Three Generations of Bobcat Engineers: The Asche Family

Published on February 16, 2024

Three generations of Asche family men have brought innovation and dedication to Bobcat as engineers over the course of 50 years. Witness the advancements of Bobcat through the lens of this generational story.

When meeting Jim, Jason and Drew Asche, it’s nearly impossible to ignore their similarities. Their sarcastic jokes, mannerisms and speaking cadence signal their relation. The three also share a love of math, science and problem solving; it’s no surprise all were or currently are engineers at Bobcat. The grandfather, father and son trio are known within Bobcat for their collective 55 years as company engineers.

Jim Asche Begins Bobcat Legacy 

Jim started as a Bobcat engineer in 1973, when cylindrical slide rulers, drawing boards and T-squares preceded calculators and computers. At the time, Bobcat manufactured clutch drive skid-steer loaders, accompanying attachments and agricultural equipment. 

Transitioning machines to hydrostatic systems was one of many technological advancements Jim witnessed. This change gave operators a more comfortable cab experience.  

Jim worked on many projects throughout his tenure; he repeatedly says there was always more work to do. But he proudly recalls the role he played in redesigning the operator environment of the skid-steer loader rollover protective structure around the seat with screens on all sides. The cab was transformed in the 1970s and 1980s to enclosures with glass windows, heating and air conditioning.  

As a product engineer, Jim valued traveling to visit operators to understand how they were using machines and what design improvements would benefit them most. It was not lost on him that these machines were a key factor in many people making a livelihood. Jim found great pride and responsibility in creating high-quality products operators would find comfortable and useful. 

“The customer contact was so important,” Jim says. “You’re working with the person who’s actually trying to make a living with a product you designed. That always had quite an effect on me. There were times I put my tail between my legs and acknowledged I learned a lot from them I hadn’t thought of.” 

The driving systems and cab redesign are just two examples of the world of change Jim witnessed at Bobcat. He explains it as watching a local manufacturing company expand to become a worldwide product leader, all while technology advanced around him to introduce the internet, email, new computer software and many other transformative tools. Jim’s son, Jason, joined the company as it began dramatically expanding its product catalog.

You’re working with the person who’s actually trying to make a living with a product you designed. That always had quite an effect on me. There were times I put my tail between my legs and acknowledged I learned a lot from them I hadn’t thought of.

Jim Asche

Retired Bobcat Product Engineer

Bobcat engineering retirees celebrate Troy Kraft’s retirement in 2023. From left to right: Scott Jacobson, Charles Krause, Bill Coykendall, Jim Asche, Lonnie Hoechst, Troy Kraft and Gerry Berg. 

Jason Asche Expands Product Lines

Delivering the machines operators needed meant expanding product lines, which was a large part of Jason’s role when he joined his dad at Bobcat in 1995. As a product development engineer, Jason’s focus was on the expanding category of compact products — such as various Bobcat® skid-steer loader models, Toolcat™ utility work machines, compact excavators and mini track loaders. Jason calls these products “Bobcat’s bread and butter.”  

“It seems that even today Bobcat produces products on an exponential curve,” Jason says. “Every year they create more products and send them out the door. My time was right in the middle of when they expanded product lines entirely. We were focused on innovating new products to get to customers, and we knew the Bobcat name played a huge role in selling machines.”  

Jason spent 17 years as a Bobcat engineer, working in both the Bismarck and Gwinner, North Dakota, facilities. Throughout his career he managed teams of engineers, some of whom still work with his son, Drew, in Bismarck today. 

In 2012, Jason left Bobcat to farm full-time on the Asche family farm near Gwinner. Knowing he was leaving the company to undertake this new endeavor, he purchased a Bobcat machine for his own use.  

“I loved working as a Bobcat engineer, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to focus my efforts on the farm full-time,” Jason says. “I made sure to purchase a S650 skid-steer loader before I was done, which has a lot of sentimental value to me because it was one of the last big projects I worked on. I don’t think I’ll ever let that machine go. I still use it almost daily on the farm.”

Jason Asche with S650 purchased for his farm.

The Asche Family Legacy Continues

The youngest of the trio, Drew, watched not only his grandpa and dad work at Bobcat, but also his uncle, Paul Asche, (Jim’s son) and his maternal grandfather, John Lien. A love of engineering and watching so many family members thrive at Bobcat influenced Drew to follow in their footsteps. 

Drew joined the Bobcat team initially through two co-ops as a student at North Dakota State University in 2019 and 2020. These experiences gave Drew a taste of what working for Bobcat would be like. When he was offered a full-time position after graduation, he was eager to begin his career with Bobcat.  

Jim and Jason’s work seems to have come full circle as Drew explains his role with the hydraulics team focusing on the compact excavator products, sometimes involving hydraulic needs in autonomous driving products. Drew is witnessing a whole new series of technological advancements in the company, from self-driving machines to fully electric powertrain systems. While he’s worked on a variety of interesting projects so far, Drew says some of the products he’s most proud of haven’t been released to the public yet.  

Focusing on his day-to-day responsibilities, Drew reflects on the similarities and differences between his role and Jim’s. “Grandpa talks about the shift to hydrostatic drive, and here we are again in 2024 talking about more innovations in controllability and the driving systems,” Drew says. “So, it’s fun to see him talk about how these transitions occurred in the 1970s and 1980s while they’re still continuously improving in 2024.” 

The element of family is never lost for Drew — he works alongside executives that Jim and Jason trained and mentored. It’s in these moments that Drew is reminded of the dedication of his family members to Bobcat, and a legacy he's proud to continue.

Grandpa talks about the shift to hydrostatic drive, and here we are again in 2024 talking about more innovations in controllability and the driving systems. So, it’s fun to see him talk about how these transitions occurred in the 1970s and 1980s while they’re still continuously improving in 2024.

Drew Asche

Bobcat Design Engineer

A Word from the Wise 

Thinking back on their careers, or in Drew’s case, what he expects as he looks forward, the trio agrees that the people who are best at their jobs are those who truly enjoy what they do and whom they do it with. 

“You need to like what you do, and you need to always communicate with your coworkers around you,” Jim says. “One of the main reasons I stayed with Bobcat for so long was the people I worked with. I could look forward to going to work every day because I was going to be working with interesting people who cared about their work.” 

Jason concurs and adds that Bobcat attracts employees with this people-first mindset. He shares that he always felt that if you were an engineer at Bobcat, you had one of the best engineering jobs out there because you could work on a variety of innovative products alongside talented and dedicated coworkers.  

Drew encourages young engineers to step outside of their comfort zones, especially while exploring career options.  

“Don’t be afraid to take giant leaps or do something a little unorthodox,” Drew says. “That will pay off to get to the place where you love your work and coworkers. Be yourself, like what you do, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box to take some risks.” 

Luckily for the Asche family, they found these opportunities at Bobcat.

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