Research and Development

Posted 5-1-2016
People often ask, “what does it take to design and build a prototype?” Well, the “smart” answer is, “between $150,000 and $250,000.” But that really is cheating and not giving a useful answer, and frankly, this is the most fun part of what we do, so let me explain further.

We have just released an all new machine – the all new 2017 Bad A** Beaver 18, the next evolution of our Bad A** line. It’s our 4th newly designed machine in less than 18 months. So the whole subject is fresh and clean. The process really starts with you – without your input, how could we create anything? We rely on your input, what’s right about our machines, what isn’t the way you’d like it, and other ideas. We research market trends to see what makes sense. Then we do some brainstorming. Of all those great ideas, what do we want to incorporate? What innovations can we include to make the machine better, faster, stronger and more user friendly? Will it be something many people want and need? Once we narrow the ideas down, we begin to focus until we have a good picture of what we want.

Having a full time engineer on staff is not inexpensive, yet, as far as we know, we are the only company in the industry that has one. With in-house engineering, Jerry sets to work and uses that input from the whole team – what sells well? What makes it easier for welding and assembly? Fit and finish? Because we engineer in-house, there is a lot of input through the whole process at every step and we can move very fast. As sections of the machine lock in, he gets prototype parts made and often, before the last components are in final design, we are deep into the welding process. We have this process down to a science – in generally takes us less than 2 months from idea to finished prototype.

In the case of the new BAB 18, while the metal work started with a clean slate, the hydraulic system is dialed in already – very similar to the BAB 16 and BAB 20 (and borrowing certain features from both, so minimal engineering work is involved – until assembly gets their hands on it. They still need to develop a hose kit with all the necessary hoses and fittings, which they do while assembling the prototype.

Once assembly is done, it’s out to the woodlot. At this point, it is like our normal quality test. Warm it up and get the hydraulic settings dialed in, then run a few logs and tweak as necessary. Then we step back out of the norm and push a couple extra cords through it to check full function under operating conditions. We even let destructive Dave (our service manager) run it, if anyone can break it, he will. Scott and I will also take a turn on the controls and add our opinions. Back to the shop for final assessment and any necessary changes. Easy, right?

By testing components in the computer, we can avoid most of the pitfalls others run into in prototyping – and then the real world run wrings out the rest of the details. This allows Wood Beaver Forestry to go from concept to finished prototype faster than most companies can build their already designed machine. If you are doing the math, we’ve spent the best part of a cool $1,000,000 on product development in the last year. This allows us to stay on the cutting edge (pun intended) of the firewood industry. But now is not the time to rest on our laurels – the BAB 18 is just the first 2017 we’ve introduced!

Bryndon O’Hara
General Manager
Wood Beaver Forestry