Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Case Study: Roll Formed Ladders Deliver Big Results

You’ve seen them in stores. And you’ve watched their infomercials. Yes, Customer Y’s adjustable ladder brand has been a household name for more than 30 years. Company Y’s ladders are now one of America’s best-selling ladders thanks to their safety, stability, and versatility.

A great ladder needed to reinvent itself

Although Company Y’s ladders have been a favorite for three decades, they did have a few issues.
  • First, because its designers gave it the most-robust performance characteristics possible, the ladder was simply too heavy for some customers.
  • Second, the last of the patents protecting their standard multi-use ladders expired in the early 2000s. Soon thereafter, the market was flooded with cheap imitations from both the United States and outside the country.
Goal 1: Lighten Up: Company Y’s first goal was to cut the ladder’s weight by a full 20 percent, yet still maintain the strength and quality that their ladders are known for.
Goal: Step it Up:  Company Y also needed another breakthrough – they needed to redeign their ladder so that it was so unique it couldn’t be knocked off easily and would provide as much protection as possible from competitors.

Custom roll former helps create new “Revolution”

Company Y knew that their new ladder would be vastly different – so they named it “Revolution.” With the name in place, the company now needed a partner that knew their industry and could provide the technology needed to develop this new state-of-the-art product.
“We turned to our roll forming partner as one of the companies we felt could work best with our company,” said Company Y’s Director of Engineering. “They committed the time and resources necessary to work through the project from top to bottom — interacting with our engineers to develop solutions that met our objectives. First, they researched different materials and came up with a special aluminum alloy that had mechanical strength properties that were 25 percent higher than the extrusion grade used on our existing ladders. This allowed for a 25 percent reduction in ladder rail weight.”
“Even better, the roll former negotiated with the aluminum producer to get us exclusive rights to this one-of-a-kind special alloy.  That meant no other ladder producer in the world could ever use this material in the ladder industry. With that, Company Y was well on its way to having a lighter-weight product that could not be duplicated.”

Now to redesign the ladder rails

With the new alloy identified, it was time to redesign the rail sections.  The roll former’s engineering team worked with Company Y’s engineering department to configure a roll-formed shape that would add strength in needed areas. “Designing alongside the roll former’s team made it easier to develop a shape that worked well with the roll-forming process” added Company Y’s Director of Engineering. “Anytime we had an issue or question, the roll former was quick to respond, even if it meant flying their engineers out to our facility. They also made at least 10 different sets of samples during product development so we could do actual product testing and ensure the new design worked.”

Mission accomplished

The roll former took the next step and helped Company Y transition other parts of the ladder to the new aluminum alloy. “They helped us brainstorm in several other areas – the hinge sections, for example — to reduce weight and increase strength using the alloy.  This cut considerable weight from the product, giving us weight savings we hadn’t counted on.
“The Revolution is here – and our roll forming partner was instrumental in getting us there. They are honest, straightforward, capable people. I would highly recommend them and the roll forming process to anyone looking for help in developing or redesigning a product.”