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Case Study: Speed of Product Development Cycle for Steering Consoles
BSM North America
/ Categories: Steering, Console, Manufacturing

Case Study: Speed of Product Development Cycle for Steering Consoles

Current steering columns are manufactured and sold as bare-bones units for installation in a variety of different off highway vehicles. As vehicles become more and more complex, however, there is an expanding requirement to connect the operator with the equipment in the most effective way possible. 

Our Customers Deserve Efficacy

Since the steering components are already the central part of the machine/operator connection, it is natural that ancillary inputs and outputs be centered around the steering apparatus. We realized that some of our customers who produce at significant scale spend the resources to fit our products into a cab design that includes controls for transmission, indicator lights, accessory devices, and outputs of vehicle status. Still, other customers include our steering columns and develop their own systems to include the same controls and indicators in a more patchworked method.

We saw a need for a flexible, finished, and cost-effective method to house and locate some of these ancillary vehicle features for the smaller, more custom equipment that does not have the scope of the mass-produced equipment, and we wanted to fulfil that need.

Product Development Objective

BSM North America wanted to develop a steering wheel column console that can be included in the sale of our steering columns as an “add on” component. It needed to be flexible in design to accommodate a wide array of customer needs for steering columns, controls, and indicators. The design must be effective to produce and stand up to industry expectations for form, fit and function.

Proposed Product Features

  • Modular Design for various customer specified holes/openings for ignition switch, transmission/signaling levers, input buttons, and indicator lights or gauges.
  • Durable construction/material with robust attachment to column and easy of assembly for installation and maintenance.
  • Compact form and fit to not overwhelm current column footprint in cab.
  • Room for gauges, levers, cabling, and a method for integration of cable management while maintaining tilt or telescoping functionality of columns.
  • Fits a vast array of current column offerings and commonly purchased sizes or configurations.

Proposed User Demographics, Timeline, and Cost

  • Target Customer: OEM manufactures of off highway equipment
  • Target Cost: N/A
  • Target Availability: Fall 2020

What BSM Did to Make It a Reality

BSM North America recognized an opportunity to bring added value to our core product line, steering columns, by adding more features and controls.

Tools Used

  • Formal scoping (defined specific objectives, features and target pricing/availability/customers)
  • Concept ideation (sketching, 3d modeling and 3d printing)
  • Competitive analysis (no one offered a flexible/modular design; significant lead time/minimums/costs)

Our Development Process

1. We sought input from key stakeholders, starting with our customer base of distributors and end users, internal sales, engineering, and manufacturing, and honestly anyone whom we could show it to.

2. We relied on subject matter experts to develop solutions for key challenges and to utilize the right processes, materials, and technologies.

3. We balanced budget/timing/performance of plastic molding, thermoform versus injection molding, and chose thermoforming for its design flexibility and lower volume requirements.Steering Console

4. We chose highly vetted material in Kydex, used in some of the most rigorous environments. It has superior impact resistance, chemical resistance, and is ideal for equipment housings/aircraft or mass transit interiors/kiosk housings/etc.

5. We utilized advanced 3D CAD to develop 50+ design concepts ranging from wildly unique to those demonstrating incremental changes. We printed these concepts, gained feedback from the team and continued development until we were satisfied.

6. We relied on 3D printing technology to make functional prototypes of our designs. We used these parts for real-world fit-up testing to further iterate on design and confirm manufacturability.

7. Once we were done with our concept development, we kicked off a tooling and prototype build with a local thermoforming partner. We relied on their expertise in materials, mold design and forming processes to build fully functional prototypes.

8. These prototypes were validated alongside our customer’s vehicle prototype to lessen the burden of the development costs and provide critical feedback from end users.

9. Further prototyping and tweaking lead us to final product decisions in roughly six months.

How BSM Develops Consoles Quickly

Had we not been laser-focused on our product scope and not had access to advanced design and prototyping processes, this design cycle could have easily taken 18 months or more. Furthermore, if we had looked for cost savings from lower-cost, overseas suppliers, the timeline would have been drastically extended.

What This Says About Our Process

At BSM North America, our team sees significant value in utilizing advanced commercial machining and industrial fabrication tools whenever necessary. We also know that focusing on the best-cost scenario does not necessarily result in the lowest cost in the long run. We strive to develop products that fit the needs of our customers and our business processes.

We Work Hard to Bring You the Best!

Partner with BSM North America Today. We promise to bring the same level of dedication and solution-oriented service to you as we demonstrated when creating our own products, and we strive for fast turnaround times to boot.

If you’re in need of custom steering columns, work with only the finest in the industry: BSM North America. Give our Burnsville location a call today at 952-890-8146 to get started.

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