Podcast: Micromanufacturing In Spring Creek

July – Micromanufacturing In Spring Creek

 

Audio Transcript

Hi. My name is Montie Roland. And right now I’m coming to you [from] about two hundred vertical feet above Troublesome Gap [at an elevation of  approximately 3900 feet].

Troublesome Gap is between the communities of Spring Creek and Big Pond, which is just south of Hot Springs, North Carolina, which is where the Appalachian Trail goes through Hot Springs, and just north of Asheville. And so I had an opportunity to come up this weekend and just relax.

We had a meeting in Spring Creek earlier and a meeting the night before at ASU for the IDSA Student Merit Competition judging. And I was right here, and I said, You know, it might be a good weekend to pitch a tent and sit back and just relax. So, that’s what I’m doing. So, right now, I am literally the only person within three-quarters of a mile of where I am. I think the closest people, from right here, from where I am, are Bob and Patsy Allan, who are down farther on Baltimore Branch Road. And they’re about three-quarters of a mile away. So, it’s nice and remote up here. And then the next neighbors . . . there’s another neighbor about three-quarters of a mile away and then you got to go farther to get to more neighbors. So it’s quiet up here. It’s about to rain, I think. It’s been holding off all day but . . . so I built a fire, pitched a tent, and there’s a stack of wood in kind of a U-shape behind the fire, which keeps the wind off. There’s a lot of wind up here. And it comes from Tennessee and comes up the Spring Creek Valley and it’s pretty energetic. So we have to build this pseudo-kiva structure to keep the wind off the fire. And I’ll tell you that has a really nice effect of pushing a lot of that heat back, I believe. Or maybe it captures it and radiates it, but, whatever, it’s nice and cozy warm here. It was in the high-70’s today and now it’s a little cooler.

So, it’s nice to get away. It’s nice to sit back and relax and enjoy life.

So, we are, as a company, Montie Design and manufacturers of Montie Gear products, are setting (or in the process of) setting up . . . I’m going to call it micro-manufacturing facility for now. Maybe one day we can actually graduate to the mini-manufacturing facility size. But we’re planning on renting a building up here and down in the valley in Spring Creek, and have a couple of local folks that work part time and do some assembly for us. And hopefully grow that into a way to bring jobs to this community. And then also serve our Montie Gear clients better, and our Montie Design clients. And I think I just hear my iPhone beep. Boy, that kills the woodsy mood. Sorry about that. But anyway so we’re putting in this facility and been making arrangements to do that. And what I wanted to do was chat a little bit about my vision for that facility.

My contention is that we can have a facility up here, in this remote location, and bring jobs to a group of people who are struggling to find employment. And that also gives us the labor rate that’s lower than what we can do in Raleigh. And hopefully we can put some of this mountain culture and mountain know-how to use in a way that, like I said, is good for the Montie Gear and Montie Design clients; customers.

So, what we’re setting up is a very flexible assembly area where we’ll do some of the assembly on our Montie Gear products. For example, the slingshot has a paracord handle, and that’s . . . that has to be woven into the aluminum frame. And it takes . . . its time consuming. So what I want to try with that is to . . . it’s just out to here, so it’s not something we’re doing in the office anymore in Raleigh; it’s something we’re doing up here. And I think that’ll work out as a win-win for everybody. You know, that brings some work here. It keeps our labor rate low, which is a win for our customers, too, because that helps our prices reasonable.

So, as a Montie Design client, you know, what’s the benefit for you if you’re a Montie Design client? And that is, now, we have a good way to do that initial prototyping for you, where there is a . . . you’ve not moved it to a full-blown contract manufacturer, but maybe you want to get the first hundred units out while you’re tooling up or what have you. And so I think this is a lot more cost effective way where we can take that product (a lot of times one we designed), shift it over to here to be assembled, tested, debugged. And so that way we’ve got this very flexible facility – very small but very flexible – taking your product and building your prototypes. And I’m thinking this is the . . . you know, we’ll build the first few prototypes in the office, develop some documentation, and then we move those prototypes to here and maybe that’s the first two hundred . . . thousand, what have you. But you get those fairly quickly; we can use to make those . . . maybe they’re cast parts; maybe they’re rapid prototype-type parts, but . . . what have you. So those first market samples go out.

So that’s kind of part of the reason . . . big chunk of the reason we’re doing that is to give us capabilities that we didn’t have before. And a way of keeping that economical.

It’s really beautiful up here; it’s gorgeous. And it’s remote. And, I think the nice thing is that for . . . if your production is up here, you can go meet the people that are building your product. You can see where it’s built; you can see, you know, is this a sustainable model, are we treating people well. And just ask them. And so I think that’s an awfully nice thing in today’s times where we’ve . . . you know, there’s so much, so many times, that it comes over from a boat, and, what was it like when it was made? You know what? What considerations are there for, you know what, how people are treated? Or, you know, how . . . are people paying attention to the quality of your product as they’re putting it together. And so what we’re trying to do here is give you a way to address those concerns. Do it locally and do it in a very cost effective manner.

So I hope as this project progresses you’ll keep track and I will . . . will definitely post information as it proceeds. And that can . . . inspire you to think about, you know, letting us do some of your production here in Spring Creek, North Carolina.

I hope you have a great evening. And I think it’s starting to rain so I believe I’m going to move underneath the picnic shelter to keep me dry.

Thanks. Have a great evening. Bye.

END AUDIO

Maker Faire is Coming, Maker Faire is Coming on Jun 7th


Are you a maker? Who are makers? Lets spend a few minutes and explore this amazing and sometimes wacky world. Keep in mind that the makers are influencing how you do business and that influence is rapidly growing. According to Wikipedia:

The maker culture is a contemporary culture or subculture representing a technology-based extension of DIY culture. Typical interests enjoyed by the maker culture include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of CNC tools, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and traditional arts and crafts. The subculture stresses new and unique applications of technologies, and encourages invention and prototyping. There is a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them creatively.

Makers are people how build stuff. Some of these makers are just hobbyists and crafters who use technology to create their products. Other makers are entrepreneurs who use what is now common technology to build innovative products in their garage. It would probably surprise you how many individuals now have CNC machines or hobbyist grade 3d printers in their garages. Over past ten years several technologies and enabling products have had a huge impact on democratizing design. These enabling products and services include:

Electronics Development Platform
Raspberry Pi – http://www.raspberrypi.org/
Adurino – http://www.arduino.cc/
 

3D Printing
MakerBot – http://makerbot.com/
RepRap – http://www.reprap.org/wiki/RepRap
 

Laser Cutters

Epilog –
http://www.epiloglaser.com

CNC (Computer Numeric Control) Machining
Shopbot – http://www.shopbottools.com

Online 3D Printing and Laser Cutting Services
Fineline in Raleigh, NC – https://www.finelineprototyping.com
Ponoko – https://www.ponoko.com

There are even networks of makers like 100K Garages (http://www.100kgarages.com/).

Many people don’t realize that this community even exists. It’s important to keep in mind that this community is and will impact your business and how you do business. A great way to connect with the community is at the Maker Faire at the NC State Fairgrounds on Saturday, Jun 7th, 2014. This is a fun event, and it is guaranteed to show you the coolest innovation and innovators around. Check out the Maker Faire at www.makerfairenc.com!

See you there!

About this blog’s author, Montie Roland and his business Montie Design Montie Design is an innovation and commercialization firm with core competencies in mechanical engineering and industrial design. Active in the product design, defense, and technology sectors, we leverage years of industry leadership and extensive technical capabilities to help clients take products from concept to marketplace that are economical to manufacture, elegant and robust. Montie Design is a North Carolina company headquartered in the Research Triangle region with clients across the country and overseas. We are dedicated to economic development throughout our home state and furthering excellence in design and engineering. For more information, visit www.montie.com or download the capabilities statement in PDF format here.

Podcast: The Corona Effect

Greetings,

The way customers find out about your product has changed.  Customer reviews no play a huge role in the success of your products.  Join me for a short discussion about this.

This podcast was recorded on a rainy evening while I was camping at a place called Troublesome Gap (elevation 3700 feet) in Western North Carolina.  You can even hear the rain during portions of the podcast.

Thanks for listening.

Cheers,
Montie

 

The Corona Effect

Montie’s Product Design Podcast: Designing for the Prepper Marketspace

[audio: http://www.montie.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/2012-Designing-for-the-Prepper-Marketspace.mp3|titles=2012 – Designing for the Prepper Marketspace]

In this podcast I share how to dig in and  understand a marketplace.  Understanding is key to designing products that fit with the needs and desires of a specific market.

This prepping series of podcasts came about through a lot of research.  Understanding your customer on this level helps you better design and engineer products for that customer and avoid mistakes that occurred because of a lack of understanding of the customer and market.  This prepper market is very interesting.  I hope this podcast is engaging on a personal level and gives you great examples of how to put a market into a context that helps you design better products for that market.

If you like how we think at Montie Design; please give me a call or email so we can help your company with your next product or prototype!

Have a great weekend,
Montie
montie@montie.com
800.722.7987
www.montie.com

Calling Entrepreneurs – Free Office Space during the Durham Stampede

Durham Stampede

Office Space

The Stampede space will host about twelve startups and is in the middle of everything. Parking is free, along with the area’s fastest wi-fi, office furniture, and meeting space. You’re job is to bring a laptop, cell phone, and a good idea. We’ll take care of the rest.

Free Advice

Durham has lots of successful entrepreneurs who are committed to supporting future all-stars. The Bull City also has plenty of service providers who have worked extensively with startups. You’ll have access to all of this during your 60 days.

The Culture

You’ll be joined by over a dozen other startups so the culture is yours to create. The one guarantee is that you’ll have great coffee shops, nice bars, and tasty restaurants close by to fuel you along the way.

Sign Up at: http://startupstampede.com/#sec1

Dennis Johnson of Stowaway Speaks Innovation

Dennis Johnson is the man bringing the Stowaway Attic lift to the market (and a Montie Design client).  Here is his company’s creation:

This morning he had a great addition to the standard definition of innovation.  He said:

Innovation is not giving people what they asked for.  It is delighting people with something they never dreamed of.  Dennis Johnson, Stowaway, 2011

Its a great way to think about measuring the effectiveness of your innovation by the results. Never discount the “wonder” factor in your work or design.

Have a great day!
Montie

Montie Design President Gives Talk on X-Rest Development and Marketing on 1 Feb

(Morrisville, N.C.) Montie Roland, president of collaborative product design and development firm Montie Design, will be leading the discussion, “X-Rest – The Process of Going from Concept to Consumer” February 1st as part of the RTP Product Development Guild Speaker Series. The event will be hosted at multimedia and mobile messaging firm Tekelec from 11:30 – 1:00 p.m.

The presentation will take attendees on a visual tour through the development process for the X-Rest, a unique portable shooting accessory conceived, designed, and distributed by Montie Design. Since Montie Design began selling the X-Rest in the Spring of 2009, it has seen distribution grow from local to regional to national.

“We felt very strongly that by utilizing our design facility as a learning laboratory to conceptualize, build, market and distribute our own product we could learn where we needed to tighten our process and strengthen our capabilities to better serve clients,” Roland said, adding, “The opportunity to understand first-hand how companies launch new products into the marketplace, and what challenges that brings and how they relate to the design process is invaluable.”

Attendees at the February 1st event will follow Montie Design on its quest to take the X-Rest from concept to market, getting a behind-the-scenes look at the integrated design, public relations and marketing process. Prototypes of the X-Rest critical to the development of a simple product will be on-hand, as will samples of the finished product, to give professionals in the design and product development industry a better understanding of the entire process of getting a product to market..

Designed to meet the needs of all shooters as well as most firearms, the easy-to-carry X-Rest weighs less approximately one pound and disassembles easily in three pieces, fitting neatly into a small carrying case. Unlike conventional bench rests, which are heavy and complex, the X-Rest  — made of sturdy yet lightweight aluminum — provides steady support for different sized long guns ranging from  semi-automatic and bolt action rifles to shotguns, carbines and pistols.

The X-Rest was the second “test” product designed and distributed by Montie Design in 2009, following the firm’s innovative radio frequency identification (RFID) detector card which was released in January and is now being sold throughout the U.S. and seven foreign countries.

Both the RFID detector and the X-Rest are produced in the Research Triangle Park region of North Carolina, using local manufacturers. The event sponsor, the RTP Product Development Guild, is a local group of engineers and designers working together to improve the regional economy.

To register online visit http://xrest.eventbrite.com/. Cost to attend is $15, which covers lunch. A video demonstration of the X-Rest is available online:

http://www.youtube.com/user/montieroland#p/u/3/XeRrmbh7-Vk

For more information visit http://www.rtpproductguild.com.

About Tekelec
Tekelec, a global leader in core multimedia session control, mobile messaging and network intelligence, ensures scalable, secure and highly available communications. The company’s market-leading signaling solutions enable the interworking of different network applications, technologies and protocols, providing a smooth transition to next-generation networks. Tekelec has more than 25 offices around the world serving customers in more than 100 countries, with corporate headquarters located near Research Triangle Park in Morrisville, N.C., U.S.A. For more information, please visit www.tekelec.com.

About Montie Design
Montie Design is a collaborative product design and development firm with core competencies in industrial design, mechanical design and fuzzy front end services. Implementing a client-centric approach in taking products from concept to marketplace, Montie Design balances vision with usability in realizing products that are economical to manufacture, elegant and robust. The firm operates out of the Research Triangle Park region of North Carolina with access to industry-leading technology, resources and innovative thought.  Visit Montie Design at www.montie.com.

About the RTP Product Development Guild
The RTP Product Development Guild seeks to improve the regional economy in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, N.C. by providing a framework for product developers and startups to work together on products in a collaborative environment. This helps entrepreneurs move products to market that might otherwise languish due to a lack of funding and professional guidance. The Guild accepts applications for products, services or concepts from entrepreneurs, early stage start-ups and corporate spin-offs. More information is available online at www.rtpproductguild.com.

NC Product Design & Prototyping Co-Op Forms

I thought this might interest you.  The RTP Product Development Guild is working with local design and prototyping companies to form the NC Product Design & Prototyping Co-Op.   Here are a couple of pictures from the event:

Here is the press release:

The RTP Guild Launches New Initiative with Local Companies

Lunch and learn outlines elements of forming product design and prototyping co-op

(Cary, N.C.) The recently launched RTP Product Development Guild – a local group of engineers and designers working together to improve the regional economy – held its first organizational meeting January 29 to discuss the creation of a product design and prototyping co-op.

Eighteen technology-oriented industry professionals gathered for the 90 minute lunch-and-learn presentation and discussion which led to setting co-op organizational goals, objectives, and timelines, in addition to the first membership commitments from local companies.

“Clients sometimes have a hard time identifying local product design resources. On top of that they don’t know exactly who to trust. We want to promote local design talent who have worked together to build economic momentum in conceptualizing RTP as a product design and development hub,” said Montie Roland, president of the RTP Product Development Guild.

In providing a framework for product developers and startups to work together on products in a collaborative environment, Roland said the Guild, through the product design and development co-op, is intended to focus local resources on creating products with regional, national, and international applications instead of having local companies look elsewhere for assistance.

Al Ely of ADR Hydro-Cut, Inc. is a member of the product development community attending the January 29 luncheon who decided to join the co-op. “It is my hope that we can convince customers that we have the talent and facilities here to handle the entire product design and development process from idea to prototype then we can keep as much business as we can here in the Triangle,” he said, adding, “If we can pull it together, we can all keep each other busy with a lot of quality work.”

According to Roland, part of the driving force behind forming the co-op as a group within the RTP Product Development Guild comes from peer professionals like Ely.

“This is shaping up to be a difficult year within the design industry. Working together allows us to reach a broader market space than we could individually,” Roland said, adding, “A parallel to what we’re trying to do is a volunteer fire department, which is contracted with the community to protect the public interest. We are in essence contracting with the RTP business community to improve the regional economy through launching product-driven companies and helping existing companies launch new products.”

The co-op – a part of the Guild – is currently accepting queries from prospective new members and is holding a series of get-to-know each other meetings at area businesses over the next six weeks. For more information contact Montie Roland at (919) 481-1845 or montie@montie.com.

About the RTP Product Development Guild
The RTP Product Development Guild seeks to improve the regional economy in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, N.C. by providing a framework for product developers and startups to work together on products in a collaborative environment. This helps entrepreneurs move products to market that might otherwise languish due to a lack of funding and professional guidance. The Guild accepts applications for products, services or concepts from entrepreneurs, early stage start-ups and corporate spin-offs. More information is available online at www.rtpproductguild.com.

Bill Seil’s Thoughts on the 2008 RTP Product Design Street Faire

This past September, the folks at Montie Design hosted their annual Product Design Street Fair. It had the flavor of a tradeshow as it brought professionals together in an interactive environment, but by it?s design it was a little different. It offered the same unique advantage any typical street fair or block party would have, giving companies in the area an opportunity to interact on the local level. Newcomers got the chance to meet companies that were right down the street. The folks who returned from previous street fairs, found a chance to stay current with the local product development community and get acquainted with new contacts.

Montie Design works with the attending companies in one way or another, the intent of the street fair is to bring them together in an interactive environment (Download Event Guide / Program or Watch Video). This benefits the design and development community by strengthening communication in a fun and easily accessible way.

Bill Seil
Industrial Designer
info@seil.us

Upcoming RTP Tech Event, 9 Oct

Bill Cox, of ViASIC, To Lead Regional Innovation Economic Forum At October 9, 2008, RTP Tech Event @ Goodnight?s

Bill Cox, CTO of ViASIC, a developer of advanced programmable logic architectures and holder of 18 patents in the field of integrated circuit design to lead discussion about technology innovation and issues confronting the RTP high tech manufacturing community


Raleigh, NC. Bill Cox, an information technologies serial entrepreneur and CTO of ViASIC, located in Durham, N. C., will lead part of the discussion at the October 9, 2008 RTP Tech Event @ Goodnight?s.

Cox is the holder of 18 patents in the field of programming integrated circuits and has extensive professional experience in successful new ventures, such as Quick Logic and Synplicity.


?I came to North Carolina from California,? said Cox. ?I want to contribute to making the regional innovation economy in the RTP stronger, and I think I have some ideas that may stimulate a brain storming session at the RTP Tech Event.?

Cox holds a degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley. His professional experience includes the creation of over a million lines of code ready to be leveraged into the development of world class tools.


The RTP Tech Event is an innovation collaboration network of companies from the manufacturing community in the RTP regional economy. ?Our economic forum features two types of collaboration,? said Tom Vass, the organizer of the event, and CEO of The Private Capital Market, Inc., located in Raleigh.


Each month, local executives from two different industrial sectors present their thoughts on technology, innovation and new product development from their own industry, in an effort to stimulate ideas for technology crossover between local manufacturing sectors. At the October 9 meeting, SIC 73, which is information technologies, will be presenting with Holly Borowy, Senior VP of BMI South, a local metal manufacturing company. (SIC 34).

After the two presentation, the floor is open for discussion about ways to improve the local economy and brainstorming ideas on product innovation.


At the end of each session, the floor is open for a budding entrepreneur or inventor to stand up and give a five minute elevator pitch on their venture. ?We call this opportunity ?Your Five Minutes of Fame at Goodnight?s,? said Vass.

Registration for the monthly event is available at MeetUp.com. Annual membership in the RTP Tech Event is $50, and there is a $10 door fee that includes the purchase of the first drink and a discount on the comedy show that night at Goodnight?s.

About ViASIC. Founded in 2000, ViASIC is a privately held Electronic Design Automation (EDA) company and the leading provider of standard-metal tools and technologies. Our patented ViaMask family of standard-metal (one-mask) fabric is a complete library for building platform ASICs or embedding single via layer configurable sections into an SoC. ViASIC also offers ViaPath, a robust physical design solution for via-configurable fabrics. Contact Bill Cox at info@ViASIC.com telephone 919-405-1345. www.viasic.com

About the RTP Tech Event @ Goodnights. Our events mission is to create more business for local firms and to increase the rate of new product development in the RTP regional economy. We call this “new business idea brainstorming.”Each month, executives from local manufacturing firms, product development engineers and people with new business ideas for new products get together to brainstorm ideas for what types of new products may be successful in the RTP market. http://newtech.meetup.com/115/ Contact Tom Vass 919 9754856.

Preview of the 2008 RTP Product Design Street Faire

2008 RTP Product Design Street Faire

RTP Product Development Guild?s Second Annual Product Design Street Faire set for Sept. 13

MORRISVILLE, NC ? The RTP Product Development Guild?s second annual RTP Product Design Street Faire will be held Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008 from 3 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. The faire will be held outside of the Guild?s office, which is located off of Aviation Parkway at 400 Dominion Drive in Morrisville, N.C.

?Our street faire is intended to build a stronger product design community by providing a relaxed, family-friendly environment in which vendors, clients and potential clients can get to know each other,? says Montie Roland, president of the RTP Product Development Guild. ?In addition, the event allows attendees to celebrate the product design and manufacturing profession in the Research Triangle region.?

?Last year?s event saw 140 attendees and 16 exhibitors come out,? Roland added. ?We hope to build on last year?s success by increasing both vendor participation and the number of attendees at this year?s event.? We currently have 26 vendors showing off a wide variety of products and services.

There is no cost to attend the event, but pre-registration is required. You can pre-register for the event at: http://productdesignguild.eventbrite.com.

In addition to the RTP Product Development Guild, the 2008 RTP Product Design Street Faire is being sponsored by Montie Design, 101Machine, Trimech, Torque Transmission and Incodema .

The RTP Product Development Guild is a private, for-profit corporation located in Morrisville, N.C. The Guild?s mission is to improve the regional economy by providing a structured environment for product developers and vendors to work together on products in a collaborative environment. This type of open collaboration helps entrepreneurs, early-stage start-ups and corporate spin offs get products to market that might otherwise languish due to a lack of funding or professional guidance. Guild membership and project submission information is available at: www.rtpproductguild.com.

BarCampRDU 2008

BarCampRDU 2008 was a lot of fun. According to the official website (http://www.barcamp.org/BarCampRDU):

A Bar Camp is an unconference where people interested in a wide range of technologies come together to teach and learn. Unfamiliar with the un-conference format? Heres the idea in a nutshell. Rather than having scheduled speakers, everyone pitches sessions the morning of the BarCamp. Those sessions are put on a schedule, and lots of little groups form for intense group learning. Everyone is expected to teach, to talk, to participate. Yeah, its different from a regular conference – but it works!

The idea of an unconference came together when people realized the best times they were having at conferences were the times between sessions – where people with like interests could meet ad hoc. The goal of BarCamp is to facilitate this type of interaction for an entire day. We supply the food, the space, the wireless, the projectors – you show up to teach and learn.

Much of the discussion at the event involved startups and early-stage projects.

Picture From BarCampRDU 2008

It is important to note that many (if not most) of the attendees at BarCamp are involved in the software, either online or shrink-wrapped. Our firm normally deals with physical projects that involve long lead times and very high prototyping costs. At BarCampRDU many of the projects, or concepts being discussed, revolved around software products that could be prototyped in a weekend. This is a stark contrast to the extremely high prototyping costs that we see associated with many mass-produced physical products.

BarCampRDU 2008 Image

There was definitely an excitement to the conference that showed through in the interactions between the attendees. This is the type of event that provides encouragement, advice and resources for budding entrepreneurs. It is my opinion that we need more of this type of event to help fuel imaginations and sheer force-of-will behind the next wave of product-driven companies.

Montie Roland is President of the Carolinas Chapter of the Product Development Management Association. Roland is also President of Montie Design, a product development and prototyping firm in Morrisville, NC and the RTP Product Development Guild. You can reach Montie by email at: montie@montie.com

Mums the Word: Non-Disclosure Agreements Are Crucial to Protecting Ideas

If you are an entrepreneur and you have the eureka moment when you experience the flash of brilliance that leads to your new product idea, what do you do?

Well, most people want to ask someone elses opinion about how whether, or not, the product will succeed in the marketplace. Asking advice from someone you trust is normally a good idea. When it comes to protecting your ability to patent your new product, it is still a good idea to get advice, but you need to use a simple tool called a non-disclosure agreement before you start the conversation.

Patents are only issued for novel ideas that have been reduced to practice and have not been disclosed to the public. Public disclosure can prevent a patent from being issued. One example of public disclosure is where a product is shown at a trade show. Showing a product at a trade show is considered to be an ?offer for sale? and thus public disclosure. A presentation of the product concepts, or underlying technologies, at a seminar could be considered public disclosure. A conversation about the product could also be considered public disclosure, depending on the situation.

Conversations with employees are not generally considered public disclosure.

One way to avoid this pitfall is to require a non-disclosure agreement before discussing your product. Non-disclosure agreements are commonly called NDAs. Non-disclosure agreements normally are one to five pages long. Their primary purpose is to agree, in writing, that the first party is going to disclose confidential information to another party, in exchange the other party agrees to not disclose the first partys confidential information. This agreement (when properly worded and executed) helps prevent the loss of patentability through public disclosure.

A sample NDA can be downloaded at www.montie.com/forms/nda.rtf

Montie Roland is President-Emeritus of the Carolinas Chapter of the Product Development Management Association. Roland is also President of Montie Design, a product development and prototyping firm in Morrisville, NC and the RTP Product Development Guild. You can reach Montie by email at: montie@montie.com


Design Speak 101: Defining a Product Champion

The product development world, just like other industries, has its own language. One example of this ?product speak? is the term product champion. Many products (and most of the very successful products) are driven by the vision of one person, or a small group of people. We call these people ?product champions?.
Product champions drive new products to market through experience, use of available resources, drive, determination and vision. They have a vision for a product. They work with others around them to push that product out to the market. This new product can be an extension of existing products in a existing company. The vision may be bolder and push an existing company in a direction.

A good example of a new direction for an existing company is the Apple iPod. Apple is a computer company that struck out into the personal entertainment industry. The biggest leap is when a product champion has to build a new company around a new-to-world product. When that vision incorporates technology and design practices from two or more industries (what we call cross-pollination) the opportunity exists for a truly disruptive product. Disruptive products change the marketplace and can propel a manufacturer to a position of market leader.

Product developers categorize new products into four areas. The first category of product development deals with incremental advances. An example, is a company that makes 42-inch plasma televisions decides to create a 44-inch model. Generally, these products make incremental, or evolutionary, leaps forward in technology or design.

The next area is a class of products that are based on existing products, but make revolutionary leaps in the state of the technology or the design approach. These products can dramatically affect an entire industry and drive market share to new heights, or help a company establish a presence in a market space that they werent previously able to penetrate.

Me-too products are designed compete with existing products. These products may be new to company that manufactures them, but they are not new to the market. Me too products generally are designed as direct competitors. They are generally not very innovative in their design.

New-to-world products are exactly what the name implies. These products are often technologically innovative and higher risk. They do not exist in the current marketplace, or they use a technology or a design approach that is not currently available.

The Apple iPod was not a new-to-world product. An existing market space for MP3 players existed for several years before the iPod arrived on the scene. The designers of the iPod combined improvements in four key industries to make the iPod a massive success. Apple improved the state of the basic product by designing the click wheel interface. This interface was a significant improvement over the traditional interface provided by existing manufacturers such as Rio. These advancements were revolutionary in that industry.

Apple went farther by bundling the product with iTunes. iTunes was software product that leveraged Apples core competency with computers to deliver content over the internet. iTunes also made it simple and easy to update the iPods firmware. Previous MP3 players required more-than-average expertise to simply update the firmware. Apple changed the user expectations about how easy it should be to purchase and download music to the player. They also changed the industry by creating users that expected painless firmware updates through iTunes. While the iPod was not a new-to-world product, iTunes was a new-to-world product.

The product champions at Apple had the vision to create a well-integrated product that combined advancements from multiple industries including electronics, audio compression, internet technology, service, and software. The amazing part is that existing manufacturers in the MP3 player market space were concentrating on the player itself and the software to drive the player. At the time the internet was mainly be used a vehicle to move data, but not as an integrated part of the user experience. The product champions at Apple saw an opportunity to cross-pollinate between multiple industries and create a market dominating product.

The RTP Product Development Guild has core philosophy that the most disruptive products come from the cross-pollination of technology and design knowledge from two or more different industries.

Product champions do not necessarily have to have experience from within multiple industries. The key is to have a vision that integrates technologies and practices from multiple industries into a single product. Then you have an opportunity to create the next highly disruptive and highly successful product.