1.Why is this story more about change management than software implementation?
2.What, in your opinion, was the key factor in Santa Cruz Bicycles’ successful process redesign? Why was that factor the key?
3.Would you consider this transformation to be incremental or radical? Why?
4.What outside factors had to come together for Santa Cruz Bicycles to be able to make the changes they did?
Bicycle enthusiasts not only love the ride their bikes provide but also are often willing to pay for
newer technology, especially when it will increase their speed or comfort. Innovating new
technologies for bikes is only half the battle for bike manufacturers. Designing the process to
manufacture the bikes is often the more daunting challenge. Consider the case of Santa Cruz
Bicycles . It digitally designs and builds mountain bikes and tests them under the most extreme
conditions to bring the best possible product to its customers. A few years back, the company
designed and patented the Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension system, a means to absorb the
shocks that mountain bikers encounter when on the rough terrain of the off‐road ride. One
feature of the new design allowed the rear wheel to bounce 10 inches without hitting the frame
or seat, providing shock absorption without feeling like the rider was sitting on a coiled spring.
The fi rst few prototypes did not work well; in one case, the VPP joint ’ s upper link snapped
after a quick jump. The experience was motivation for a complete overhaul of the design and
engineering process to fi nd a way to go from design to prototype faster. The 25‐person
company adopted a similar system used by large, global manufacturers: product life cycle
management (PLM) software. The research and development team had been using computer‐
aided‐design (CAD) software, but it took seven months to develop a new design, and if the
design failed, starting over would be the only solution. This design approach was a drain not
only on the company ’ s time but also on its fi nances. The design team found a PLM system
that helped members analyze and model capabilities in a much more robust manner. The team
used simulation capabilities to watch the impact of the new designs on rough mountain terrain.
The software tracks all the variables the designers and engineers need so they can quickly and
easily make adjustments to the design. The new system allows the team to run a simulation in a
few minutes, representing a very large improvement over their previous design software, which
took seven hours to run a simulation. The software was just one component of the new process
design. The company also hired a new master frame builder to build and test prototypes in
house and invested in a van‐size machine that can fabricate intricate parts for the prototypes, a
process the company previously outsourced. The result was a signifi cant decrease in its
design‐to‐prototype process. What once averaged about 28 months from start of design to
shipping of the new bike now takes 12 to 14 months
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