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From idea to product

Feedback from athletes is crucial in the development process. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com
Bjørn Ivar Austrem Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Bjørn Ivar Austrem, the head of research and development at Madshus, explains the long process from idea to product. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Where do product ideas come from, and what steps do they go through before they arrive at the retailers?

Bjørn Ivar Austrem, the head of research and development at Madshus, explains that it can take years from an idea is on the table until the product is for sale. Sometimes the process is much faster. But regardless, it is always a carefully considered development process.

Where do ideas come from?
Some ideas are market driven, and often originate from the sales and marketing teams from around the world. They know a lot about what kind of equipment customers want and need in the different price categories.

“We have a group that meets regularly, get feedback and exchange ideas. Sometimes they tell us we are missing a specific product in a certain category. This might be a slightly wider touring ski, or that we don’t have a ski that fits a specific product segment and price point,” Austrem says.

Other ideas originate from the racers, racing reps and service techs.

“In this area, we and our athletes are always pushing the limits. We are always on the cutting edge of the innovation, and testing new base materials, ski construction geometries, flexes and cambers, to make sure our athletes always have the best possible equipment. We use our experience and feedback from the top racing community to develop skis for the general consumer market,” Austrem says.

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Comparing feedback in the field. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Comparing feedback in the field. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Evolution or revolution?
“Some ideas become products that revolutionize the trade and the industry standard. The new double-pole ski Propulsion is a good example. This ski is designed entirely from scratch, with completely a new geometry that is different from every other ski model, and molded in brand new molds. Other ideas are more like an evolution, a refined version of an existing product. People expect updates. Some of these are bigger things like adjusting flex and camber, other times these updates are new, fresh graphics,” Austrem explains.

“When we get feedback and suggestions from our athletes or the marketing departments, we have to evaluate whether these ideas and determine if we are talking about an evolution, such as a change of graphics, smaller adjustments to the properties of the ski including flex or base materials, or a revolution where we will need to develop entirely new models that will require new molds, new geometries and new construction concepts,” he says.

At the same time as the research and development department processes and handles this external feedback, there is also a constant in-house development process going on where Madshus engineers are developing ideas, researching new materials, product development.

All of these processes also need to fit into the overall development schedule, which typically follows a 2-year cycle that coincides with the major international events, such as the Olympics and the FIS World Championships. Currently, 2018 is the next release cycle. During the Olympic Winter Games in South Korea we will launch our entirely new 2019 Redline models.

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Feedback from athletes is crucial in the development process. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Feedback from athletes is crucial in the development process. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

The revolution process
“If we determine that we need a revolution, we start entirely from scratch. We consider a lot of different elements as well as all feedback from our athletes and marketing departments. The Madshus Propulsion ski is a great example. The double-pole classic ski is a brand new product for an entirely new ski technique, based on a radically different way to ski than traditional classic skiing. We had to start with a whole new geometry for this ski, and it also needs to look new, as we are developing a whole new market with this product,” Austrem explains.

“We had been thinking about building a marathon ski for a while, but what should it be? We had to determine how the ski needed to behave. We know what our elite marathon skiers have been using in previous years when they have won Vasaloppet and other legendary marathon events. But the marathon classic technique today is radically different than even just a few years ago, and it is evolving quickly. As the technique has become more extreme, we recognized how we had to construct the ski in order to meet the needs of our marathon racers,” he says.

The research and development team at the factory receives constant feedback from the top athletes and their equipment managers on the race circuit, and carry a continual dialogue with them through the entire development process.

There are a lot of features to test: Base materials, new varieties of carbon fibers and other construction elements are some. Flex, stiffness and cambers have to be tested and adjusted.

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The brand new Madshus Propulsion ski represents an industry revolution. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

The brand new Madshus Propulsion ski represents an industry revolution. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Simultaneously, Austrem and his colleagues are handling their other development projects, which are also taken into consideration in the new Propulsion project, as they are with the evolution of any other ski model.

“We can adjust a lot of the properties that we are considering with equipment that are currently in production, and accordingly, we can produce new prototypes very quickly. We do quite a few rounds of this where we evaluate the feedback carefully before we purchase a new mold. And again, this whole development cycle needs to be coordinated with the overall launch schedule and general product cycles. If we have an entirely new product, this is a great time to launch other news as well, such as redesigned models, new base materials or reinforcements that improve existing models,” Austrem says.

Ski bases, ready to use. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Some new products are updates on existing models, such as new base materials. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Research and innovation
In addition to their internal development and feedback from the athletes the marketing departments, Madshus also works closely with major research institutions on various kinds of innovations. With grants from Forskningsrådets Brukerstyrte innovasjonsarena BIA (Norwegian institute of research and engineering’s user-generated innovation arena), Madshus can cooperate with a number of researchers in different fields and institutions. These include SINTEF, universities such as the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and selected corporate research institutions.

“These grants allow us to initiate projects with a higher risk, which have the potential to develop entirely new products with brand new technologies,” says Austrem.

He points out that the Empower app is an example of such innovation partnerships. The Empower app gives the skier and the retailer access to all the specifications and about the properties of one specific ski, which are collected on a chip that is imbedded in the ski.

Also, smart products, the Internet of Things, is just the beginning of an exciting future. At the moment, Madshus is working on various products that analyze biomechanics. By studying biomechanics in real-time, you can discover entirely new ways to see things, which again can be used to develop new products and services, Austrem says.

Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Research, development and innovation are core activities at Madshus. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Raising the Boot Bar

Emil Hegle Svendsen (NOR) at the 2015 IBU World Championships in Kontiolahti (FIN). Photo: Nordic Focus

Emil Hegle Svendsen (NOR) at the 2015 IBU World Championships in Kontiolahti (FIN). Photo: Nordic Focus

Shatter records and redefine what’s possible. Enter the Super Nano all carbon boot.

Waste no effort. Make every push count.

“The speed you can drive with this boot really amazes me,” says Emil Hegle Svendsen.

The Norwegian biathlete points out that the Nano Carbon boot’s track record with him is solid: Half a dozen World Championship medals and several World Cup victories speak volumes of the innovation and development that goes into the engineering of the boot.

The Super Nano is 47percent more torsionally rigid and 10 percent stiffer than any boot we have ever made. Built to deliver the most efficient power transfer, the one-piece Integrated Carbon Base matches the contours of the foot, minimizing the amount of material between your foot and the ski for a more direct drive.

Lower volume in the forefoot means a more precise fit and optimal control, while the highstretch flex notch system beneath the MemBrain Softshell upper delivers maximum knee drive and range of motion. Pair the Super Nano with the Redline Carbon Skate ski, and you have the ingredients for groundbreaking, World Cup winning performance.

“For me, the revolution came several years ago when I tested the first prototype of these Super Nano boots for the first time. Since then, I have been closely involved in the development process of the Super Nano. It makes me confident and comfortable to know I will be in a really great position in terms of my equipment for the coming years,” says Svendsen, who has collected three Olympic gold medals and a silver medal from three different Olympics, as well as nine World Championship gold medals, five silver medals and two bronze medals since his first IBU World Championships in 2007.

Read more about the RED Super Nano boot

The 2015-16 RED Super Nano. Photo: Madshus

The 2015-16 RED Super Nano. Photo: Madshus

 

Bjertnaes Awarded The King’s Medal of Merit

Madshus Chief of Technology Gunnar Bjertnaes was awarded the King’s Medal of Merit on Wednesday. Madshus CEO Nils Hult added some flowers and a gift card from the Madshus crew to the medal and diploma. Photo: Inge Scheve

Gunnar Bjertnaes, Chief of Technology at Madshus, was awarded the King’s Medal of Merit (Kongens Fortjenestemedalje) and Diploma of Loyal Service Achievement as well as an invitation to meet Harald 5th the King of Norway, at the Royal Palace in Oslo.

 

But despite more than 40 years of hard work to produce the best cross-country skis in the world, Bjertnaes said he never tires of the job.

 

“I work in such an interesting field. We make products that deliver so much joy and excitement in so many places all over the world,” Bjertnaes said enthusiastically.

 

“I take tremendous pride and joy in delivering on the Madshus vision ‘Innovative joy of skiing’ because without innovation, you don’t get the same drive and passion,” he explained, adding that he loves to use the products as well.

 

Bjertnaes has worked as the COT and in charge of research and development at Madshus since 1972. At that point, Bjertnaes took over a brand new facility, the most modern factory for manufacturing wooden skis in the world. However, in 1974 the fiberglass revolution turned the manufacturing world upside down. But while other factories folded, Bjertnaes was able to turn the Madshus factory into a top-notch fiberglass production plant.

 

Since then, the creative and enthusiastic COT has never rested. Bjertnaes constantly chases perfection and innovation, always wanting to bring Madshus one step ahead and collaborating with both the best researchers in the world, equipment and material suppliers, other component manufacturers such as Rottefella and securing the NIS no-screw binding patent to Madshus.

 

Bjertnaes latest project is the Smart Ski technology that was initiated back in 2006, resulting in the Madshus Empower technology released this season. Madshus Empower technology consists of a chip embedded into the ski and an app that lets Madshus, retailers and end users gain full control of the skis, the skis properties and optimal tuning.

 

On top of Bjertnaes commitment at Madshus, he also manages to share his joy and compassion with the community, serving on a large range of community organizations, including the Lillehammer Ski Club, Lillehammer yacht club, Lillehammer Animal Club and Lillehammer Diving Club.

 

“Bjertnaes commitment goes well above and beyond what can be expected, and this is why Bjertnaes is awarded the Kings Medal of Merit,” said Kristin Hille Valla, the governor of Oppland, as she handed him the precious medal.

 

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