Designing Speedo LZR Racer: Speedo's Innovative and Controversial Line of High-end Swimsuits

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Case Details:

Case Code : OPER075
Case Length : 20 Pages
Period : 2000-2008
Organization : Speedo International Limited
Pub Date : 2009
Teaching Note :Not Available
Countries : UK; Global
Industry : Elite Swimwear

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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"Speedo has been leading the world in swimwear design since 1928 and our commitment to innovation in design and technology is the backbone to everything we do. We are particularly proud, in our 80th year, to be launching the Speedo LZR RACER which has broken new boundaries in performance swimwear and which we know will help elite athletes achieve their ultimate performances in 2008. It's our 80th birthday present to the world of swimming."1

- David Robinson, Co-President of Speedo International Limited, in 2008.

"The statistics speak for themselves, and we are proud to be a strategic technology behind the product that helped elite swimmers shave seconds off their competitive times. This was a real-world example of engineering simulation driving innovation that ultimately contributes to a customer's business success."2

- Chris Reid, vice president, marketing, ANSYS, Inc.3 in 2008.

"This is going down a very dangerous road. It removes the purely competitive aspect of the sport and puts outside factors into play. Swimming has always been based on ability. Now, there are other aspects. It's like technological doping. It's not in the spirit of the sport. It would be one thing if it was Michael Phelps setting all these records, but a lot of them have come from fifth- and sixth-ranked swimmers."4, 5

- Alberto Castagnetti, head coach of Italian national swimming team in 2008.


In February 2008, Speedo International Limited (Speedo), a leading manufacturer and distributor of swimsuits, sports equipment, and footwear, launched the Speedo LZR Racer (LZR Racer), which was considered the world's fastest swimsuit.

Made from a lightweight, low drag6, water repellent fabric, the LZR Racer was the first laser-bonded swimsuit with no visible seams. The suit's unique design increased the oxygen intake efficiency of the swimmers and helped them to swim strongly for a longer period.

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Designing Speedo LZR Racer: Speedo's Innovative and Controversial Line of High-end Swimsuits - Next Page>>

1] "Speedo "Space Age" Swimsuit Set for Take off,", February 13, 2008.
2] "ANSYS Helps Speedo Take Home Medals at Beijing Olympics,", September 16, 2008.
3] ANSYS, Inc. based in Pennsylvania, US, develops computational fluid dynamics and engineering simulation software and technologies across a broad range of industries. ANSYS software is used to design aircraft wings, artery stents, sportswear and trucks.
4] Michael Fred Phelps is an American swimmer who won 16 Olympic medals (six gold and two bronze at 2004 Athens Olympics and eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics). As of 2008, Phelps holds seven world records in swimming.
5] "FINA Rules to Allow High-Tech Swimsuits; Italian Coach Calls it 'Technological Doping',", April 8, 2008.
6] Every moving object is affected by friction. Drag is similar to friction. It is a mechanical force exerted by the interaction and contact of a solid object with liquid or gas. It is generated by the difference in velocity between the solid object and the fluid. The interaction between the moving object and the liquid that it moves through creates a force that slows down the object. Drag depends on the shape of the object and its aerodynamic form. Bulky objects experience more drag and will be slowed down quicker. Slick objects will have less drag. If there is no fluid, drag is absent.

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