Identification of innovation opportunities for snowboard design through benchmarking

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Abstract

Considerable anecdotal evidence suggests that snowboarders relate the perceived ‘feel’ of a snowboard to its on-snow performance. Snowboard manufacturers spend significant amounts of time and money trialling new designs, relying heavily on the feedback of professional riders to optimise board performance. A systematic user-centred design procedure could provide the intelligence required to alleviate the inefficiencies and ambiguities associated with the trial and error approach, resulting in greater probability of meeting customer requirements. The Sports Technology Research Group at RMIT University set out to fully characterise the feel of snowboards for the main riding styles. This article deals with the front-end of the characterisation process by focusing on the identification of potential design innovation opportunities through a benchmarking analysis of modern snowboards. The qualitative data relating to customer requirements has been obtained through online surveys and interviews, conducted via a two-stage process. Participants in an initial mass-circulated survey were asked to rate and comment on their current board using an extensive list of subjective parameters, spanning all facets of riding. A refined parameter list has been obtained through subsequent interviews with selected focus groups, with the importance values and ideal levels determined for both freestyle and freeride boards. A quality function deployment (QFD) method was used to process the information, relating subjective customer requirements to relevant objective technical attributes of snowboards for the selected riding styles. From the market research, user surveys and QFD, a comprehensive gap analysis was completed resulting in the identification of innovation opportunities and preferred design features for modern snowboards. The research determined bending and torsional stiffness distribution as well as camber as the key design characteristics influencing the feel and performance of snowboards for both freestyle and freeride riding styles. © 2008 John Wiley and Sons Asia Pte Ltd

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