How can a small, high-end mountain bike frame maker serve customers more efficiently than its big-name competitors while reducing its carbon footprint? Santa Cruz Bikes, based in California, found the answer by taking its design, development and marketing processes digital.
The company’s product design team, led by manager Geoff Casey, collaborates closely with the company’s engineering and marketing teams. But all three teams were facing high costs and long lead and manufacturing times as they worked with materials, styles, graphics and colors that could literally be mixed and matched in hundreds of different ways.
Building sample frames of all of those combinations wasn’t cost-effective; neither was photographing all of them. But photorealistic imagery databases that could be manipulated digitally could produce endless, true-to-life bike renderings that could be created and shared in real time.
“When I started, we still just had linear 2D line drawings on standard-sized pieces of paper, and you’d have to look at colors samples or graphics and put them together in your head,” Casey said. “Now we can literally see it – in 3D and real time.”
The cost savings have been important, but so have the time savings, leading to shorter and more efficient product turns. Santa Cruz even used the data to create a bike builder on its website, which it offers to potential customers who want to design their own bikes and for assemblers who are putting together bikes for their customers.
The digital renderings of the frames are so good that “even I can’t really tell which ones are renderings and which ones are photographs of products,” Casey said. Currently, his team is exploring even more ways to use the images, such as employing animated digital images to explain the technology behind the bikes. The result? Costs have gone down, along with Santa Cruz’s carbon footprint, and time from design concept to market has decreased dramatically. ◆
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