Case | HBS Case Collection | February 1999

Volant Skis

by Steven C. Wheelwright and Matt Verlinden

Abstract

Volant brought innovation to the ski equipment industry in 1989 by developing a stainless steel ski. He claimed the skis could turn more easily, could hold an edge in icy conditions, and were more stable than aluminum or fiberglass skis. The company's "soft-flex" technology was patented, and soon word spread throughout the skiing community about the new high-performance ski. The company decided to offer a narrow product line. In 1995, Volant was unable to fulfill all its orders due to lingering manufacturing problems. A new operations manager came in and improved manufacturing yields, lowered costs significantly, and brought in a CAD/CAM system to streamline prototype design. The 1997 season was heralded by on-time delivery of promised shipments, and the company's reputation climbed. With the leader in the ski equipment industry capturing less than 25% of the market, Volant considered its strategy for competing in a fragmented market. In 1994, hourglass-shaped skis became a new trend, and Volant decided to make shaped skis exclusively. They also acquired the rights to a snowboard design at its manufacturing facility in Denver. Although Volant was the fourth best-selling supplier in the United States by 1998, it still was not a profitable company. It had to consider new growth strategies to become a leader in its industry and to yield a return for its investors.

Keywords: Change Management; Technological Innovation; Growth and Development Strategy; Operations; Product Development; Performance Improvement; Quality; Corporate Strategy; Value Creation;

Citation:

Wheelwright, Steven C., and Matt Verlinden. "Volant Skis." Harvard Business School Case 699-129, February 1999.