By Bryan Harrison
Alain Eboli is a graduate of Southern Polytechnic State University in Atlanta. He is a father of a four-year-old boy who also shares a strong interest in cars and trucks. Eboli's role is engineering manager for OMIX-ADA/Rugged Ridge/Alloy USA—an independent manufacturer of Jeep replacement parts and accessories.
How long have you been in the automotive aftermarket? What other industries have you worked in?
I have been with OMIX-ADA/Rugged Ridge/Alloy USA for about five years with a brief period of about six months where I worked for Newell Rubbermaid's Graco children's products brand. I returned to OMIX in August 2012 to fill the role of engineering manager. Prior to my initial employment with OMIX, I worked as a design engineer, designing LED billboard structures and other signage solutions for outdoor applications, stadiums and arenas.
What does it take to create innovative products?
It’s much easier to invent than it is to innovate. Creating innovative products starts with understanding the consumer and the problems they face. Arriving at the most elegant solution instead of settling for the easiest is difficult but can differentiate a good product from a great product.
Can you give me an example of where you didn’t “settle” for an easy solution and what the outcome was?
Currently, we are developing a product with a release lever that was noticed to be difficult to grab. Additional plastic housings were developed to provide a hand grip. This product could have done without this additional component; however, the user experience would have been compromised. The result is enhanced usability and a happier end user.
If you had to make a call between form and function for a specific vehicle accessory, which would you choose?
This depends on what type of problem the product is solving. In the off-road industry, it’s usually function before form because these products typically solve a functional problem. But this doesn’t mean a product can’t look good at the same time.
Do you find the off-road business to be a do-it-yourself or do-it-for-me market? What role does this play when designing product?
I believe the market is still very much a do-it-yourself market. The true off-road consumer typically doesn’t have a choice if something goes wrong on the trail. So they will be a lot more willing and capable to perform their own vehicle modifications. And although this type of consumer will often have high mechanical aptitude, the product should not take advantage of this.
What advice would you give SEMA companies in recruiting and maintaining young engineers and designers?
It is absolutely necessary for SEMA companies to offer young engineers opportunities for growth and development. Also, encourage them to understand the big picture of our industry. Nothing does this better than spending a few days at the SEMA Show.
Take me through the process from start to finish for a new product.
A new product usually starts with a consumer problem. With a clear understanding of the problem, ideation is used to explore any and all possible solutions. This usually results in a fuzzy concept for a product. Prototyping is the most effective way to bring a concept to life and refine it into its simplest form. Here ends the fun part. The rest of the process, which requires endless tweaks for cost, manufacturing, assembly, installation, usability, performance testing, etc. takes lots of focus and discipline.
How many new products does your company release each year?
Typically, OMIX-ADA/Rugged Ridge/Alloy USA show between 20–30 new products at the SEMA Show each year.
A grizzly bear and a bull shark: who wins a fight in three feet of water?
Grizzly bear. In this scenario, the bull shark is nothing more than an oversized salmon.