayes Performance Systems is a global manufacturer of brakes, suspension systems, wheels and components. Our superior products and systems instill confidence in all kinds of riders, from power sports and tractor riders to motorcycle and mountain bike riders. Our markets include mountain bicycles, power sports, agriculture, construction, government, and specialty categories.

We are headquartered is in Mequon, Wis., U.S.A. No matter how much we grow in internationally, our Midwestern roots make us value partnerships, being approachable and listening first. We strive to think through the eyes of our riders, dealers, distributors, and OEM customers who appreciate our collaborative approach when exploring innovative ways to proactively solve their changing needs for reliable systems and products.

Click HERE to learn more.

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The Brake Report
The Brake Report

The BRAKE Report is an online media platform dedicated to the automotive and commercial vehicle brake segments. Our mission is to provide the global brake community with the latest news & headlines from around the industry.