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Keywords:

  • snowboard design;
  • quality function deployment;
  • market opportunity map

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1. INTRODUCTION
  4. 2. IDENTIFICATION OF SNOWBOARD REQUIREMENTS
  5. 3. BENCHMARKING ANALYSIS USING QUALITY FUNCTION DEPLOYMENT (QFD)
  6. 4. SNOWBOARD DESIGN INNOVATION OPPORTUNITIES
  7. 5. CONCLUSION
  8. REFERENCES

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


1. INTRODUCTION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1. INTRODUCTION
  4. 2. IDENTIFICATION OF SNOWBOARD REQUIREMENTS
  5. 3. BENCHMARKING ANALYSIS USING QUALITY FUNCTION DEPLOYMENT (QFD)
  6. 4. SNOWBOARD DESIGN INNOVATION OPPORTUNITIES
  7. 5. CONCLUSION
  8. REFERENCES

Snowboarding is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, with an estimated 3.4 million boarders on the slopes annually 1. As a result the snowboard equipment market is expanding at a phenomenal rate, with total industry sales in excess of $280 million dollars per annum in the U.S. alone 2. Unit sales of snowboards also rose by 23 per cent in U.S. chain stores between 2005 and 2006 2. Given the relatively short history of this sport and the extent of expansion within the snowboard market, there is significant scope for potentially lucrative technological development and innovation, which to date has been primarily conducted on a trial and error basis by hobbyists and enthusiasts 3.

Considerable anecdotal evidence suggests that riders relate a snowboard's on-snow performance to its perceived feel, or the physical and psychological feedback given to the rider while snowboarding. Such feedback may be visual, aural, kinaesthetic or vibrational 4, all having an effect on the muscular inputs applied to the board by the rider and the resultant movement and control achieved on the slope.

Snowboard design is dictated predominantly by the desired application or the style of the ride. Manufacturers spend significant amounts of time and money trialling new designs, relying heavily on the feedback of professional riders to design-in the feel and optimise the performance of the board. A systematic user-centred design procedure could provide the intelligence required to alleviate the trial and error approach, resulting in higher customer satisfaction as well as cost and time savings.

The Snowboard Research Group at RMIT University in Melbourne set out to fully characterise the feel of snowboards for the main riding styles. By correlating subjective evaluations to objective laboratory and field based data, the relevant matrices of parameters leading to the desired feel of the board can be determined. 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. Benchmarking analysis conducted in this research uses the QFD method to evaluate relevant customer requirements and relate them to objective technical attributes of selected boards for different riding styles. Additionally, key design drivers are used in conjunction with a market opportunity map (MoM) to identify potential gaps in the snowboard equipment market.

2. IDENTIFICATION OF SNOWBOARD REQUIREMENTS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1. INTRODUCTION
  4. 2. IDENTIFICATION OF SNOWBOARD REQUIREMENTS
  5. 3. BENCHMARKING ANALYSIS USING QUALITY FUNCTION DEPLOYMENT (QFD)
  6. 4. SNOWBOARD DESIGN INNOVATION OPPORTUNITIES
  7. 5. CONCLUSION
  8. REFERENCES

2.1 Qualitative Analysis

The qualitative data associated with snowboard feel used in this research was obtained through a range of surveys and interviews, conducted online and in person (on-snow). Participants in an initial mass circulated survey (115 completed responses) were asked to identify, rate and analyse their current board against the set criteria. A follow-up survey with a smaller focus group (nine experts) allowed more specific questions about pinpoint feel and performance to be discussed leading to further refinement of the qualitative parameter list.

The first key element of the surveying process was an assessment of the respective popularity and links between the riding styles and snowboard designs available on the market. Modern snowboards are tailored in their design towards a specific application or style: either freestyle, freeride or freecarve. Freestyle boards have developed under the direct influence of skateboarding. As a result, freestyle boards have tended to be shorter and lighter, possessing more ‘pop’ or spring than their counterparts 1. They are also usually symmetrical about their transverse axis, allowing equally weighted riding both forwards and backwards 1. Freeride boards are less-specific in their application, and are designed for all-mountain riding under any snow conditions. They tend to be longer, stiffer and directional in their shape. The third formalised style currently in existence is freecarving, which is a race specific variation centred solely on speed and turning grip. Freecarve boards are usually highly stiff, and significantly longer and narrower than other boards on the market.

The first survey identified freestyle and freeride boards as the most popular, with 55 and 70 per cent of respondents riding in each style respectively (note that participants could select more than one style in their answer). Freeriding and freestyling interest was common 45 per cent of the time, whereas freecarving was only highlighted in 31 per cent of responses, and was not connected to the other two styles. The results and associated comments showed that many snowboarders are searching for boards that are able to ride variable terrain successfully yet not hinder the performance of tricks. In other words, the distinction between freestyle and freeride boards has become blurred, and versatility of boards in regard to the two main riding styles is now desired.

Survey participants were also asked to rate their current boards using a predefined list of qualitative parameters, initially classified into straight line boarding, turns and tricks. However, feedback from the respondents in both surveys indicated that subjectively analysing their board under such specific categorical headers was far too difficult, and as a result the parameter list was collapsed. Definitions and scope of the parameters were also altered and refined from the participants' comments, resulting in the following list of subjective feel based performance parameters:

  • Stability=How stable the rider feels on the board.

  • Feedback=Amount of stress felt on the rider's body, including the effects of board chatter.

  • Speed=Gliding speed of the board compared to other boards of similar length.

  • Accuracy=Precision of board movement in response to rider input.

  • Forgiveness=Tolerance of the board to errors from the rider.

  • Edge Grip=Level of grip exhibited during turns.

  • Manoeuvrability=How easily the board responds to rider inputs.

  • Transition smoothness=How easily the board flows from edge to edge.

  • Board Liveliness=The level of pop or spring in the board when performing a jump.

The rating system was based on the approach used by the BMW Group and the University of Bath investigating steering feel for BMW vehicles 5. Each parameter was subjectively rated between 1 and 10; 1 representing very low levels of the parameter present in the board's on-snow performance and 10 representing the opposite. A second rating between 1 and 10 of the user's perceived ideal level of the parameter was given, to determine whether the board exhibited too little, too much or the correct amount of each parameter, and if applicable, the margin by which the board was sub-optimal. An importance rating between 1 and 10 was also sought for each parameter to give them a relative weighting.

The 115 data sets in the first online survey spanned 35 different brands and 67 different models. Unfortunately the lack of any significant grouping prevented a strong statistical basis for individual board model ratings; however, the data was useful as an indication of the varying levels of importance and subjectivity in each parameter, and the overall popularity and performance of individual brands.

From participant ratings and comments in the first survey, the flex pattern (bending and torsional stiffness distribution) of the board and feedback given to the rider were crucial to the overall feel of a snowboard, along with its grip and level of ‘pop’. Feedback and forgiveness were highly variable across all three original sections of the analysis, and were thus identified as highly subjective parameters. Turning grip, manoeuvrability (both for turns and tricks) and board liveliness all produced similarly high levels of low ratings (of the order of 24 per cent), and thus were identified as areas of potential improvement. Grip, manoeuvrability and stability during a turn were also identified as the most important parameters to riders.

The subsequent interviews with the focus groups of experts allowed the identification of the key qualitative factors for riding in each of the current snowboard styles (see Tables 1–3), and further refinement of the qualitative parameter list. Freecarving was excluded from the research at this point due to lack of riders interested in this style. Overall, the answers for both styles clearly indicated that the flex pattern is the most crucial feature describing the feel and response of a snowboard. Furthermore, this was the parameter most commonly cited by the riders in both styles as needing variation for different performance requirements.

Table 1. Freeride ratings
ParameterImportanceUser idealTest board
Stability6.78.78.8
Manoeuvrability6.39.07.5
Accuracy5.78.38.6
Edge grip5.47.19.4
Speed4.68.18.6
Feedback4.47.95.2
Forgiveness4.47.66.0
Board liveliness4.07.36.4
Transition smoothness3.46.38.5
Table 2. Versatile test board ratings
ParameterTest board
Forgiveness6.6
Manoeuvrability7.0
Board liveliness6.2
Stability6.8
Accuracy7.5
Feedback4.6
Edge grip7.1
Transition smoothness8.8
Speed7.9
Table 3. Freestyle ratings
ParameterImportanceUser idealTest board
Board liveliness7.68.98.2
Forgiveness7.07.96.3
Manoeuvrability7.08.48.3
Stability5.46.96.3
Accuracy5.37.77.3
Feedback4.96.44.6
Edge grip3.15.67.3
Speed2.45.14.9
Transition smoothness2.36.16.2

To finalise the qualitative analysis, on-snow testing and interviews using a range of high quality test boards were conducted to obtain subjective ratings with a strong statistical basis, and to determine the interrelationships for each of the qualitative parameters. This data will also be used for eventual correlation with objective laboratory based measurements. Eight experienced testers (snowboarding instructors) were employed to ride and rate three best-in-class new snowboards that spanned the freeride-freestyle board spectrum. One highly freeride oriented and one specialist freestyle board were chosen to represent the end points of the spectrum, and a third versatile board was selected mid-way. The board selection process was two-fold. Using published market share data 6, the snowboard brands holding the greatest market share (most popular) in the U.S. were first identified. This shortlist was then compared to data from the first survey, and the most popular recent and highly rating models were pinpointed. However, to ensure that the boards selected were placed at the desired locations within the freeride–freestyle board spectrum, published information on the models was sought in combination with interviews of experienced snowboarders.

Tables 1–3 display the importance weightings, user ideal levels and test board ratings for both freeride and freestyle boards. The versatile test board ratings are also shown for completeness.

The Kano model of customer attributes 7 has been used in this research to identify which design features customers want in a snowboard (both the ‘spoken ones’ that have to be addressed and the ‘unspoken ones’ that customers automatically assume they will have in the design). The sorting of customer requirements using this model is performed with respect to the ‘basic/essential’ attributes, ‘performance/functional’ attributes and ‘excitement’ attributes. Here, stability, manoeuvrability and accuracy are considered ‘essential’ for freeride boards, where if not fulfilled, will cause high levels of dissatisfaction to the customer. Edge grip, speed and feedback represent the ‘functional’ requirements, while forgiveness, liveliness and transition smoothness are considered the ‘exciting’ features, where non-fulfilment does not result in customer dissatisfaction, but achieving the optimal levels of these parameters will add value to the product. This sorting was based entirely on the importance levels of the respective parameters determined for each snowboarding style through the first and second-round surveys, whereby an even split of three parameters per attribute group was preferred for simplicity compared to an importance level divisional basis. From the obtained results, it was noted that freeriders desire a board that is manoeuvrable and stable (as well as accurate); parameters that on face value are opposites. However, considering that the average values of these parameters were not high (especially when compared to the freestyle results) the results implied that an optimal freeride board would be based on a compromise between manoeuvrability and stability, with a slight leaning towards additional stability.

A similar analysis was applied to the freestyle results, where interestingly, the range in values between the ‘essential’ and ‘exciting’ parameters was significantly greater than the corresponding freeride range. The ‘essential’ requirements of board liveliness, forgiveness and manoeuvrability all were within a 7.0 to 7.6 importance value range, whereas the ‘exciting’ parameters of edge grip, speed and transition smoothness all had very low importance ratings (between 3.1 and 2.3). Furthermore, the three groups of requirements: ‘essential’, ‘functional’ and ‘exciting’, were all highly distinct for freestyle boards (high difference in average values between groups), unlike the freeride parameters where the decrease in importance between groups was more gradual. It was also noted that the ‘essential’ freestyle requirements appeared less mutually exclusive than the corresponding ‘essential’ freeride requirements.

2.2 Quantitative Analysis

The quantitative parameters used in the research were based primarily on the ASTM Standard F1107-1995 – Standard Terminology Relating to Snowboarding8, although several other objectively measurable parameters relating to material properties were defined to cover all relevant aspects of the snowboard design. They were defined and grouped as follows:

Major lengths

Chord length (LTS): The straight-line distance between the snowboard tail and the snowboard tip with the snowboard pressed flat to a plane surface to take out the camber (Figure 1).

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Figure 1. Side view of snowboard (pressed).

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Contact length (Lc): The difference between the projected length (Lp) and the sum of Lh+Ls or Lc=Lp–(Lh+Ls) (Figure 2).

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Figure 2. Side view of snowboard (self-weighted).

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Projected length (Lp): The length of the projection of the snowboard, measured between the snowboard tip and the snowboard tail with the snowboard unweighted on a plane surface (unweighted meaning solely under the influence of its own weight; Figure 2).

Shovel

Shovel length (Ls): The projected length of the forward turn-up, measured from the tip to the contact point where a 0.1 mm feeler gage intersects the running surface with the snowboard unweighted on a plane surface (Figure 2).

Shovel radius (Sh Rd): The radius of the circular line or lines that describe the curved portion of the snowboard contour at the shovel (Figure 3).

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Figure 3. Top view of symmetrical snowboard.

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Tip height (Hs): The height of the underside of the tip from a plane surface with the snowboard unweighted (Figure 2).

Shovel width (Sh Wd): The horizontal perpendicular distance between two vertical planes placed on either edge of the shovel, parallel to the longitudinal centreline of the snowboard (Figure 3).

Heel

Heel length (Lh): The projected length of the rear turn-up, measured from the tail to the contact point where a 0.1 mm feeler gage intersects the running surface with the snowboard unweighted on a plane surface (Figure 2).

Heel radius (He Rd): The radius of the circular line or lines that describe the curved portion of the snowboard contour at the heel (Figure 3).

Tail height (Hh): The height of the underside of the tail from a plane surface with the snowboard unweighted (Figure 2).

Heel width (He Wd): The horizontal perpendicular distance between two vertical planes placed on either edge of the heel, parallel to the longitudinal centreline of the snowboard (Figure 3).

Body

Waist width (bM): The width at the narrowest point of the snowboard, measured perpendicular to the longitudinal centreline (Figure 3).

Sidecut radius (Sd Rd): The radius of the circular line or lines that describe the curved portion of the snowboard contour between the lines denoting the shovel and heel width dimensions (Figure 3).

Self-weighted bottom camber (Hb): The maximum height of the running surface (base surface) measured from the ground plane with the snowboard unweighted (Figure 4).

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Figure 4. Side view of snowboard (self-weighted).

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Thickness

Body thickness (Bd Th): The distance(s) between two parallel planes placed tangentially to the snowboard surface along the portion of the snowboard within the dimension Lc (Figure 5).

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Figure 5. Side view of snowboard (self-weighted).

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Shovel thickness (Sh Th): The distance(s) between two parallel planes placed tangentially to the snowboard surface along the portion of the snowboard within the dimension Ls (Figure 5).

Heel thickness (He Th): The distance(s) between two parallel planes placed tangentially to the snowboard surface along the portion of the snowboard within the dimension Lh (Figure 5).

Edges (researcher defined)

Edge sharpness – Body (Ed Sp Bd): The acuteness of the angle of the edge that cuts into the snow during a turn, along the portion of the snowboard within the dimension Lc.

Edges sharpness – Shovel (Ed Sp Sh): The acuteness of the angle of the edge that cuts into the snow during a turn, along the portion of the snowboard within the dimension Ls.

Edges sharpness – Heel (Ed Sp He): The acuteness of the angle of the edge that cuts into the snow during a turn, along the portion of the snowboard within the dimension Lh.

Stiffness (researcher defined)

Body bending stiffness (Bd Sb): The bending stiffness of the snowboard along the portion within the dimension Lc.

Shovel bending stiffness (Sh Sb): The bending stiffness of the snowboard along the portion within the dimension Ls.

Heel bending stiffness (Tl Sb): The bending stiffness of the snowboard along the portion within the dimension Lh.

Body torsional stiffness (Bd St): The torsional stiffness of the snowboard along the portion within the dimension Lc.

Miscellaneous

Asymmetrical offset (Os, Oh): The distance along the longitudinal axis that each side of an asymmetrical snowboard is offset from the other side. Offset may be different at the shovel and heel (Figure 6).

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Figure 6. Top view of asymmetrical snowboard.

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Mass (W): The total mass of the snowboard.

Material parameters (researcher defined)

Edges (Ed Mt): The Brinell hardness to density ratio of the edges.

Body core (Bd Mt): The bending stiffness to weight ratio of the snowboard portion within the dimension Lc.

Shovel core (Sh Mt): The bending stiffness to weight ratio of the snowboard portion within the dimension Ls.

Heel core (He Mt): The bending stiffness to weight ratio of the snowboard portion within the dimension Lh.

Base (Bs Mt): The wax absorption to density ratio of the base.

All of the above parameters were measured in the laboratory or obtained from published data sheets for each of the test boards purchased, and formed a strong basis for the QFD methodology described in the following section. Table 4 and Figures 7 and 8 show the key quantitative data collected in this research. Note that the edge sharpness data is displayed as a range due to the ability of the rider to modify the edge angle at any time through tuning and detuning.

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Figure 7. Bending stiffness distributions.

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Figure 8. Torsional stiffness distributions.

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Table 4. Quantitative data
 ParameterUnitsFreerideVersatileFreestyle
Major lengthsChord lengthmm1569.51552.51515.5
 Contact lengthmm1199.511951149.5
 Projected lengthmm1571.51551.51512.5
ShovelShovel lengthmm193.5179181.5
 Shovel radius (avg)mm185210.5189.5
 Tip heightmm564754.5
 Shovel widthmm291294299
HeelHeel lengthmm178.5177.5181.5
 Heel radius (avg)mm193187189.5
 Tail heightmm554753
 Heel widthmm291294299
WaistWaist widthmm246250253.5
SidecutSidecut radius (avg)m8.368.427.17
ThicknessBody thickness (avg)mm10.09.19.0
 Shovel thickness (avg)mm5.24.65.3
 Heel thickness (avg)mm5.04.55.3
CamberCambermm8.084.387.90
EdgesBody edge sharpnessDegrees86–9486–9486–94
 Shovel edge sharpnessDegrees86–9486–9486–94
 Heel edge sharpnessDegrees86–9486–9486–94
StiffnessShovel bending stiffness (avg)N.m229.128.032.0
 Body bending stiffness (avg)N.m2239.2197.3200.5
 Heel bending stiffness (avg)N.m226.325.932.7
 Body torsional stiffness (avg)N.m2531.6322.4347.8
OthersAsymmetrical offsetmm000
 Masskg2.873.013.02
MaterialEdge materialm3/kg0.0730.0730.073
 Shovel core material (avg)N.m2/kg10.19.310.6
 Body core material (avg)N.m2/kg83.365.566.3
 Heel core material (avg)N.m2/kg9.28.610.8
 Base materialmm0.0270.0270.020

3. BENCHMARKING ANALYSIS USING QUALITY FUNCTION DEPLOYMENT (QFD)

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1. INTRODUCTION
  4. 2. IDENTIFICATION OF SNOWBOARD REQUIREMENTS
  5. 3. BENCHMARKING ANALYSIS USING QUALITY FUNCTION DEPLOYMENT (QFD)
  6. 4. SNOWBOARD DESIGN INNOVATION OPPORTUNITIES
  7. 5. CONCLUSION
  8. REFERENCES

To identify the innovation opportunities and preferred design features for each of the riding styles based on fulfilling the identified customer requirements, a QFD method was used to process the information collected. Figures 9 and 10 show the results for both freestyle and freeride snowboards, where using various correlations between the subjective and objective parameters, the QFD analysis identified the key objective design features associated with the desired feel of the board.

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Figure 9. Freestyle quality function deployment (QFD) results.

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Figure 10. Freeride quality function deployment (QFD) results.

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The following data is presented in the QFD charts:

  • 1.
    Objective-Subjective Parameter Relationships (central matrix): The relevant relationships between all objective and subjective feel based parameters, determined by the on-line survey/interview process, on-snow tests, design analysis and logical reasoning.
  • 2.
    Customer Importance: Importance weights (from 1–10) for the subjective parameters obtained through the on-line surveys/interviews.
  • 3.
    Objective Parameter Correlations (upper roof): Relationships between the objective technical attributes of the snowboard, determined through relations analysis and logical reasoning.
  • 4.
    Subjective Parameter Correlations (left-side roof): Relationships between the subjective feel based parameters, determined using statistical analysis on the results of the on-snow tests.
  • 5.
    Direction of Improvement: Direction of the variation (if any) to be taken towards improving each objective parameter.
  • 6.
    Technical Assessment: Numerical value range for each objective parameter obtained through the static lab tests/measurements and published data sheets.
  • 7.
    Units: The relevant unit of measurement for each objective parameter.
  • 8.
    Customer Assessment: A comparison between user test board ratings and perceived ideal levels for each style.
  • 9.
    Weighted Importance: The overall importance results for the objective parameters obtained after QFD processing.
  • 10.
    Relative Importance: A relative comparison between overall importance results.

Six different relationships were defined for the correlations between the parameters, denoted by the symbols and correlation weights (in parentheses) shown in Figure 11.

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Figure 11. QFD symbols.

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Any variation in relative importance values for the objective parameters between the freestyle and freeride QFD charts was due to the differing customer importance weights, obtained through the on-line survey and interview process. The graph shown in Figure 12 compares the resulting importance values between the two major riding styles.

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Figure 12. Quality function deployment (QFD) results comparison.

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It was noted that the body stiffness and body material parameters were significantly more important to both styles than any other parameter, implying that the bending stiffness distribution and mass of the main body section are crucial in optimal feel design. These parameters were also slightly more important to freestyle designs (as was the self-weighted camber), whereas the major length parameters and sidecut radius were considerably more important to freeride designs than their freestyle counterparts. These results were unsurprising given that stability was the paramount consideration to freeride designs (length/sidecut and stability are strongly related) while forgiveness, manoeuvrability and board liveliness were the key user rated considerations for freestyle designs (all highly dependent on camber and stiffness).

4. SNOWBOARD DESIGN INNOVATION OPPORTUNITIES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1. INTRODUCTION
  4. 2. IDENTIFICATION OF SNOWBOARD REQUIREMENTS
  5. 3. BENCHMARKING ANALYSIS USING QUALITY FUNCTION DEPLOYMENT (QFD)
  6. 4. SNOWBOARD DESIGN INNOVATION OPPORTUNITIES
  7. 5. CONCLUSION
  8. REFERENCES

A comprehensive gap analysis has been completed to identify possible design innovation and product development opportunities for modern snowboards. Using the ratings from the first survey of board models manufactured between 2004 and 2007 (40 of the 67 total different models), the snowboard's cumulative performance under the prescribed qualitative headers was plotted against its published style, within a range between pure freeride and pure freestyle. The performance measure for each model was calculated using the weighted average of ratings, compared to the ideal levels of each parameter within the prescribed style, as follows:

  • equation image(1)

The averages were reciprocated to give low ratings for high average differences from the ideal levels, and the results normalised to fit a scale between +5 and -5. Considering that the ideal levels for both styles were unique, for snowboard models located between the pure freeride and pure freestyle endpoints of the spectrum, a cumulative weighted difference was used to compare ratings with both sets of ideal levels. The resulting MoM, shown in Figure 13 aimed to identify gaps in the overall snowboard market with respect to the freeride-freestyle riding style domains.

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Figure 13. Market opportunity map (MoM).

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The MoM showed that the performance levels of snowboard models manufactured between 2004 and 2007 were highly variable across the spectrum, involving both low and high performing pure freeride and freestyle models. It was noted that there were practically no high performing versatile boards in the current marketplace (board models half-way between freeride and freestyle), or in other words, models that satisfied both sets of ideal levels. This result appeared at odds with the desires of modern snowboarders identified through the various surveys and interviews, and specifically the noted overlap in style interest. It was apparent that riders desired versatile boards that exhibit high level performance within both styles. This confirmed that a gap in the current snowboard marketplace exists, which provides potential design innovation opportunities for high performing, versatile snowboards.

To realise the identified design innovation opportunity, it was important to pinpoint the objective design parameters that effect the versatility of snowboards. This has been achieved using a combination of existing qualitative and quantitative data. A versatility value was formulated as a measure of the extent a variation in an objective design parameter will drive the feel and performance from freestyle to freeride or vice versa. It was defined as the product of the average Relative Importance (RI) factor from the QFD chart and the normalised range of technical assessment data between the three test boards. In simpler terms it combines how important each factor is to the feel and performance of a snowboard and the variation of that factor between freestyle and freeride designs.

  • equation image(2)

Note that the Average Relative Importance value refers to the fact that there are two importance values, one for each of the respective styles. Furthermore, the range in technical assessment data was normalised using the ratio of the range to the maximum value of each respective objective parameter. While it was expected that the limits of the range would originate from the freestyle and freeride labelled test boards, several of the maxima and minima were found from the test board classified as ‘versatile’, illustrating that there is no logical progression for all technical parameters along the style spectrum, and instead the amalgamation of all parameters results in a certain style and feel. It also reinforces the earlier comment that the overlap between freeride and freestyle boards is relatively pronounced. Thus the Versatility Value highlighted those factors which vary significantly along the style spectrum and strongly alter the feel and performance of any particular board.

Figure 14 shows how the Versatility Value varies with each objective parameter. Several features appear to be crucial to the versatility of a modern snowboard. The self-weighted camber, bending/torsional stiffness in the body and the body stiffness/weight ratio all possessed exceptionally high values; however, the low value of the mass parameter indicated that stiffness is of key concern as the mass does not vary to any significant extent between the test boards. Furthermore, the source of the high values varied between the three design features. The bending stiffness value was primarily the result of a very high Relative Importance value from the QFD chart, indicating its importance to the overall feel for both styles. The normalised range value was only of the order of 20 per cent, implying that small changes in stiffness result in strong feel and performance variation. The camber and torsional stiffness showed the opposite trend, where between the test boards, the normalised ranges were approximately 45 per cent and 40 per cent respectively, and the Relative Importance values were notably lower.

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Figure 14. Versatility values.

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Varying the bending and torsional stiffness distributions and the camber appears to be the key approach to altering the feel and performance of a snowboard across the major riding styles. There is a design opportunity to create a versatile board design based on the described approach that would potentially result in higher levels of customer satisfaction.

5. CONCLUSION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1. INTRODUCTION
  4. 2. IDENTIFICATION OF SNOWBOARD REQUIREMENTS
  5. 3. BENCHMARKING ANALYSIS USING QUALITY FUNCTION DEPLOYMENT (QFD)
  6. 4. SNOWBOARD DESIGN INNOVATION OPPORTUNITIES
  7. 5. CONCLUSION
  8. REFERENCES

The research presented in this article identified bending and torsional stiffness distributions as well as camber as the key design characteristics influencing the feel and performance of the snowboard for both freeride and freestyle riding styles. Furthermore, the use of a QFD method to analyse and correlate objective and subjective parameters enabled the identification of key design parameters that have the potential to meet customer requirements better then the existing snowboard designs. This analysis also provided a better understanding of the relative importance of different snowboard features for different riding styles in relation to the identified customer requirements. The formulation of an overall performance measure using the qualitative data collected has allowed the ranking and comparison of existing board models between the formalised styles through an MoM, which identified gaps within the current snowboard marketplace. The MoM confirmed that there is a potential design innovation opportunity for high performing, versatile snowboards. To realise this opportunity for a novel snowboard design, the key objective parameters that drive versatility were identified using a Versatility Value, which was derived in this research using a combination of objective data ranges between test boards and relative importance values of each parameter obtained from the QFD analysis. Overall, the analysis has paved the way for the creation of new high performance, versatile snowboard designs which should satisfy the identified market opportunity and customer requirements.

REFERENCES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1. INTRODUCTION
  4. 2. IDENTIFICATION OF SNOWBOARD REQUIREMENTS
  5. 3. BENCHMARKING ANALYSIS USING QUALITY FUNCTION DEPLOYMENT (QFD)
  6. 4. SNOWBOARD DESIGN INNOVATION OPPORTUNITIES
  7. 5. CONCLUSION
  8. REFERENCES
  • 1
    MaxLifestyle.net ABC-of-Snowboarding. http://www.abc-of-snowboarding.com [2006].
  • 2
    Snowsports Industries America. US Ski and Snowboard Industry Retail Audit Topline Report, March 2006.
  • 3
    Shah K. From Innovation to Firm Foundation in the Windsurfing, Skateboarding and Snowboarding Industries, 6th International Conference on Sports Engineering, Munich, Germany, July 2006.
  • 4
    Roberts JR, Jones R, Rothberg SJ, Mansfield NJ, Meyer C. The feel of a golf shot: a major factor in golf equipment selection. In The Impact of Technology on Sport, Australasian Sports Technology Alliance Pty Ltd: Melbourne, 2005.
  • 5
    Harrer M, Pfeffer P, Johnston N. Steering Feel – Objective Assessment of Passenger Cars Analysis of Steering Feel and Vehicle Handling, FISITA World Automotive Congress 2006, Yokohama, Japan, October 2006.
  • 6
    Snowsports Industries America (2007) US Ski and Snowboard Industry Retail Audit Brand Share Report, June 2007.
  • 7
    Yang K. and El-Haik B. (2003) Design for Six Sigma, McGraw-Hill: New York, pp. 184186, 2003.
  • 8
    ASTM International. Standard terminology relating to snowboarding. In Annual book of ASTM Standards, F1107, 1995.