Friday, March 22, 2013

Engineered Independence

In trying to capture what exactly it is that makes our philosophy unique, I considered all of the attributes that we hold close. Systems thinking, modular design, simplicity, and documentation are all important pieces of the puzzle that make who we are, how we operate, and what we produce different.

The end goal of all these things that is uniquely Bostig is independence, carefully engineered. Independence in parts sourcing, independence in maintenance, independence of information from us or others by providing good and complete information. This ultimately produces true independence for the customer to go wherever and whenever they choose to go.

People often make the mistake of making the engine swap itself the goal, or performance the goal, or one subset of capability the goal (going fast, looking good, mpgs, off-roading, handling) they can’t see the forest for the trees and make trade offs that can end up leaving them less independent. That’s exactly what we don’t do, and that’s why we have the most happy customers with the most miles of any company in the market.

Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is a central tenet in the Bostig philosophy. In designing something like a replacement engine option, traditional thinking considers things like the engine itself, fuel choice, horsepower, torque, fuel economy, and fitment. These are important considerations, and often sufficient selling points for the inexperienced, however it falls short of genuine customer needs.

The powertrain is a system. That system is part of a larger system, and both systems change over time. The drivers and installers are also part of the system. The part supply infrastructure, maintenance model, business, production, delivery, and support models are additional systems that are part of the whole that determines the final result and its potential, both negative and positive.

In the same way that a holistic approach to medicine is showing to be important, the more capable you are of considering and answering the problem set in multiple dimensions, the better the solution can be.

The result of good systems thinking is superior in some obvious, but mostly nonobvious ways. Nonobvious in that when the larger design scope comes into play, it may not result in enough error for the condition to cause a noticeable change (ie you only "notice" when you break down). That saves people every day from expense and failure, but most of them will never realize it.

You can have the best engine in the world, but if it isn't running for a reason that was not considered during the design phase, you won't have the freedom you paid for. A system is truly great when it fades out of the way allowing you to focus on your goals, not system requirements, allowing real independence.

Modular Design

Modular design helps increase flexibility, ease of use, and increases efficiency of both design and implementation. It also increases customer value. Modular design is a form of “chunking” and controlling interactivity between the chunks of the system. The chunks can be addressed independent of the whole while still being part of the system.

In auto manufacturing, the assembly line is part of modular design philosophy with specialists focusing on just their areas. In software, modularity increases quality by lowering error rates. Both of these benefits are things we see even at our micro-scale level of manufacturing. Both translate into benefits for customers.

Customers benefit by the superior consistency and control that modular design offers. Customers also benefit by the ability to purchase and use in modular fashion. For instance the engine cradle that supports the engine, is also the base component of the skidplate system to which one can add engine and/or transmission protection. The turbo kit is designed to be added to the existing Bostig Powertrain system. Modularity of development, design, and documentation is a trait unique to Bostig.


"We tried to make something much more holistic and simple. When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get there. We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are well thought through." -- Steve Jobs

Simplicity is worth it's weight in gold. It can mean the difference between success and failure, reliability and unreliability. Our happy customers and their now more than 5 million miles support Ockham’s Razor: when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.


We literally wrote the book. We have the most comprehensive factory manual for an aftermarket powertrain system, and we're very proud of it. It is one of the reasons we are the only vendor that gives our complete documentation away openly and for free online.

Good documentation is one of the most important and neglected elements of development. Documentation saves users time, frustration, and money throughout the life of the product. No matter where you are, you can have access to information you can't possibly remember. It can reduce showstoppers to minor inconvenience.

It can also help others help you like nothing else. People suppose all the time that random mechanics will never work on their now "customized" vanagons, but hand a mechanic your factory manual and let him thumb through it and listen to the answer.

Documentation is another form of communication with the customer, and neglecting to do a good job is a disservice. We think that having a book that details the information about the powertrain in your glove compartment is just as important as having the right powertrain to begin with.

One of the key reasons that we can have good documentation is that we also have consistency. If you lack consistency you will also lack accurate documentation, and the customer will not have the same level of value, capability, and protection.

This is overlooked by customers just as often as it is overlooked by vendors. Knowledge is power, and our glovebox factory manual gives customers the power to easily, independently, and inexpensively build, maintain, and enjoy their investment.


The idea is simple, we do as much work as we can when the ball is in our court to save you having to do work when the ball is in yours. We work smart, systematically, keep things simple, support and document better than anyone. The result is a faster/easier learning, a more robust/reliable system, easier/cheaper maintenance, and less to worry about. Those things ultimately allow people to really travel with their vans when and how they want, and that is real independence, engineered.

No comments:

Post a Comment