Innovation accelerated

Inside the gleaming glass headquarters of Callaway Golf in Carlsbad, Calif., product developers are hard at work coming up with the next great golf club. However, much of what Callaway does to launch clubs such as its Big Bertha Fusion FT-3 driver spans multiple locations, some of them external to the company, says Steve Ehlers, Callaway's VP of product design and development.


Inside the gleaming glass headquarters of Callaway Golf in Carlsbad, Calif., product developers are hard at work coming up with the next great golf club. However, much of what Callaway does to launch clubs such as its Big Bertha Fusion FT-3 driver spans multiple locations, some of them external to the company, says Steve Ehlers, Callaway's VP of product design and development.

To accelerate the distributed communication challenges inherent in new product introduction, Callaway used a design collaboration software package from UGS called Teamcenter. The software, says Ehlers, is a more effective means of collaboration than e-mail and downloads from Internet file-transfer sites.

"I logged it out, and the supply chain for the FT-3 is about 51,000 miles long, or two times around the earth," says Ehlers. "We've got suppliers all the way from here to China. Being able to communicate with them by posting information on the Teamcenter site—which is secure and tracks what is being done—saves time and travel, and reduces errors. People don't end up with the wrong version of a file."

Callaway—as any golfer knows—makes high-end golf equipment and is credited with product breakthrough such as the original Big Bertha, which was introduced in 1991 and set the trend toward wide body, stainless-steel woods. The FT-3 is the latest driver evolution, bringing together materials such as a titanium club face and a carbon composite body in what Callaway calls Fusion technology. The club even has a weighting system called Optifit to configure the club at the factory to meet a golfer's swing characteristics.

Such innovation takes talented designers and organizational commitment, not just technology. For example, a couple of years ago, Callaway formed a design group focused on advanced concepts. Alan Hocknell, the Callaway VP that heads up this innovation and advanced design group, says this structure frees up resources to concentrate on new concepts and materials. But at the same time, Hocknell says designers in his group and on Ehlers' team benefit from the use of software such as NX, UGS's 3D CAD tool, as well as Teamcenter.

As Hocknell sees it, the spark behind innovation still comes from the designers, but tools such as NX can rapidly refine concepts by testing ideas in a virtual world. "The technology allows us to experiment with a far greater number of concepts than we would otherwise be able to, and it also allows us to produce more extreme concepts than we would have been comfortable committing prototyping resources to in the past," says Hocknell.

Innovation enablers

While 3D CAD has been around for years, users say the tools have progressed in their capabilities in recent years. There also are complementary analysis and simulation tools that allow design engineers to model everything from the strength of a material to surface aerodynamics. When you combine these design-creation tools with modern, Web-based collaboration portals, manufacturers have at their disposal a set of product life-cycle management (PLM) applications to speed new product innovation. Callaway's FT-3, as well as other examples ( see table below ) are products born of this leveraged PLM strategy.

However, say experts, even the best PLM tools are only part of the secret to successful launches. Boston-based AMR Research posits that a "perfect product launch" is a cross-functional business process that requires coordinated demand and supply management, not just PLM tools.

Innovative companies also tend to have CEOs or other top leaders who place a high value on design, and on understanding the "customer experience," says Jonathan Cagan, a professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, and co-author of The Design of Things to Come , a book about product innovation. "Unless upper management believes in innovation and strives for it, you can try all you want at your level, but it's hard to make it a priority within the company," he says.

Simply pouring more money into research & development budgets does not guarantee success either, claims Cagan.

"Look at Apple Computer and the iPod," says Cagan. "Apple didn't invent digital music player technology, but it crossed the chasm by understanding design and the customer experience."

Cagan, whose area of expertise includes CAD, agrees today's design-creation tools can speed certain aspects of innovation. "Because engineers can do an analysis and immediately know if something is going to fail or not, or see where the problems lie, they more readily have the information needed to change a design and make it better," he says.

Conquering complexity

At Callaway, better software tools have made development of increasingly complex designs more efficient. To a golfer, the FT-3 club is a solid and beautiful piece of equipment, but attaining its performance characteristics required melding multiple materials and precise modeling and testing of weighting characteristics.

"The [FT-3] club is more complex because of the multiple materials," says Hocknell. "There are pieces that have to come together that are made by completely different processes, but still have to be fitted together within correct tolerances for the bond between them to be structurally sound and cosmetically pleasing at the same time."

Callaway's design engineers use NX to build a parametric 3D model of the club to test the fit of the materials and establish the weighting characteristics. This data is fed into a proprietary analysis tool Callaway has developed called the Virtual Test Center, which analyzes factors such as the "loft" of the club—i.e., the angle of the club face relative to the ground plane. The software also tests the trajectory a ball hit with the club would take.

"The CAD system is indispensable," says Ehlers. "Once you get the right densities and all the material properties into the model, it will churn out necessary data such as center of gravity location, and moment of inertia. We can plug that into our simulation software, and test the performance of a club design—without ever having to build a prototype."

According to Ehlers, design work specific to the FT-3 began in early summer of 2004, and the club was ready in volume for product launch on July 4, 2005. However, prototypes were being tested by fall of 2004, with the bulk of the remaining time span devoted to supply and production planning activities. The project also benefited from earlier work on the use of multiple materials.

The exact time reduction due to the product development tools is difficult to gauge compared to previous driver projects, because the FT-3 is a more complex design. "The club designs are much more intricate, but we are still able to get them to market in the same amount of time, or less than in the past," says Ehlers.

Teamcenter is credited with speeding the project, as well as reducing travel and video conferencing costs. For example, design and tooling issues with suppliers were in some cases resolved twice as fast as on past projects.

Using Microsoft Corp. 's SharePoint portal as a foundation, Teamcenter allows project team members to log onto a secure Web site where they can access design data, CAD models, or lightweight versions of 3D CAD models in the neutral "JT" format.

The benefit of this virtual team room, says Ehlers, is that it has version control and notification capabilities that keep everyone in sync. "It allowed us to get away from the e-mail days of sending thousands of files to hundreds of people," he says. "Now we have one copy and can do version tracking."

Portal usage has progressed to include more of the roles involved in bringing a product to market. "Since the information is now resident on a portal site and the program manager and others have access to it, we are extending access to those involved in the commercialization process," says Ehlers. "Maybe they are in advertising or marketing and need product information. They can easily access the right information through the Teamcenter site."

Once the FT-3 design was finalized, bill of material and other design data necessary for production was moved into Callaway's SAP ERP system.

Going forward, the establishment of the innovation and advanced design group should help the early-stage development of club and materials designs. The NX tool, says Hocknell, is used to test concepts and select the most feasible ones to pursue.

At the end of the day, Callaway is benefiting both from the application of technology, and management strategies such as the establishment of the advanced design group. As Hocknell puts it, "We've always had talented design teams here, but we consciously made the decision to refocus a group of people on upstream research so that we stay in front with our technology."

Trek's time-trial triumph

When Lance Armstrong won his record seventh Tour de France last summer, he was aided by a new time-trial bicycle developed in just 28 days by Trek Bicycle Corp. , Waterloo, Wis., the bike sponsor of Armstrong's Discovery Channel team. The bike's improved aerodynamics gave Armstrong an added edge in the tour's three time-trial stages, but Trek designers say they also needed every possible edge to get the bike developed in record time.

Those accelerators—say designers at Trek's Advanced Concept Group, which designed the bike—included a mix of design-creation tools that allowed them to quickly test design variations, and an organizational structure that fosters rapid development. The design tools, says Michael Sagan, senior designer and technology principal for the group, include the SolidWorks 3D CAD package from SolidWorks ; Alias StudioTools, a conceptual design tool from Autodesk (formerly Alias) ; CF Design, a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) package from Blue Ridge Numerics ; and thinkid, an industrial design tool from think3 that allows for quick changes in product geometry.

Each tool played a role in the speed of the project. For instance, says Sagan, StudioTools was used for rapid surface modeling of the bike's carbon fiber frame and fork, while SolidWorks was the main CAD package for parts and tooling. Damon Rinard, a designer who worked with the CFD software, says it simulates the movement of air over a shape, which allowed about a half-dozen design variations to be tested in what amounts to a virtual wind tunnel.

CFD is compute-intensive, so Trek tapped into expertise from Discovery team cosponsor Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), which recommended a PC with dual-core AMD processors. Rinard says the new workstation was 90 percent faster on CFD computations compared to his previous PC, allowing for more analyses.

Advance in design tools and Trek's expertise with the tools were factors in being able to complete the project in 28 days, says Sagan. By comparison, a similar time-trial bike designed for Armstrong by Trek in 2000 took about seven months to complete. "The various modeling and analysis tools have come a long way in the past five years, but more so than any one tool, it's been the familiarity we have with the packages, the ease of use all the vendors have added, along with greater computing power, that helped us accelerate the project," Sagan says.

Other factors also act as accelerators. The Advanced Concept Group functions fairly autonomously from Trek's main development group, and is free to focus on advanced concepts and support for pro riders. However, much of the work from the TTx has made its way into the Equinox TTx, a stock production bike, though the group didn't have to move the project data into Trek's product data management system from MatrixOne until the project was finished. "We stayed away from all those check-in and check-out processes," says Sagan. "We just didn't have time for it. We were designing in the first week, doing tooling the next week, and starting to manufacture the first versions of the bike by week three."

P&G's CarpetFlick expands Swiffer brand

Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble (P&G) revolutionized the market for floor-cleaning products with its Swiffer brand in 1999, but after years of success and expansion, a simple fact stuck out, says Bob Godfroid, a product design manager at P&G: 75 percent of the floor space in U.S. homes is carpeted. Godfroid and a P&G design team were tasked with ensuring the Swiffer line took advantage of this "plush" opportunity.

P&G designers used brainstorming and tinkering to come up with what Godfroid calls a"tiddlywink" concept for quick carpet cleanups. By pushing a squeegee edge downward onto the carpet, the team found they could flick dirt, hair, and other material upward. They then designed a way to catch and dispose of the materials. "We basically locked ourselves in a room and figured out a way to pick things up off carpets," Godfroid says.

Godfroid says as soon as the project team roughed out viable concepts, P&G design engineers used 3D CAD tools from SolidWorks and PTC to design the parts that would become the CarpetFlick sweeper. Other tools from Adobe Systems and Alias (recently acquired by Autodesk ) were used for design renderings. Stereolithography or "SLA" technology also added speed to the project, he says. SLA uses laser light to trace information from a CAD file onto the surface of a container of liquid photopolymer, bypassing the need to produce molds.

This combination of technology, brainstorming, and a heavy dose of consumer feedback on product iterations facilitated development of CarpetFlick in just 20 months. The end result, says Godfroid, is that P&G was able to quickly launch a product that took the Swiffer brand onto a new surface.

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