Meet BeSafe’s head of product development
Okke van Mourik has been working with BeSafe for 9 years. He and his product development team are the brains behind all new BeSafe products and product improvements – they are the ones who make sure that BeSafe products offer such high levels of safety and protect children in the best way possible. In this exclusive interview with the BeSafe head of product development we invite you to take a look “behind the scenes” and learn more about why BeSafe products are the way they are.
What has motivated you personally to work for BeSafe?
Okke: To be able to contribute to saving the lives of children is the most fantastic work I can do in my life. I have now worked with the development of products for children for more than 25 years and it continues to be hugely motivating and a real pleasure for me.
What defines great product development to you and how are you implementing this at BeSafe?
Okke: Product development here at BeSafe is a very structured process and very much a team effort. We have built a fantastic product development team with very professional designers and engineers. We follow a well-structured product development process in which very specific criteria must be met at each stage before progressing to the next. During the development process we work together with the whole organisation and the production partners to guarantee the best result and critically achieve the highest safety performance.
What sort of internal testing do the seats have to withstand before getting the ‘OK’ for a launch?
Okke: Testing during development includes virtual crash testing and crash testing in test labs at different stages to develop the best safety performance. In order to develop optimal usability we test with consumers to check all functionality and if the functions of the seat are easy to understand and to use. After a first production batch we test durability through an extended usage test over a long period.
Which institutes is BeSafe working together with for testing the seats?
Okke: BeSafe works with the top European test labs that are able to test car seats according ECE R44-04 and UN R129 regulations, such as VTI (Sweden), TASS (NL), TRL (UK) and CSI (Italy). Each test lab has its speciality and that is why we use many different ones.
During the development we also use ADAC to test according to the tests executed by the European consumer test program.
Which criteria are the most difficult to pass in the regulation approval process and why?
Okke: Which criteria are most difficult to pass differs per product.
As an example: In the UN R129 regulation it is very difficult to pass the side impact criteria for the smaller dummies that are used to represent babies. These criteria have to be met without the use of any additional SIP+ parts (Side Impact Protection), which is tough and takes a lot of time and effort to achieve well.
BeSafe has been putting a lot of effort into side impact protection for a long time even before the regulations were demanding it. How come?
Okke: Side collisions are the second most common source of injury for young children in cars after frontal impacts. In these collisions the head of the child is the most vulnerable part of the body, running the risk of contact with the vehicle door. Without good protection for the head, a child could get seriously injured in a side impact. To provide children with the highest side impact protection, we have developed our unique innovation SIP+. With SIP+ we are able to make an earlier contact between door and car seat and absorb the collision energy in a very effective way through the deformation of the SIP+ part (similar to the crumple-zone of a car). In this way we can reduce the collision energy significantly, which also greatly influenced the “Very Good” side impact safety scores of all BeSafe seats tested in the 2016 ADAC/Stiftung Warentest child car seat test.
Learn more about SIP+
What are the greatest challenges when developing child car seats?
Okke: The biggest challenge is to develop a child car seat that performs perfectly in any crash situation and is also user-friendly and appealing to the parents. Safety performance is a very abstract concept for the public. Sometimes the final purchase decision may be lead by how the seat looks because it is simply expected that a BeSafe seat will deliver the highest safety level for that seat.
How important is consumer feedback?
Okke: Consumer feedback is extremely important and is having a great influence in the development at all times. We use consumer insights during all steps of the development process and to improve our products once they are on the market.
Where do you take your ideas and inspiration for new products from?
Okke: Product developers have a natural ‘curiosity gene’ which gives them inspiration from everything they experience. Our experience with children (as a parent or observer) is a constant inspiration, but also any products, art, the environment and technology around us are a constant inspiration for our work.