Many gear companies are not in a position to develop new products but most of them could make their current products better. Business schools may preach the importance of bigger, better, market changing products being the key to growth but how many Dick Tracey wrist phones does the world really need?
Younger readers may now take a moment to Google Dick Tracey; even what passes for cutting edge technology has roots in history. There is nothing wrong with making “legacy products,” even major car companies have honored their older designs with retro design cues and officially authorized replacement sheet metal from the original dies.
It isn’t unusual for gear companies to sell products that were designed around the time the current management was born. Many things have changed since then, including rating practices on gears, couplings, and bearings. One obvious improvement has been the move from pencil drawings to CAD and now 3D modeling. Does your legacy product have a modern, on-line catalog with current ratings and down loadable models or did someone just scan the old document into a PDF format and call it good?
Updating rating calculations and detail drawings serves as an efficient way to review product capabilities and investigate cost reductions. People are often surprised at the savings available by changing materials on existing parts or revising relatively design features to take advantage of modern machine tools, fixtures, and cutters.
Don’t discount the ability of your present staff to perform this type of product transformation. Chances are there are people within your organization who know where the weak points are. If not your customers, especially former customers, will let you know over an adult beverage or two. Sales departments need to understand where their products stand in the competitive pecking order.
At the very least, regular brainstorming sessions on your products and those of competitors will encourage team members to look for the “edge” needed to make your legacy products prosper in the future.