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Case Studies

Little Giant Ladders Deliver Big Results

Posted by ARF News on September 17, 2010

You’ve seen them in stores. And you’ve watched their infomercials. Yes, the Little Giant® brand has been a household name for more than 30 years. In fact, Little Giant 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 the Little Giant had been a favorite for three decades, it 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: lighten up.

The company’s first goal was to cut the ladder’s weight by a full 20 percent, yet still maintain the strength and quality that Little Giants are known for.

Goal: step it up.

Little Giant needed another breakthrough. It had to be a revolutionary product that was so unique it couldn’t be knocked off – a ladder that would provide as much protection as possible from competitors.

Hynes Industries Helps Create New “Revolution”

Little Giant knew that their new ladder would be vastly different and clearly superior – 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 [Hynes Industries] as one of the companies we felt could work best with our company,” said Mr. Ryan Crawford, Little Giant’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, [Hynes] negotiated with the aluminum producer to get us exclusive rights to this one-of-a-kind special alloy,” Crawford added. “That meant no other ladder producer in the world could ever use this material in the ladder industry. Little Giant 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. Hynes worked with Little Giant’s engineering department to configure a roll-formed shape that would add strength in needed areas. “Designing with [Hynes] made it easier to develop a shape that worked well with the roll-forming process” added Crawford. “Anytime we had an issue or question, [Hynes] 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

Hynes was committed to making the whole project work, and actually helped Little Giant 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,” Crawford added. “This cut considerable weight from the product, giving us weight savings we hadn’t counted on.

“The Revolution is here – and [Hynes Industries] was instrumental in getting us there,” noted Crawford. “They are honest, straightforward, capable people. I would highly recommend them to anyone looking for help in developing or redesigning a product.”