Podcast: Giving The Go Ahead To A New Product

Giving The Go Ahead To A New Product

———– Transcript —————————

Audio File: 2014 Feb 12 – Giving The Go Ahead To A New Product.mp3
Audio Length: 10:10 minutes
Hello, my name is Montie Roland with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina. We’re a product development firm with core competencies in mechanical engineering and industrial design.

One of the interesting things that happens working with clients from bigger companies or medium-sized companies – or even smaller ones that are, you know, are growing – is that we’ll design a . . . whatever. And so we’ve designed this project, we’ve gotten to know our contact at that client, and one day after a design review that client looks across the table and says, “You know . . . I’ve got some stuff I’ve been working on in my basement”. It’s interesting that it’s very likely for a client that’s in charge of – or enabling; in charge of, also – product development for his company often will have something that they do on the side. And it’s interesting; so they may enjoy their job and they work very hard at it; at the same time, when they talk about the thing they’re making in their garage, there’s usually this big smile. And so, then what happens is they look at us and say, “That’s why I respect what you did so much with Montie Gear; because I know how tough it is”. And Montie Gear’s our product line that we created four years ago of our own products. We manufacture them; we sell them; we distribute them; we maintain the website . . . well, Daniel helps us. But, so it’s our own products, though. And it’s become kind of this company fascination. But, we’ll have clients that have this emotional connection to our Montie Gear products. Maybe it has nothing to do with the products; it’s just the fact that they really like coming up with new stuff. And so they see us doing it and having a good time and it’s a common situation that we’re both having a good time doing new products.

And so, there’s a couple of thoughts I want to throw at you. And we’ll talk about it from the perspective of an entrepreneur, but this also can apply from the perspective of a big company. Because, if you look at a big company as an organism, some of the same thought processes, many of the same thought processes, apply. They’re modified in some ways but, at the basic level they’re pretty similar.

So, one of the first thought processes is to go after the whole enchilada. It’s go big or go home. Well, the good side about that is that if you go big and you win big, then you profit big. And so, that’s a good thing. So if you go for a product where you’ve stretched what you can do or what your company can do, and it’s a product that can change the market or can take over a market or can grab market share, then Woo Hoo! That can be a big winner because the upside to that is that you can have some big profits. The downside is that you’ve invested a lot in it and you’ve also not invested in other products. Now, form an entrepreneur standpoint, we’ve had one single owner, single employee companies where the owner of the company said, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to go big. I’m going to injection mold this. I’m going to sell these all over the country” and, you know, “Either help me or get out of my way”. And so, the one I’m thinking about at this moment had the funds to back it up. He had the money in the bank to do what he needed to do, and so, he wrote checks. We helped him out. He did other stuff and now he’s got a product that’s starting to take off like crazy. So the upside is going to be huge for him, I think. Good product. Great salesman. Good attitude. Thinking about the business. And thinking about, you know, how he’s going to make all this happen on a big scale and, hey, let’s . . . we helped him push.

And so, we have other clients – and like I said, this can apply to an entrepreneur or to a company – where they’re not in a position yet, for whatever reason, to go for the big score. And so for them the medium-sized score or the smaller score is a much better option. Maybe because of cash flow; maybe because of other resources. Maybe because of time resources. Maybe they’re very business doing something else. So if they go after this major product, then it may take years to get there because they got so much on their plate. Well, the other possibility is to go after a bunch of smaller products, or smaller, I should say, lower effort products. And, then that gets them into that new market. That gets them experience in that market. And one nice thing about that is if you’re tightly resource-constrained, then that experience can help you make wise use of that money by having a less feature-rich product; a simpler product. Maybe instead of having this medium-scope project, you say, “I’m going to do something that we can do in the next eight weeks.” Get that out there; start selling it; see what happens; get some experience. And that’s a call you’ve got to make. You know, we have clients that are going to go for the big score; and that’s what they need to be doing. They’ve got their resources; they’ve got the people; they’ve got the time; they’ve got the talent; and they’ve got the motivation. And we just help them do that. And we have other clients that are much, much better off coming at it from much more of a cottage industry approach. And so, in this case, they’re going to put less capital out and they’re going to sell less. And you know the upside – and maybe two orders of magnitude smaller – but at the same time, they’re not risking other things to do it.

And so that’s kind of where you have to decide is that, you know, what are you going to do? You just got to man up and go. And, I think the trick there is there’s some things to consider. And this is kind of the podcast from a little while back. Where, you know, do you have the funds to do it? Do you have the time? Do you have the energy? Do you have the motivation? Do you have the people? And do you have the people that are in the right spot? And so, there again, this is why all products live or die by the management team. Because that’s where you can make good decisions or bad decisions that, you know . . . if you’re not careful, you’ll make a decision that means you have a product that requires so much effort, it takes you so long to get there, that then there’s a risk you’ll never get there. I would say that with product development, generally, the longer it spreads out, the less likely it is you’ll ever get there. Now, there are exceptions to that, but for the most part that’s true.

So, I hope that you can take something away from this. And, look at it from the standpoint of right-sizing that product for your capabilities, your resources. And there’s nothing to say that if you do a simple product, you can’t come back with a complex product. So, just kind of decide. Think it through.

We’re happy to help you all the way through. Big. Small. Little. Massive. Disruptive. Incremental. We’re the engine that helps you push. And we get in, we help you push and we help you take it from that concept to the shipping dock. And we fill in the holes that you need along the way to get you there. Sometimes they’re small gaps; sometimes they’re big gaps. But, our job is to get in there and push.

I hope this helps out. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give me a call, shoot me an email, visit our website. It’s 1-800-722-7987 – or – 919-481-1845. montie (M-O-N-T-I-E)@montie(M-O-N-T-I-E) .com is my email. Or just visit our website – www. montie.com. Thanks. Hope you have a great day. Bye-bye.

END AUDIO

Podcast: Design Process Steps Funnel

Design Process Steps Funnel

[Transcript] Audio File: 2014 Feb 25 – Design Process Steps Funnel.mp3
Audio Length: 12:01 minutes

Good Morning. My name is Montie Roland with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina. I’m also with Montie Gear in Morrisville, North Carolina, as well.

Montie Design is a full-service product development firm. We provide everything from taking your concept all the way to a fully designed, fully engineered, ready-to-manufacture product, and helping you get that on the shipping dock. We can provide a value from the engineering side, from the industrial design side, to the project management aspect, and also from product validation, all the way to introducing you to contract manufacturers, and as-needed service liaison between your organization and the contract manufacture to make sure that it’s a win-win for everybody.

The design process has several steps. Those steps are intended to create a funnel. That funnel helps you to minimize the cost of the design process by starting out with a lot of ideas and a lot of concepts and boiling them down to the concept that is going to be the winner in the marketplace.

So, the next question becomes, well, how do you do that? So, if you use the funnel metaphor, with the funnel you’ve got a wide top. Let’s say you’re putting oil in your car. So you’ve got oil coming out of a jug, which is similar to the thought of ideas coming out of your staff, your constituents, your customers, and your stakeholders. And so, you pour that oil into that funnel, and the idea behind the funnel is you’ve got a big target. So all the oil you pour in starts running down the funnel. Well, the same thing; what we want to do is capture those great ideas, capture those concepts – written, verbal, unstated – capture those rules, because you know the design of your product has a lot of rules. And that’s because you’re in a market space where you have experience. So, as you put that experience to use, those rules have value because you don’t want to repeat any missteps in the past and you want to build on successes in the past.

So, what we do is the first step is to do research. There again, the research is akin to putting a second jug of oil in there. So we want to do research, understand what the market’s about. And then also make sure that we’re completely oriented to your market, and hopefully do a lot of the nuances of your market – some of that we have to rely on you; others, we can look at trends and research. So, that design research is the first step. And then the second step is to start pulling out concepts, thoughts, what we call “space shuttle ideas”, and do some ideation. And the initial ideation gets kind of everybody thinking, but I don’t want to pin any super solid concepts down yet; just get everybody thinking. And then what we want to do is do some brainstorming. So, now we’ve done some research, made a few sketches, enough to throw some stuff up on the wall and chew on it. And then we use brainstorming. And brainstorming is where there’s no such thing as a bad idea. Most people use a brainstorming session as a planning session; and it’s not. It’s a good way to ruin your brainstorming. Because some of the crazy ideas don’t work exactly as stated, but may lead to some really solid innovations. So, we brainstorm. Take that brainstorming results and then start doing ideation. Now, one of the steps that I just blew right by here as I was talking is we also want to create a style board. And we do want to do that in the beginning. That’s so that we can understand what you’re thinking. And a style board is to get your thoughts. With a style board, you bring us images, pictures, magazine clippings, polaroids; what have you. And show us things that you like. And, also, concepts that may be difficult for everybody to convey that doesn’t do this for a living, or just may be difficult to convey or it’s just a lot quicker with a photograph. For example, you may see a device on a piece of machinery. Take a picture, bring it to us, and say, I like how this device works; this could work great in our application. Or, I like the color; I like the shape; it could be the rear end of the Audi TT. Wow, these proportions are nice. So, we take that style board and we use that in our ideation. And we’ll also probably create one of our own. So, the brainstorming and the style board are very valuable tools.

Now, for some products, we need to do a personalities and personas session, where, kind of like a style board, we want to dig out a vision. So, with personalities and personas, we’ll design a product for an individual customer, and then we’ll go on to do this for a suite of customers that are very different – demographically, what they’re looking for, what they earn, who they are. You know, in some cases with some products we’ll throw in race and religion because there may be a cultural influence that we want to capture in our product development. And, yes, it’s important that you don’t design products for vanilla people, because vanilla people just don’t exist. So, what we have to do is look at the culture where our product’s going to be sold. If it’s a worldwide product, then we have to look at multiple cultures. What we don’t want to do is to create a product that won’t sell well in a given country because we’ve violated some cultural norm, and that’s really important.

So, then, we’re making sketches. We take those sketches and we review them. And it’s important to spend a lot of time looking and thinking about those initial sketches, because this is the inexpensive part of the project, relatively. Sketches are quick. So then we take those; we narrow a whole wall full of sketches down to a few concepts; work on those concepts. And the whole time we’ve been creating this design buffet. So what we want to do is create all of these concepts and all of these pieces, and then we can pick and choose from those pieces and some of those may integrate well together in the final product. So, there again, we’re starting out with a lot of ideas and then we’re narrowing it down as we go. So now we’ve got sketches of a bunch of ideas; we’ve narrowed that down to, say, one, two or three; and then we take those and refine those. And then we do a review again. Then narrow that down. So, the whole time, everybody’s getting a chance to provide input. If possible, we want to create a massing model. A massing model is a simple prototype that just reflects size and shape – simple, inexpensive, quick, you know, blue foam type prototype. Not something you show to the CEO unless he’s really hands-on. But something you can pass around between the product manager and the engineers and just in a, kind of, a closed circle of review.

And then we take that and narrow it down to one concept. Take that one concept and refine that concept. Get it signed-off. So, everybody needs to sign off, all the stakeholders, that this is the concept we want to move forward with. We take that concept and we go to the engineering stage. In the engineering stage we work out the nuts, the bolts, where everything goes. It’s important during the engineering stage to maintain the vision so that the engineers don’t lose track of what’s the aesthetic vision, what are the values, the, you know, it’s not just a collection of specs and bolts and nuts; it’s a product for a living, breathing people.

Somewhere in that stage we want to build a prototype. We want to build prototypes as soon as possible and as often as possible. So, once we have an industrial design concept and we’re starting to commit this to a solid model, a lot of times its good to build a cruder prototype, but one that’s actual size that may have some of the functionality as we’re going through the engineering process. At the end of the engineering process we want to build a functional prototype; maybe even an alpha unit. We’ve made drawings; we’ve gone out for quotes, created a bill of materials. As early in the process we want to start our bill of materials so that we’re starting to get an idea of what this is going to cost in production. From there, we transition to manufacturing. Make those introductions – Who’s going to make your product? Are you going to assemble it yourself? Is it going to come in a box, ready to go, from a contract manufacturer? We got to think about packaging. We may need to design you some packaging. Got to think about – Is it shipped over the Internet? Or is this a point-of-sale type product, where we need to have point-of-sale packaging?

And so we work through these issues and these challenges and opportunities, and create for you this product. And those are, in a nutshell, the basic steps. If you’re a Fortune 100 company, or an entrepreneur that’s selling your second product, you’re going to follow the same steps – maybe not as formally, but in general – you’re going to follow those same steps. As you can imagine, a change on a sketch early on is inexpensive; a change after you’ve fully engineered the product gets more expensive; and a change after you’ve started producing it is painful. So, what we want to do is pull out that vision; we want to get the stakeholders to weigh in, make sure that important parts of the product and those aspects are fully realized; and we don’t trip over something. Like, for example, an unknown requirement. So, by going through these steps, we minimize the risk of that unknown requirement popping up. And that’s one of the reasons you want to prototype early because usually when you lay something on the table, some of those unstated, understated or just not known products requirements start coming out.

So I hope this has been helpful. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give me a call – 1-800-722-7987. It’s Montie Roland. Or, montie (M-O-N-T-I-E)@montie(M-O-N-T-I-E).com. Or www.montie (M-O-N-T-I-E) .com is our website.

I hope you have a great day. I hope this is beneficial. Montie Roland, signing off.

END AUDIO

Podcast: About Montie Design

About Montie Design

Montie Design was founded in 2006 by Montie Roland (pdf resume, word, html), a practicing engineer looking for an outlet for his desire to design and engineer great products. Montie Design moved to Morrisville, NC in 2007 to add additional space and locate closer to customers in the Research Triangle area.

As Montie Design has grown, we have been fortunate to work on a variety of awesome projects in diverse markets from electronics to sporting goods. One quarter we’re designing rackmount equipment to go in data center. Another project, we find ourselves designing an environmental test chamber for Aberdeen Proving Grounds to test equipment before it goes out to the warfighter. We’ve created consumer products like the Invisi-ball and the Fog Thief. This type of variety is great because no two projects are ever the same.

Look to us for help with:

  • Mechanical Engineering / Product Engineering / Product Development
  • Industrial Design
  • Prototypes
  • Electrical Engineering / Firmware / PCB Layout
  • Consultation on Product Viability
  • Project Management
  • Product / Brand Management

Our President has this crazy passion for designing equipment to make life in the outdoors more fun and more comfortable. This passion was put in motion in 2009 when we started the Montie Gear product line. This was originally started as our own skunkworks for fun. In 3-1/2 years it went from a few concepts to a six figure a year operation. Today Montie Gear is a separate company and has over 30 unique products. While we are very passionate about designing products for camping, shooting and the great outdoors, we stand ready to put that same enthusiasm and knowledge to work designing and engineering great products for you. If you are looking for a shooting rest or slingshot, please www.montiegear.com.

There are several areas where we really stand out with the services that we provide.

Designing and Engineer Low-to-Medium Volume Products

Montie Design excels in the difficult area of designing low and medium volume products. We are experts at balancing capital / tooling expenses with product costs. With decades of experience in product engineering, we are ready to deploy our process and move your product from concept to market.

Electronics Enclosures and CFD / Thermal Analysis

The design phase is critical to keep electronics cool, avoid EMI / EMC issues, and predict thermal issues. We perform thermal analysis in-house using state of the art CFD (computation fluid dynamics) tools for accurate and reliable results.

Outdoor Equipment

We enjoy building rugged equipment for outdoor sporting and downrange applications with experience in shooting sports such as firearm accessories and slingshots. Camping, hiking, shooting and backpacking are passions of ours. We pour that passion into your product! This includes designing accessories for firearms, military, tactical and slingshots.

Gathering Social Reviews for Clients

We connect your new product to active bloggers, writers, and lead users to allow those experts to lend their credibility to your product. This is vital, because most customers now check internet reviews before purchasing. We can assist you in creating this base of reviews that are so critical for customers.

Strong Vendor Network

Take the risk out of receiving your prototype on time! Our great vendors, that we have successfully worked with for years, allow us to extend great service. Our responsive vendors provide a range of services that include waterjet cutting, rapid machining, rapid sheetmetal, paint, powder coat, rapid prototyping, rapid tooling and CNC machining. If we can’t do in-house, we generally have a local vendor that can respond quickly and help us make your prototype, or limited production run, a reality.

Sustainability Analysis Tools

Our easy-to-understand report shows your customers exactly where you stand when it comes to sustainability. There are no difficult to understand metrics. Our common sense approach will update your customers on the success of your product sustainability.
Read more at http://www.montie.com/#U6K8ukfuzCG59KDV.99

[Transcript] Audio File: 2014 Feb 17 – About Montie Design.mp3
Audio Length: 11:08 minutes

Hello, my name is Montie Roland. I’m the president of Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina. I wanted to take a few minutes to introduce you to Montie Design.

Montie Design is what we call a full-service design firm. We provide mechanical engineering, industrial design, and we also build prototypes. There are also requirements that we need to fulfill for electrical engineering and software development and firmware development. And so we can help with that as well.

Our core competency is those first three – mechanical engineering, industrial design and prototyping. What we do is fill in gaps. We take your project and we go from an estimate to a completed job. Usually a kind of a workflow, when it comes to a project, goes through several stages. The first stage is the information gathering and understanding. Well, what we want to do is understand what you need us to accomplish so that we can put together a proposal. And that proposal is usually an estimate with stages to it. Sometimes we work against an estimate on a time-of-materials basis, and other times we work as a firm fixed price.

Projects go from, you know, creating that estimate to . . . the next stage is usually the industrial design stage. The industrial design stage is where we sit down, work with you to understand your vision. And then take that vision and commit it to concepts on paper. Sometimes those are hand drawn sketches; sometimes those are computer generated assets. But what we want to do is take your vision and pluck that vision out and then get it down on paper so we understand it. Then we also want to take our understanding of other industries and see where we can bring other techniques, other technologies and other approaches to bear. So what we’re trying to do there is to make sure that your product has the benefit of the knowledge that we’ve gained over the years doing projects for other people.

And that way you’ve got a broad perspective on your next product. We want to look and see what, you know, what are people doing in your industry and what are people doing across other industries. Bring that into the product development process so that your product is robust, fits the market, and also, you know, we’ve looked to see where we can bring value to your product and to your customer by bringing in other technologies and other approaches and other thoughts.

So, we take that; generate sketches and additional assets, depending on the project. And then we may build what’s called a “massing model”. And a massing model’s a prototype where it’s really only meant to show size and shape and just general, is it the right size. So, you can hold it. It’s usually not functional, but it gives you a feeling; you can actually put it in your hands, turn it, show it to people. A lot of times what that also does between that and the sketches and the renderings, compare that to your spec or, if need be, we can develop that spec for you. And once you put something down on the table, that’s also when the unwritten requirements come out. Because that’s when someone says, “Hey, Montie. We need to do this” or “No, this can’t be more than two inches tall” or twelve inches or one-six pounds or it needs to do that. And those undocumented requirements are understated requirements then have this opportunity to flow out; we can capture those early on because finding out that the product didn’t perform as advertised at the end of the project is not good. So, we want to capture that in the beginning so we build in success from the front.

 

We go from there to an engineering phase. As soon as we can we want to build a prototype. In the engineering phase we take our mechanical engineers, start making solid works, solid models. Testing those models with computer-aided tools like finite element analysis or computational fluid dynamics (or CFD) for airflow and thermal analysis. We use that to, I guess, prototype digitally and then pretty quickly we want to build a mock-up. And depending on the project and the scope, some mock-ups may be to test a particular thing; for example, airflow. We might build a mock-up that’s aimed completely at testing airflow to verify and validate our CFD results.

So, then we go through there and build models in the computer (SolidWorks). And then build a prototype. And as we go forward our prototypes, you know, the cost of these prototypes increases. Obviously, if you’ve got a block of foam that someone worked on for an hour its much less expensive than if you have, you know, a fully functional, fully developed engineering-grade prototype that tests out functionality, aesthetics, manufacturing concepts. So we want to match the prototype to your needs, or the needs at that point. There again, so we want to make sure that we’re containing costs where we need to. And make sure that we’re providing you with high value for the money you’re spending.

So, build a prototype. Test that prototype. Make any adjustments to the design based on that testing. And then go out for quotes. So we go out for quotes and come back with a costed bill of material. So you now know what it’s going to cost to build your product and production.

So, we’ve added some tremendous value in several areas here. One is that we’re helping you to leverage our relationship with vendors and component manufactures, contract manufacturers. So we’re taking our relationships, introducing you to the people you need to be introduced to. And then also working with them to generate this costed bill of materials that tells you what it’s really going to cost to manufacture your product at the quantities you want to sell it at. And that’s something we’re good at. That’s something we bring a tremendous amount of value to the table with. Because of those relationships, because of our understanding of how to make this happen, and also, too, to help save you money because you’ve got folks that are on your side (us) and helping you work through questions with vendors and contractors. And so we’re putting our experience to use. And also, you may have all this experience in-house. At the same time, it may be what we’re simply doing is providing a relief for your staff, so they can be doing other potentially higher-value activities, or things that they’re better at, and then we can work on the things we’re good at and get those through your pipeline quicker, and to where they’re on the shipping dock and you’re selling them and you’re adding to your bottom line.

So, at the end of the day, our job is to help you drive towards improving your bottom line. We want to have products that are robust and that are profitable and that are manufacturable. That’s Montie Design. We take you through that process. Our job is to serve you and help you turn that next product concept into that next product winner.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give me a call – it’s Montie Roland, 1-800-722-7987. Visit us on the web – www. montie.com. Or shoot me an email – montie (M-O-N-T-I-E)@montie(M-O-N-T-I-E) .com. And my staff, as I say, we’re here to serve you; do a good job for you, and add a tremendous amount of value to your product development and engineering process. Please give me a call and let’s talk about that project that’s on your desk, or the one that’s going to be on your desk soon, and let’s make your life a little easier and your company more profitable. Montie Roland, signing off.

END AUDIO

Podcast: Developing A Product

Developing a successful new product requires funding and resources.  Lets spend a few minutes talking about how all those fit together with the product development process.

Developing A Product
Transcript

Audio File: 2014 Feb 12 – Developing A Product.mp3
Audio Length: 8:07 minutes

Hello. My name is Montie Roland. I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina.

Whenever you undertake the development of a new product, there’s a series of decisions that go into that product at a very early stage. One of the things that’s very, very important to do is to validate that you should build the product. Because if you build a product that won’t sell, then you’ve tied up resources in something that will never generate a return on investment. So one of the things that I think is very, very important is to develop a skill set of saying, Okay, here’s why I think this product will sell; being able to work through a process of helping you get to that validation. And then being able to take the results of that validation and make a go or no-go decision. This really applies to all practitioners, be it corporate in a monster company, a medium-sized company, or an entrepreneur or inventor.

So, let’s start out with a case of being an inventor. Or, actually, I take that back. Let’s look at it from a hundred thousand foot view. So, some of the things that have to happen before you can sell your product – one is that you’ve got to have the money to develop it; you’ve got to have the money to manufacture the first run; and then you’ve got to have the money to market it. Many times – individuals especially; entrepreneurs or what have you – will say I’ll find the money; let me develop the product first. Well, in a way they’re getting the cart before the horse for a couple of reasons. One is that you want to make sure that your development of products that someone will help you fund (if you’re looking for that kind of thing; you’re looking for external funding), and then the other is that you want to make sure that you’ve thought through these first stages. So, things that need to be considered, or issues that need to be considered: One is what’s the development cost? And can you afford the development cost? Two, what does it cost to manufacture the products? Can you afford that first run of products? Three, what does it cost to market the product? And do you have everything in place that you need to do this? Now, in a big corporation this is broken down into segments, generally. So, there’s a group within the corporation that handles marketing. There’s a group that handles sales. A lot of product specifications are determined by the sales group, because they see a hole in the market, or they have requests from clients that want Product A. So, in a larger corporation you’ll have a multi-service team that will look at this from two directions – look at it from an accounting standpoint or a financial standpoint, a business standpoint, an engineering standpoint. And so go through those motions before the product is actually kicked off, just to make sure it’s the right product and they’ve got a way to pay for it.

Other organizations that are smaller may skip parts of this process. Entrepreneurs are notorious for doing this, because the fun part is designing the product; the fun part is usually not figuring out how to pay for it. So a lot of times entrepreneurs will put a lot of work into a product because they think it will succeed based on not a lot of research, and then they’ll get to the end of the product development cycle and either have developed the wrong product (which won’t sell), or they’ve just developed a product that won’t sell; or, because they’re out of resources, now all of a sudden, they can’t go any farther. We see a lot of the latter. That’s pretty common. So there’s a lot of great products that sit on the shelf and die.

So before you undertake that project, I would say consider – Do you have the money for each step of the way? And really you need to have the money for enough to keep you going through the ramp up of the adoption curve. And the adoption curve is how quickly people pick up a product or buy a product after its released; how long does it take the market to respond to that product. And that adoption curve is definitely there. It’s exponential, so it’s flat at the bottom when you’re first starting out; and then at some point we all hope it goes exponential vertically.

And then the next question is do you have the resources to pull it off – Do you have the engineering resources? Can you afford to buy them if you don’t? Do you have the management resources? Do you have the facilities resources? Most companies fail because of the management, not because of the product. Most product given companies do.

So I think its important to lay these things out, make a decision about them, whether or not you have them; make a decision about, you know, is it the right product; is it the right market; is this a difficult market. And that way you’ve made these decisions upfront before you’ve committed a lot of time and money to something that you may realize later on wasn’t such a good idea. So by doing this you’ll actually save yourself effort in the long run; you’ll be better prepared to design your product; and there’ll be less risk as part of the process.

If you have any thoughts or comments about my comments or thoughts, please don’t hesitate to give me a call – 1-800-722-7987. Shoot me an email – Montie (M-O-N-T-I-E ) @ Montie dot com. Or, visit us – www.montie.com. Thanks and have a great day.

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Podcast: Understanding Injection Molding Quotes

Understanding Injection Molding Quotes
[Transcript] Audio File: 2014 Mar 14 – Understanding Injection Molding Quotes.mp3
Audio Length: 20:19 minutes

Hi, my name is Montie Roland. And I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina. We’re a full-service product development firm providing engineering services, industrial design services, and prototyping. So, we can help you design it; help you think through the concept; and then build you a prototype and provide the assistance you need to make the connections you need to manufacture your product, domestically or abroad.

This morning I’d like to talk about understanding an injection mold quote. And really, this . . . when you look at it and break it down, this also applies to most other manufacturing processes, the way that it’s structured.

So, if we’re going to create an injection-molded part, we need two things upfront. One thing is we need a completed design – and that needs to be in 3-D CAD – and then we also need to know what the material . . . materials used in the product are, which is really part of the design, but let’s break it out for the purposes of this discussion. That completed design is going to include 3-D geometry that you’re going to release to the molder as a .STEP file or a .IGES file. And it’s also going to include a drawing. That drawing will include any critical dimensions, any critical to function, any inspection dimensions. Also, secondary operations – if you’ve got a drill a hole in the part; or if you’ve got to put a threaded insert in.

So the drawing is no longer what we call “fully descriptive”. Fifteen years ago, drawings had to describe everything that you wanted to control about that part. If you wanted to control the size of a radius, you needed to create a section view and show that radius. Which, you can imagine, for an injection molded part, was an onerous task, because there’s a lot of details in a part like that. So, now what’s happened is we have parts that are defined in 3-D on the CAD – it’s in SolidWorks or ProEngineer; Catia; Unigraphics; what have you. And so those parts give a tremendous amount of information to the mold maker. So, no longer is the mold maker having to interpret a drawing. A lot of their tool pass and a lot of their mold design comes from your model directly, which makes for quicker tool builds because they don’t have to model the part. And also more accurate because they’re not interpreting from a 2-D drawing.

So, .STEP file; drawing, probably in a PDF format; and then your material choice. With plastics there’s a whole bewildering array of materials. A lot of times, though, parts end up being made out of common materials, such as ABS or nylon. These materials can also be filled. You can use a mineral fill, like a talc; you can have a foaming agent if you want to have a part that is a foam part. You can also fill it with fibers – long or short. And those fibers can give materials like nylon really, really great stiffness. And so you select that material. If you have questions about that, you know, the best thing to do is ask someone who has a good background in plastics injection molding. Also, you can work with your material provider. Depending on how exotic the material is, you may have to make a choice between . . . you may have to choose a provider like RTP that provides smaller quantities if you want something that’s more of a custom material. You remember, a lot of plastics are sold by the train car load, so if you make a few thousand parts, obviously, you use a lot less than a train car load. So, a custom material means you go to someone who deals in custom materials like RTP – which drives the cost per pound up dramatically. But if you have an application where you need some exotic properties, you can get them.

So when you go out for a quote – we had another podcast for our covered . . . you know, the mechanics of that – when that quote comes back, it’s going to have several items on it. And even if those items are buried in the price, they’re still there. The first item is the cost of your tool, your capital cost. You’ve got to build a tool to make an injection molded part. That tooling price, we have seen prices fluctuate dramatically and all over the board. But, really, there’s several main options. One option is what we’ll call is a temporary tool for very low-volume manufacturing. A good example of this is Protomold. Twenty-five hundred to thirty-five hundred bucks; they can have you a tool. The parts are probably three . . . four . . . five-X; maybe eight or nine . . . ten-X what it would cost a traditional molder; however, if you only need a hundred injection molded parts, there’s no point in building a fifteen thousand dollar tool and making five thousand as a test run if you only need a hundred. So, I oftentimes . . . companies like Protomold are very good at that. And the traditional molders, they may be abroad or they may be domestic. And so, any of these folks are going to give you a quote for the tooling. And that cost will vary, depending on if it’s a temporary aluminum tool, if it’s a aluminum tool, or if it’s a steel tool. An aluminum tool may make tens of thousands to a few hundred thousand parts. A steel tool may make millions of parts. So, the choice of your tool is dependent upon the process you need . . . or, excuse me, the number of parts you need that tool to last. Often, aluminum tools are adequate until you get to a real high volume.

The other thing that happens with injection molded parts is that often your toolmaker’s going to use what’s called a mud base, rather than make a full-up tool. What that means is that they have a standard tool skeleton, let’s call it. A skeleton has a giant hole in the middle, and what they do is they build a what’s called a mud base; it’s an insert that goes in that hole in the middle and connects up to the tool. That way you don’t have to pay for the entire tool; you just pay for a small part of it, which helps keep the cost down. And that’s totally fine.

If you’re going to make a tool abroad and you want to bring it home for domestic production, you need to make sure that the molder is involved in this process so that you end up with a tool that they can actually use. It’s common for . . . issues like fittings that are commonly available in China but aren’t available here to cause problems or, you know, some configuration that your molder can’t support. So often, if you go abroad for your tools, a good choice is to let your molder source that tool for you.

So, we’ve got a capital expense of the tool. The next thing is we have an expense of setting up the molder. So, this is a . . . in [inaudible 0:08:11.8] non-recurring engineering cost where they take the tool to the machine; they pull the tool that’s in the machine out (previous job); they put yours in. Some of these tools can get big and heavy so it’s an involved process to switch them out. Then what they do is they switch out the material in the hoppers and the screws, and put the material you want in there; dial in the temperature – temperature, pressure and timing are all very important for injection molding. And so they set that up; do a few test farts. This may only take a couple of hours; however, the thing to consider is that the molder has lost use of the machine. Not only are they doing work to get your mold in place, and it’s probably . . . set up guys an expensive employee-per-hour, but they’re also losing the use of that machine. So, you’re paying for machine time (where you’re not making parts), and you’re paying for a service, which is getting your tool up and running. And so, at first you say, well, that should come out of the profit. Well, by understanding and breaking these costs down, you can make better decisions, because a lot of times what will happen is you’re right – it will get hidden in the cost of the part. But – that drives the cost of the part up. So there’s a better way to do this as far as calculating what your run’s going to cost you. So, if we know the set-up cost, and then we get a part, a cost-per-part. Now, one of the things that everybody says is, Well, if I make a hundred thousand or ten thousand, I should get a much reduced cost per part. Well, the reason why you’re cost per part goes down is that you’ve amortized the set-up costs across a number of parts. So what this means is that let’s say your set up cost is five hundred dollars. And you make five hundred parts. Then that cost gets amortized over that run, and so that’s a dollar a part you’ve added to the cost of your parts. If you make five thousand parts, then you’ve added ten cents a part to the cost of your part. If you make fifty thousand, then you’ve added one cent to the cost of your part. And if you make a hundred thousand, you’ve added half a cent to the cost of your part.

So this is important to keep in mind because if you know the cost per part, which really doesn’t change because it’s a function of machine time; machine costs you this much to rent, costs you this much in plastic per part (your part weighs so many ounces), and it takes this long. Cycle time is a HUGH issue in production. Even a small amount of reduction in cycle time can help reduce the cost of your part over time. I guess really . . . let me restate that. A small reduction in cycle time is something that can impact a lot of dollars in profit; it can have a big impact on your profit over time, because that cycle time is never going to change. The design of that part, until you make a change to it, is going to stay the same; and the cycle time is going to stay the same, as long as the design and the tools stay the same. Cycle time is a function of how long the part takes to cool. The thicker the wall, the longer the cooling time. So you can’t remove the part from the tool, from the injection molding machine, until it’s reached a minimum temperature. So that temperature comes from that plastic cooling, the outside cooling first and the inside cooling slower. If you pull it out too soon, you can imagine you can do all kind of . . . create all kind of problems with the part because it’s soft. So that change in your design to keep the walls thin helps reduce your costs, now and in the future, by reducing the cycle time, which reduces the cost per part. The cost of each part, after the machine is set up, is driven by the cycle time, the material cost (which is generally done per pound), the secondary operations that have to be performed, and then the cost of any items needed to perform those operations. So, for example, if you’re snapping a lens in, you’ve got a couple of costs: you’ve got the cost of the lens, and you’ve got the cost of the time for someone to manually snap that in.

You can mold around items in the tool. The challenge there is that you’ve got to take the time to place that item while the tool is open. So often, secondary operations are performed after the part has finished molding, because that way you’ve got an operator there anyway; they can perform that operation and you’re making use of idle time, rather than keeping the tool open while you load something in the tool. A good example’s a threaded insert. Generally, threaded inserts are added after the part’s molded, because if you add them before the part’s molded, what you have to do is keep the tool open long enough for the individual or the robot to place that threaded insert. So, instead of opening the tool, dropping out the top part, and then closing the tool immediately and start making the next part, you can create a situation where you’re loading, I don’t know, let’s say six threaded inserts and it takes two seconds, or five seconds; so, that robot’s reaching in, loading that threaded insert, but that tool is not making parts at that point. So, most of the time, you’ll . . . the molder will insert that threaded insert after the part’s out of the tool so that the injection molding machine can go ahead and start making parts.

And that’s an important consideration that your molder will help you with. But that all rolls into the cost of that. If you have to program a robot to do a secondary, you may save some money in a very long production run, but the cost of the programming the robot and setting it up still has to be amortized across that number of parts. So, there again, set up cost and then actual production part cost for that part.

Same thing holds true for other operations. So, for example, C&C; you got to set up the C&C machine. You’ve got to fixture the parts, set up that fixture. You’ve got to program the machine or transfer the program into the machine. You’ve got to do a run off. So, that situation is very comparable. You’ve got a set up cost and you’ve got a piece cost. Piece cost really doesn’t change all that much, but the set up cost just gets amortized across that piece cost. So, that’s important to keep that in mind. And, sure, if you go to a company and say, I’m going to give you an order for ten million of these – can I get a break? Okay, gotcha; they’ll give you a break. But that’s going to be a small break and that’s . . . you’re not going to see the hard cost going half or something; you may see a few percent off, just as a way to close that deal. Because, at the end of the day, it costs them time on that machine and they’re going to charge you for that time and those materials, and amortize your set up across the number of parts in that run. And, if they give you one number that says this batch of parts, this quantity, will cost you this much, then really is what they’re doing is they’re just bundling that all together. They’re putting the set up cost in, the part cost in and they’re giving you one number. In my mind, you’re much better off to break it out and have a fixed price per part, and have a fixed set up cost. And then what you can do, as the manufacturer, is to decide how many parts you want to make. If you want to make one part, you can do that. But you know what the set up cost is, you know what the piece cost is, and make one part. Now, a lot of molders probably won’t set up for one part because it’s not profitable, but you get the idea there. But that way if you want to make a hundred, you want to make five hundred, you can set up your spreadsheet and do your math. You can conserve capital where you need to and you can take advantage of that economy of scale where you need to.

So, that’s, hopefully, given you an understanding of how to price or how to work with the prices you get from the molder, and turn around and price your products. It’s really not a complicated set up. A lot of molders have switched over to giving you a set up cost plus a piece cost. And it works much better in my mind because you actually know how that price is derived, and you can pick an intermediate quantity. Say you have a price of five hundred and a price for two thousand; well, now if I need seven hundred and fifty, I can calculate out what that price would be, and do it exactly. Because I have the formula here.

So, hopefully this has been beneficial. Just one little tech tip here and as you’re working through your new product. If you like what you heard and need some of this experience and skills we have, give us a call. We will be happy to help with your next project; we’re happy to do your next project, start to finish. Our job is to be ready when you are.

This is Montie Roland, signing off.

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Podcast: Tips for Improving your RFQs

Status:  You have drawings and 3D CAD files and need a prototype

Next Step:  Interacting with vendors to promptly get quotes

How do you do this?  What is the best way to put you and your vendors in a win-win situation.  Join me for the next few minutes while we talk about this.

Requesting A Quote

Cheers,
Montie
President
Montie Design

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Audio File: 2014 Mar 14 – Requesting A Quote.mp3
Audio Length: 21:19 minutes

Hello. My name is Montie Roland. And I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina.

And what I’d like to do is spend a few minutes talking about a very simple topic, and that’s how to go after a quote. And maybe throw out some of my thoughts on what are good ways to manage the process and have a consistent process so you get consistent results.

Montie Design is a full-service product development firm with concentrations in mechanical engineering and industrial design and prototyping. We can take your product and go from concept to engineered design to something on the shipping dock, ready for you to ship.

When it comes time in the process of your engineering work to request a quote, it’s important to have a good process that consistently gets you accurate quotes in a timely manner. And that’s really what you want. You want to get those quotes back quickly, and you want to have them accurate and you want vendors that understand what you want. So part of that accuracy is putting together a technical data package that matches what you expect. If your documentation is sloppy, then your quote runs the risk of being off. Because some vendor may think that they’re providing what you want, when really they’re providing something else because the data you gave them wasn’t clear.

So there’s several steps to this process. One step is to select your vendors. I would encourage you to select vendors as early as possible so that you can have them involved in the design process. Now, in order to do that, you’re probably going to need to have a limited number of vendors – maybe even one or two – so that they have a shot at getting the business. Because if you get them involved in the design process, they have a lot of feedback for you, help you improve your product, and then never giving them that business over time, then they’ll lose their enthusiasm for helping you. Now, I don’t know that they have to get the business every time. I think, though, that, you know, over the course of two or three of these opportunities they need to see some business coming their way to really keep them incentivized, to participate as fully as you’d like. This is a little different than a lot of approaches because so many times people want the absolute lowest cost. But the thing you trade is that you may have vendors are less interested in providing you feedback by going with a low cost vendor all the time. So the vendor who’s the lowest cost may also be a low value vendor. They may not give you the product you want back or give you quality that’s unacceptable. And it’s especially bad if either the quality isn’t there – or – somehow they’ve built a product that just isn’t what you want; maybe there’s some differences and they didn’t ask the questions that they should have, because maybe they’re pretty tightly cost constrained. So that’s why, when you think about that, you want to have vendors that you can trust and that you can go to time and time again, and get repeatable, reliable, quality work from them.

So once you’ve selected vendors you want to send out RFQs to; then what you want to do is to understand client’s motivation or your constituent’s motivation. If there is already a vendor that’s preferred, and that vendor’s pretty much going to get it no matter what, then if you have a relationship with the second and third vendors that you’re going out for quotes for, you may want to consider letting them know – “Hey, this is probably going to be a second or third quote, and it looks like we may have this vendor.” And if they know you, then they’re going to understand that, obviously, unless you use this vendor all the time and will never go anywhere else, if there’s some specific reason that you’re going only to one vendor, then other vendors you know, if you tell them that, then they’re not going to need to put as much time in that quote. A lot of them will still give you a quote because they want to help you there, and part of that helping is staying on the RFQ list for the next one – but, so, they’re not going to feel like they’ve got to do as much pencil sharpening and have as tight of a quote, which requires more work. So that way you save them time; you’ve let them really know what’s going on; you’ve double-checked (at least in a rough way) that your primary vendor is giving you a reasonable price. And that’s a good way to communicate with those vendors. Now, if you don’t know the vendor and you’re telling him that, they may or may not send you a quote.

So that also brings of the thought of its good to know your vendors. Take your vendors to lunch. Don’t make them take you to lunch; you take them to lunch. Get to know them. Barbecue. You know, go to the rifle range. Go mountain biking. You know, those relationship opportunities help mean that when that vendor has a question, that vendor will ask you. One of the last things you want is unanswered questions, because that question may mean the difference between having a container full of junk, and having a container full of the product you really want. And so that relationship makes them feel comfortable giving you a phone call and saying, What do you think? Or maybe making a suggestion. We have one vendor that’s absolutely spectacular – ADR – and they’ve actually come back several times and said, We think you ought to do it this way. Once or twice they made some prototypes, and so, What do you think? That’s the kind of vendor that goes out of their way to give you quality product and keep your business. I mean, those guys, like said, they’ve done that. They have brought me a part they made and says, Here’s how we think it should be done. Not being proactive and not waiting on us to do something, but, hey, they’ve got AutoCAD; they made a change, they cut it and brought it over.

So, when you have that kind of vendor . . . those vendors are gold. You keep those vendors. You hold onto those vendors. You protect those vendors. And I think it’s important, too, and I want to digress a little bit here, is that if there’s issues in a project, then you want to make sure that your vendor is protected in appropriate ways. So if a vendor totally drops the ball and made a horrendous error somewhere, then most of the time they’re going to fix it. So, and they know that; they know there was an error. So, letting all the crap hit them, politically, doesn’t . . . isn’t always the best thing because it’s going to leave a bad taste in their mouth, even if it was their fault. So I think one of the things I encourage my folks to do is that if you communicate clearly if there’s a vendor with a vendor; but, we need to be the ones to man up with the clients and say, Hey, we goofed up. Because ultimately we’re the ones that selected that vendor. We’re the ones that had control over that vendor. And if there’s a mistake, the buck should stop with us, not with the vendor. And we’ve had times when a vendor did drop the ball and, you know, simple things sometimes cause problems, like a part that’s almost done and somebody sits it back on the machine upside-down and now the hole’s in the wrong place. Got it. But at the same time, you know, they recut those parts; there’s no point in beating on them or letting our customer beat on them. Because, you know, they’re serving us and we’re going to have that vendor relationship, I hope, long after that client’s doing something else. And that’s the thing, too. Clients are important. I’m not downplaying the value of the client relationship at all. With clients, though, we’ll see a client and we won’t see them for two or three years. And then we’ll have another interaction, or maybe a year. With vendors, we see them every month. And so this vendor is helping us with multiple . . . pick a vendor; he’s usually helping us with multiple clients, not just one. They’re helping with client after client after client. So that makes that relationship with that vendor, in my mind, just golden. So that’s why I think you want to take care of those vendors. You know, somehow, you can pay that vendor early; some companies don’t care. You know, bigger company, nobody may even know that. A smaller company, if they get a check ahead of time, or maybe they get a check at the dock, you can bet that if you’re ever the one in a jam, you’re more likely for them to stay late or come in early, or reshuffle things around to help you out, because you did something for them. Holding onto a check for a few more days, if you’ve got the cash to make, you know, I don’t know, 0.07% return on, it’s nowhere near as big a return as that vendor really wants your business. That’s the big return. And so doing things like, if you can, paying them early; taking care of them; these are things that help spur that relationship in the long run.

So, we’ve selected a vendor. Now the next thing is to get together our technical data package. What should that package have? That package, in general, should have non-parametric files (non-parametric files being PDFs, DXFs, DWGs, STEP files, IGES files); these are files that aren’t parametric from your CAD system. And by that, what I mean is that if I have a file that’s in SolidWorks, that SolidWorks file (say a part file) can be linked to a drawing file and assembly. And so, someone who’s not careful in how they deal with those files, when they bring that file up, if it can’t find the correct file that it’s wanting to reference – and it happens to grab a different file – then you can have a mistake appear in a drawing; even though it was saved in another way, all of a sudden, now, you can have a mistake show up in a drawing or in a CAD file because of these linkages. And I don’t want to get too far off on that subject; just to say that, in general, we try to give out fixed, non-parametric files (BAC/SiS, STEP, IGES, PDF) because those aren’t easily editable and those aren’t parametric. So they are what you give. We have some clients that want SolidWorks files. We can provide that. We always try to be careful, though, to provide an entire archive and make sure that everybody is well-communicated to about what the contents are, revisions levels, and so forth. The other thing you want to do is make sure your drawings are appropriate for the purpose. A lot of parts are made now from the CAD file, from an IGES or STEP file. And what that means is that fully dimensioning a drawing does not need to happen anymore, which saves you time and effort; saves your client money. And, the drawings now a lot of times will focus on things like GD&T or linear tolerancing or other things like call-outs, for material, finish, tapped holes. You know, you can machine a block of aluminum from a CAD file; the only thing that’s hard to do is to figure out is that . . . that quarter inch hole, is that tapped quarter-twenty; or is that a through hole. So, you show that on the drawings; you know, show where pins go, what pins are inserted there and so forth. And so your assembly drawings, your part drawings, your drawings of inseparable assemblies – those should go in your technical data file. Any 3-D geometry, if it’s going to be a part that’s going to be cut in 2-D, for example, water jet or some machine shops may want to program some parts as a two-and-a-half axis job; in that case you’ll need to include DXF – DWG. And I’ve got a white paper you can get off Montie.com that shows you how to understand what tolerances you can actually hole with the CNC process. That may be something to check out and gives you kind of an idea of, you know, where’s a starting point for what you can expect.

If you’re going to send a drawing to an unknown vendor, then you’re going to spend more time documenting. You want to make sure that drawing has more information. If you don’t know how that vendor’s going to make the part, whether it’s from an IGES file or STEP file or if they’re going to make it from the drawing, then you may end up needing a full set of drawings. In a lot of cases, full drawings aren’t used anymore. For example, tooling. You know, its . . . it’s just too many details to spend that much time drawing it when tools are made, early injection mold tools and die cast are not made from 2-D drawings anymore. They’re made from 3-D geometry.

So now what we do is grab a bill of materials and include that if it has multiple parts or assemblies. Put that together in an archive, send it out; make sure that you’re clear about any deviations from the drawing that you want on the quote. For example, if you want to get the parts back without finish, then put that on your RFQ. Make that its clear, you know, what comprises a set, or do you want piece parts; do you want assembly; do you want a test assembly to occur before you get it. You know, these process things that may not be obvious on a drawing, but you need to include on your RFQ. Send that RFQ out. Let your vendors know when you need it back. I mean, it sounds simple, but a lot of people don’t. And so if you need a RFQ back in four weeks, let your vendor know that they’ve got four weeks. They’re probably not going to take that long but that way they can prioritize. There again, you’re helping them make your life easier by making their easier. And if, also, too, if all you ever do is say “I need quotes back tomorrow”, then eventually, your vendors aren’t going to take you seriously when you say that. So I would much rather tell a vendor “Hey, can I get something back in two weeks” if that’s really what I need. That way, when I show up on their doorstep and I say to them “I need a quote, NOW”, they realize that I really need a quote now. And so, that whole concept of, I guess, political capital, if you want to put it that way; you know, you’ve got so much and if you burn it unnecessarily, then your vendor’s not going to take those priority requests seriously if it always happens. Same thing on lead time. If you have a part that’s going to take, you know, six weeks, and you need it in five, you need to let the vendor know. But don’t tell him two just because. So you want to make sure you work with your vendors and clearly communicate when the deliveries are, so that that way, they can prioritize their production. There again, you’re helping make their life easier, so they appreciate that. And that keeps those channels of communication open.

So, now you get an RFQ back; that goes back into your cost of building materials. That’s the best time in my mind to do it, is to put it back in that cost of building materials. Develop any amortizations or items like that for tooling. And then, now, you’re well on the way to using that quote for whatever you need. And the other thing too, I would suggest, is make sure you keep careful of where you put files. We have one vendor that faxes us back quotes. No problem. So I get it in my email (it comes to our fax but it gets sent to my email); and they’ve sent it me. I file it on the hard disk, and I save it in Outlook. But, what I put on the network, under that project I’ve got a directory called “Quotes” for that project. Then that way if I ever need to go find it, then I can, because I know where it is; it’s in that directory for that project. Because what’ll happen is a year from now I may need that quote again, and if its buried in some Outlook archive, good luck. So, instead, if I can go right to it and give it a final name that means something; save it on the network drive and I can go back and find those. And that becomes more important as you get a lot of projects going at once. Another thing, too, is sometimes you may not need that quote for a year. So you want to make sure that you’ve got that on hand; you know, the project gets delayed or you need to make more of them or what have you.

So, as you receive this documentation back, make sure that you’re putting that documentation in a safe place, you know, you’re storing that in your project directories. And the same thing, too – every time that we send out files, then that file is at a fixed rev level. So, if we make changes to that file, then the next time we send it out we send out a revised file that includes a change to the revision. If you don’t do that, it will bite you. It’s not fair to a vendor to say “Oh, this is the new version; don’t use the old one”. Go ahead, change the revision number, go through those steps; hand that to the vendor, show that on the P.O. That way, you’re less likely to get an old part or an old version of your design back. And that’s a really important thing to keep in mind.

I hope this has been helpful. This is one of those things that you want to have a consistent method of doing this so you can teach it to your staff, interns, what have you. And that’ll help you, too, as you have a good solid documentation process. It’ll help you over time as you need to go back and find those numbers, for whatever reason. And you will. Especially in a manufacturing environment. So, the more organized that is, the better off everybody is.

I hope this has been beneficial. It’s great to spend time together. And I hope that you have a great week. Montie Roland. Montie@montie.com is my email ((M-O-N-T-I-E at M-O-N-T-I-E dot com) You can give me a call – 1-800-722-7987 – or visit our website – www.montie.com. I hope you have a great week. Montie Roland, signing off.

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.

How to Design Successful Outdoor Products

Designing any great product is easier when the designer and engineers to have an appreciation for how they are making the customer, reseller and distributor’s life easier and more profitable.  This podcast explores how I was motivated to design products for the camping / glamping market.  We’ll also explore what it means to have a robust product.

Call me at 800.722.7987 or email montie@montie.com or visit montie.com to discuss how we can help with the design, engineering and prototyping of your next product.

Montie Gear Y-Shot Slingshot shooting a break down arrow
Montie Gear Y-Shot Slingshot

Here is the transcript from the podcast.

Hi, my name is Montie Roland. I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina.

I’d like to spend a few minutes today talking about keys to success in designing an outdoor product.

Let me tell you a little bit about what we do. Montie Design is a product development firm. And we’re also the manufacturers of MontieGear line, which is a line of outdoor and shooting-related products.

I personally enjoy designing products of all kinds. One of the products I enjoy the most is products that are outdoor related. I enjoy spending time in the outdoors – enjoy camping, enjoy backpacking – so I’m always trying to come up with, you know, what’s a way to make that trip more pleasurable, safer, easier. Or what’s a way to extend the capacity and do something better.

I think a lot of us have spent time camping. A lot of times, when we’re growing up, maybe going car camping . . . maybe you just went once or twice. Maybe it was with Indian Princesses or with Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. But being outdoors, there’s a certain freedom and there’s a certain . . . lack of captivity then you are when you’re between four walls. Now the trade-off is that you got to work a little harder. It’s . . . not as comfortable, sometimes. You’re out of your comfort zone. You don’t have some of the comforts of home. And so . . . equipment over the past few years has changed in some ways; in some ways it’s very similar. When you’re camping, you want to be comfortable. You know, one of the horror stories you see on the commercials and on TV (and maybe experienced) is getting wet. You know . . . my daughters and I were camping in the Shenandoah’s a few years ago, and Hurricane Bob came through. We had no idea which way that hurricane was going to go. And we had planned this grip in advance and we finally said, Hey, let’s just go. And worst case? We’ll just drive home. And so we were up in the Shenandoah’s and . . . it rained. And . . . and then the tropical storm actually passed over. And it rained. And, did I mention it rained? Yeah. And in between the rain, there was rain. So, needless to say it was a challenging environment for about . . . I don’t know – twenty-four hours? When it rained for twenty-four hours. Did I mention the cooking in the rain? Or no . . . yeah.

But, anyway, so our tent wasn’t up to the challenge. Now, thankfully, our Aerobed was. So, late that evening, our tent in one corner had about two foot of water in it. And the average depth in the tent was probably six inches. Now, we were car camping, and thankfully, we had put everything in boxes, these waterproof . . . or, pseudo-waterproof boxes, because we had stuff in the truck. So, we had the bed full of camping gear. And . . . so when it rained and tent flooded, we . . . we were laying on the Aerobed, and the Aerobed was floating. Our boxes were floating. So, if you wanted something out of a box, you had to reach over and grab it, pull you to it, take the lid off without tipping it over and bringing water in. Also had to be real careful not to let your sleeping bag fall off the Aerobed, because if you did, it was wet.

So, it was definitely challenging in that way. I think that we still had a good time. Have to ask my daughters. I might be being optimistic. But . . . so in that case, the product didn’t live up to the challenge. I ended up taking the tent back.

So, when you’re outdoors, one of the things you want to provide with your products is you want to enhance the comfort of the trip, if you can. Now, the product may itself enhance the comfort. So, let’s say you’ve got an inflatable mattress, making sleeping more comfortable. That is so nice when you’re camping. But at the same time, I think it’s important to also think about how the product’s carried, how it’s stored, how it’s used. So, for example, you may enhance the comfort of the trip by making an existing product easier to carry. So, for example, if something’s big and bulky and takes up too much room in the car, or in your pack, then you may find that it’s really uncomfortable. Or, let’s say that for some reason it pokes you in the back in your backpack; when it’s in the backpack, its poking you in the back. Or it’s causing some sort of other transportation dilemma. So, how the product is carried, how it packs, how easy it is to pack – those are all things that can help make your trip more comfortable in that respect. And also, less work. One of the things with our Montie Gear products that we push is to have products that are very, very easy to assemble. Because when you’re tired, it’s raining, its dark, its cold, the last thing you want is to have a product that’s overly complex and difficult to assemble. Because once that happens, those conditions amplify the difficulty of using it, assembling it, breaking camp, what have you. And you’ve lowered the user’s perception of the product, possibly to the point they’re done with it.

So, you always want products that are easy to assemble, easy to use. Just because something’s that easy to assemble on your desk at work, when you’re sitting in a comfortable chair and not hungry, not tired, no rain, seventy-two degrees . . . you may be able to do it on your desk and go, Well, that’s not so bad. But then once you get outside, in the outside environment, looking for twelve pieces that you just dropped onto the ground and now found out that the color they are is perfectly camouflaged – those all add aggravation. So, you want to have products that are low aggravation. And generally, readying the product for use – assembly, what have you – is an area where we’ve seen a lot of . . . I have personally when I was camping seen a need to really think through the product. So, you want a product that’s comfortable; you want a product that easy to assemble, easy to bring to bear, easy to stand up. We want a product that is easy to use. There again, if you’re sitting by the fire and its dark, having some precision alignment of holes before you can put something in a pin, before you can, you know, use it; maybe you have to take it apart between uses and put it back together. Well, if it’s difficult to do in the dark, there again, you may have a product that just doesn’t fit that environment.

So, that . . . that goes to the issue of being robust. Robust products are easy to use, easy to assemble, and hard to damage. And give you . . . also, I will argue that a truly robust product gives you ways that you can use it in ways that the designer never intended. So, maybe there’s a “I intended to do ‘A’”; your customer does “B”. At that point, that’s a really valuable piece of feedback to know because that may open up a whole new market for you. Or, give you an idea of a new product you should design.

So, robust products are ones that they are just easy to use, hard to damage, and easy to assemble, easy to take down, and give you options. Sometimes you can do stuff twelve different ways. Sometimes it’s one, depending on the product.

So, the other thing is you want products that are rugged when you’re designing for the outdoors. Now, sometimes you have limits on that, how rugged they are. A great example is a tent pole. Tent poles, by nature, tend to be fragile to keep weight down, especially with backpacking tents. So there’s this implicating understood trade-off that when I lay out my tent poles from my backpacking tent on the ground, I don’t want anybody around because I don’t want anybody to step on it and bend it or break it. And so I understand that the trade-off of having a four-pound-ten-ounce tent is the fact that the poles are delicate until they’re assembled. Now, they’re easy to assemble with a shock-cord and so forth. But until they get into the tent, they . . . can be hard to . . . can be delicate. Now, once they’re on the tent, they need to be extremely robust. That fifty-mile-an-hour wind, or that six inches of snow, that tent needs to come through that, and that pole needs to do its job with no problems what so ever.

So, there are times when the rugged nature and the robust nature has to be within a specific pattern of use, or a specific part of a pattern of use. And I think the other thing that’s important when you’re camping is that you want a product that looks like it should be a product when you’re camping. Now, one of the things that has changed about this is that for a long time camping products were very functional. They looked like something that you’d buy at the Army Navy Store. A good example is Coleman stove. A white gas later gave way to propane. But, they’re great, they’re rugged; you can fix them with a . . . a knife and a screwdriver, some oil; and they’re just great products – they last forever. And I think long life is usually a by-product of having something that’s rugged and something that’s robust. So, a lot of these cots and other things just look like something the military would use. Now, what happened a few years ago is REI came on the scene, a great outdoor provisioning company. And all of a sudden, camping became more upscale. And so as these stores competed for dollars, one of the ways that they made themselves more distinctive was to provide very high quality, very robust products, and provide them at a higher cost, because higher quality robust, what have you . . . and that also gave the opportunity and the need for more industrial design. Where thinking through the customer experience, the customer experience behind the counter, or in front of the counter; customer experience in the field; what the customer sees on the website; reviews; what have you. So, the world kind of changed and now we have camping products that a lot of times are beautiful as well as tough.

And so, with a camping product, you got to also . . . you know, where does it fall? Is it an inexpensive product? And Coleman is an expert at providing relatively inexpensive, less frills, less performance products. Or, is it a product that is a higher quality product and a higher end product (something you might see at REI)? And then in the past few years, there’s also been a switch to what I’m going to call “Glamping” products. And I think glamping . . . which another way to look at it is called “glamorous camping”. It’s something we can thank the Europeans for. And we were headed there anyway. But, in Europe, you can go camping at a campground and camp in a two thousand square foot tent with flat screen TVs, satellite cable, Persian rugs, couches, that are really, basically, high-end homes made out of fabric. And so the option of doing glamping, I think, is starting to come to the U.S., and that’s going to impact some of the products that are designed for this market as well. So, just to keep that in mind, you’ve kind of got a low-to-midrange, which is the Coleman products; a lot of products that folks who own RVs buy; and then the mid-range . . . mid-low-or-high, which is REI – so you’ve got brands like Patagonia, you know; Merrill. And then you’ve got high end, the glamping products. And that kind of gives you, hopefully, gives you a framework of where to start when you have to look at how you’re going to structure this product. Where does it live? And, also, to evaluate whether or not you’ve got the right product designed. How effective it’ll be in the marketplace.

So, these are some criteria. Just to summarize. You want a product that’s rugged. You want a product that’s robust. You want a product that’s high quality. You want a product that fits the intended market segment, be it the lower end (the Coleman, a lot of the RV products), the mid-range (the REIs and Great Out Door Provision Company-type market); or the glamping market. You want a product that’s easy to use, easy to assemble. You want a product that’s easy to assemble when it’s almost dark and raining and cold. You know, can you assemble this product with gloves? Is this a product where once it’s . . . it’s hard to damage once it’s installed, but is easy to install. So, in camping, it’s a very tough market because it’s so functionally driven and so user experience driven. And then also, too, yeah, always keep in mind is that you’ve got different types of camping. You’ve got car camping. You’ve got glamping. And, of course, car camping being you drive your car to up to where you’re going to camp; you unload everything. So, weight and size isn’t so much of a penalty; comfort’s a high priority. Backpacking – weight is everything. Comfort – eh, not so much so. And ruggedness in backpacking is very important, but you have a more sophisticated user that understands that you don’t want to bend that tent pole when you’re twenty miles from anywhere.

So, keeping all those in mind, I hope you design some great outdoor products. If you have a product that you need . . . maybe you’ve got a concept and need us to design an product and then build a prototype and help you get it into manufacturing, or just some small part of that, give me a call, we’d love to help.

Montie Roland, Montie Design, 1-800-722-7987. Or montie (M-O-N-T-I-E)@montie(M-O-N-T-I-E).com. I hope you have a great day. I hope this podcast was beneficial for you. Montie Roland, signing off.

How to Set Up a New Project – Costed BOMs – Part 3

 

After many years of setting up projects for our industrial designers and mechanical engineers, here are my thoughts on some basic best practices on how to structure your files and keep your project organized.  This segment examines a very useful tool for the engineering and product team:  the costed BOM.


Costed BOM TutorialHere is the transcript of the podcast:

Good morning. My name is Montie Roland. I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina.

And this morning, what’d I’d like to talk about is how to structure your project from a file standpoint, from an organizational standpoint.

Montie Design is a full-service design firm in Morrisville, North Carolina. We provide industrial design, mechanical engineering and prototyping capability on-demand to help you move your project from concept to ready-for-the-shipping-dock.

So, we’ve talked about our Current Design, Released  [directories]. . . let’s go back to Released for a second and talk about reving Assemblies or not to rev assemblies. It’s going to be driven by several things. One is if your design changed dramatically and the assembly doesn’t look like the parts, you need to rev the assembly. Other times you may need to rev the assembly is if you have a vendor that has a PLM system that is tied to the assembly rev. It doesn’t have the flexibility to control it without . . . to make a change to their drawing set without a revised assembly. We’ve seen that. We have a project right now we’re working on; they don’t have that control. So if we make changes we have to revise the assembly just because we revised a part. And the problem is that if you have to do that there may be a lot of subassemblies in-between; so it’s definitely a lot of work to do that.

And so you’re kind of starting to see, as a manager now, why sometimes your engineers are reticent to . . . to do revisions, because there is some work to it.

So other directories that you’ll need – one is that I create a “Project Management” directory. Project Management directory has contracts; has any schedules; things that you need in managing the project, but maybe not necessarily need to execute the design.

So another thing we would do is that we want to create a Bill of Materials. The Bill of Materials is sooooo handy. As the project goes along, you’re Bill of Materials is going to become a costed Bill of Materials. So at the end of the project, what we want to see is we want to see a . . . a Bill of Materials that has a part number, description, a revision, and has the costing information. Now, dependent on the project there may be some projects where that’s completed handled by the client. For a MontieGear project, one of the last steps is to make sure that Bill of Materials is correct, has the costing information, and then . . . that is used by the person doing the pricing, which often is me for MontieGear. I will take that, and if that Bill of Materials is done correctly, what I can then do is add the cost of labor to do assembly; any shipping costs; and then I know how to price the product without going through and pulling up a bunch of drawings. And this is so important later on. It saves tremendous amount of time.

So, as you go through the project, other directories you’re going to want to have is “Quotes”. So, every time a quote comes in, scan it in; if it’s electronic, save it. Create a directory of Quotes from your vendors in one spot. So, that’s a subdirectory under your Project directory. You’ve got Quotes. So, we’ve done Current Design, Concepts, Quotes. Another one you’ll often have is something called “Files from Client”. And so those are files that the client has provided. These are documentation that where they’ve given you pre-project documentation; there may be initial version of a product specification. And so this is that repository of those documents. Then again, a lot of times we’ll save those file names by date; if it’s a quote we’ll save it by date and vendor name and then possibly, you know, what that is if it’s a single pat quote. So you can quickly scan down that directory and find the quote for the lower left beam, or what have you.

And you may have other directories as needed. Those will depend with projects. One of the other things we do is create an images directory. And then the Images directory, underneath it, we’ll have a description of generally what that image is about. So, it might be /images/first prototype or date-first prototype. Date . . . Proof of Concept; Date-Alpha Prototype; Date-Beta Prototype; Date-Installation. So, that way you can scroll through there and quickly find those images. It’s also a great place if you’re . . . if you’re a manufacturer to also put your . . . your product shots, or your products-in-use. Maybe they’re static images done in the light tent. But that way you’ve got a great way to . . . to go find that because it’s tied to the project.

So this Project directly, theoretically, if you were to just copy that to a flash drive, it would have everything you need to continue with that project. And that’s good because over time hard drives change, files get deleted, directories get changed. So if you encapsulate everything in that subdirectory, then that makes life a lot easier.

So, kind of to roll back through this, we’ve got parametric files and we’ve got non-parametric files. And then we’ve got files that are often edited. And so, the parametric files are Solid Works files that could be inventor; it could be Pro-E. But those are files that need to be kept together; need to be moved using a Pack and Go. And occasionally with your current design, one way to make sure you’ve got the correct files in there is to Pack and Go to a temporary directory; delete the files in Current Design; and then copy those back in. And that way you know you don’t have some superfluous files in there.

Other files that we’ll create and need to do something with are . . . are non-parametric files. So, these could be IGES, STEP, DXF, DWG. And these files, in the Release directory, it will have the parametric files, plus a PDF of each drawing and maybe a DXF or DWG, if that’s needed to do a cutting process, a 2-D cutting process, like water jet, or sometimes a machine shop if they’re working from a 2-D file.

Also have the 3-D non-parametric files, like STEP or IGES. And so that way, in that Release directory, you’ve got the CAD files, plus you’ve the file you’re going to send out to vendors, the non-parametric files. And probably this would be a good spot for your Bill of Materials for that Rev. And so, in this case, a lot of these files follow the same format. Its part number . . . for us, at least, its “part number – description_rev “ and then the two-digit revision code. So, 00 or 02. And so we do this to keep these file names consistent so they’re easy to read through quickly. And that way everything is . . . you get to . . . you can very quickly figure out what you’re looking for. If you don’t maintain control over file names, you end up with file names that mean something to one person today, but may mean nothing to someone later. And, six months’ from now, may not mean anything to the person who named it then. So, I think it’s very important to maintain that . . . that control; have a strict doctrine over that.

That Bill of Materials? It’s important for costing purposes if you’re a manufacturer, because that way you’re engineer is taking what they’ve learned when they went out for quotes, or the purchasing agents wouldn’t . . . so, whoever went out for those quotes enters that into your Bill of Material, so now you can do your pricing quickly without having to go look for a bunch of information which may be harder to find.

Also, storing those quotes is valuable because then that . . . because then you’ve got a way to address that quickly, there again, without having to go look through emails or . . . look wherever [other places on the server].

So, from a hundred thousand foot view, what we want to do is we want this project directly . . . directory to provide everything you need to pick up that project, modify that project, price that product, or deliver to a client. And if you can do that then that helps multiple phases of the organization; not just engineering or industrial design, but also purchasing; it’s great for a reference later, for sales and marketing, because they understand what’s driving the cost; and it’s just a win-win all the way around. And that . . . that’s important to main . . . there again, to maintain that discipline because it’s not only helping you in the engineering stage; like I said, you’ll reap benefits for . . . the life of the product, especially if you ever have to go back and make a change or you ever have to go back and re-price or pricing on components change. It’s a great tool. And having that in a standard format is . . . it just benefits you.

If you have any questions about this, please don’t hesitate to give me a call. I know it’s kind of a long section here and technical, but happy to entertain your calls, questions. It’s 1-800-722-7987. That’s Montie Roland. Email – montie (M-O-N-T-I-E)@montie(M-O-N-T-I-E).com. Or you can visit our website – www.montie.com. You can see the results of client work we’ve done at the montie.com website. Or you can see some of our projects that we’ve done for ourselves at montiegear (M-O-N-T-I-E-G-E-A-R).com.

I hope this has been beneficial. Montie Roland, signing out.

How to Set Up a New Project – Pack and Go’s – Part 2

After many years of setting up projects for our industrial designers and mechanical engineers, here are my thoughts on some basic best practices on how to structure your files and keep your project organized.  We’ll concentrate on the importance of Pack-and-Go’s in this segment.  This is a very important set of practices that will help keep you out of trouble.  These concepts are important even if you have a PLM system, because it helps you understand how the PLM helps keep you organized.


Solidworks Pack and Go for TutorialHere is the transcript:

Good morning. My name is Montie Roland. I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina.

And this morning what’d I’d like to talk about is how to structure your project from a file standpoint, from an organizational standpoint.

Montie Design is a full-service design firm in Morrisville, North Carolina. We provide industrial design, mechanical engineering and prototyping capability on-demand to help you move your project from concept to ready-for-the-shipping-dock.

The Concept directories are where you’ll store your sketches, your ideations, maybe your solid model concepts, pictures for your style board. So then, when you think about these files we’re starting to store, you really have two types of files. One type of file is parametric, and the other type of file is static. And then really . . . I guess a third file would be like a . . . a file that’s directly editable. When it comes to Cat files, though, we have two types.

So, parametric files are files that are linked or potentially linked to other files. This is very, very important to keep in mind. So, with Solid Works, we can save a non-parametric file to a format like STEP or DXF or IGES or DWG or PDF. These non-parametric files can be edited, like, easily in the case of DXF or DWG; less easily in the case of PDF. And so these files, though, are generally not going to change just because you changed something somewhere else in the Solid Works model. However, the Solid Works files from Solid Works are parametrically linked in many cases. So, for example, a drawing file is going to go reference the part file to rebuild the drawing. So, if the part file is missing, it can’t reference it and can’t rebuild drawing and get a, basically, a blank screen in the middle of your . . . your drawing. So this is very, very important to keep in mind. Whenever you move files from one directory to the other (and occasionally you need to do this anyway), you run the risk of orphaning a file that’s somewhere else. So a good example of this is . . . let’s say I’m working on (in Solid Works) and I got to McMaster Car and I download a screw (which is a great way to get a screw). So, I download that screw and then I open it up; it comes across as a STEP or an IGES, and then I import it into my model. And when I hit “save” that McMaster Car Screw was saved to my download directory on my local machine. So, if I don’t consciously save that to my Current Design file . . . Current Design directory on the server, then . . . or on the Z-drive, then what’s going to happen is that now I have files in two different places. So, if I was to go and grab Current Design and move it into Release, let’s say. Just copy it over. I would leave that screw behind. Because the copy tool in Windows Explorer does not know about the relationships in Solid Works. So, it doesn’t know to go grab that.

Solid Works has this wonderful utility called “Pack and Go”. Pack and Go finds every file that’s linked to the files that you have open. So, what you want to do is go to the top level of, let’s say, Drawing. Or top-level Assembly. Open up Pack and Go, and then it’ll give you some options. And, generally, you want to exercise all those options in terms of including drawings, including . . . textures, including decals, FEA results; grabbing all that’s good – that way you don’t leave something behind. Solid Works will go look for those files, make a list of them, let you see that list, and then you pick a location where you either want to save that as a zip file, or you want to save that . . . just to that directory; drop the files in that directory. So, you choose that directory and then you hit “Okay”. Then Solid Works will think, and then it will start grabbing files and copying them to that directory. If you do not do this, it will bite you. It is not a question of if it will bite, it’s a question of what moment, what day, and how bad. Because we’ve seen this before. You can imagine that if you have files on a local machine and you just copy them over, or you copy them between places on the Z-drive or what have you, and you orphan some of these files, it can be very painful to find those, get those back. And then you’re never really sure you have the right one. So, let’s say you orphan a single screw. Okay. Worse case, you go download it from McMaster again. But let’s say that you have somehow ended up with a part file that’s in an unknown Rev (or even if we know what the Rev should be) and maybe it’s in some directory. It can very easily happen that you inadvertently saved it to the wrong directory. So, maybe you’re working in Current Design but you’re using a file from Rev 02. But that file is actually Rev 07. So, you grab the stuff out of Current Design, move it to Rev 08. You missed the Rev 07 file. Well, now, all of a sudden, we’ve got no clue where to find that file. And it’s difficult to find without pulling up every single file in . . . on the . . . in the subdirectory on the Z-drive and on your machine, and try to figure out which one it is. And even then, we’ve got to go by the Revision number and properties. And that’s just painful because that still doesn’t tell us it’s the right one. Because there could be, like, a 7 there and an 07 here and which one’s the correct one.

If you do Pack and Go, you avoid soooooo much of that trouble. It’s . . . Pack and Go is your friend. I just . . . this is one of those things that’s important to emphasize.

So, a similar thing applies to other programs. For example, PowerPoint has a Pack and Go feature; use it. Grab all of these images, put them in a Pack and Go file, because that . . . most of the time when you’re working on projects, you end up with images in different subdirectories. It’s on a local machine. It’s on a . . . it’s on your network. But if you do Pack and Go it grabs all those and puts them in the same space. Yes, you use more disk space. I’ll argue that disk space is dirt cheap compared to a few hours of looking for a file you can’t find ten minutes before your deadline.

The same goes for . . . you know, you’re working in an Adobe product. If you have the option to embed it in the file rather than link to it – embed it in the file. I realize this can make your . . . catalog a gigabyte in size. But, it’s so much better than two months’ later pulling it up and missing files. There again, disk space is cheap; time’s not. So, embed those files. Pack and Go. You know, use these features in these programs so that it makes it easier.

Alright, so, it’s also important to note that you have a PLM system, and you do check-ins and check-outs. It’s going to be a little different because that software is going to manage a lot of what we’re talking about. So, I’m not . . . I not sure. I think it’s beyond the scope of this podcast to go in depth on . . . on the PLM systems. But, they’re great. They’re awesome. They help manage some of those. So, in this case, we’re just talking about the manual.

But, on the other hand, if you understand the manual, it makes it a lot easier to understand the PLM.

If you have any questions about this, please don’t hesitate to give me a call. I know it’s kind of a long section here and technical, but happy to entertain your calls, questions. It’s 1-800-722-7987. That’s Montie Roland. Email – montie (M-O-N-T-I-E)@montie(M-O-N-T-I-E).com. Or you can visit our website – www.montie.com. You can see the results of client work we’ve done at the montie.com website. Or you can see some of our projects that we’ve done for ourselves at montiegear (M-O-N-T-I-E-G-E-A-R).com.

I hope this has been beneficial. Montie Roland, signing out.

How to Set Up a New Project for Your Design and Engineering Team – Part 1

After many years of setting up projects for our industrial designers and mechanical engineers, here are my thoughts on some basic best practices on how to structure your files and keep your project organized.

Victor Sketching

 

Here is the transcript:

Good morning. My name is Montie Roland. I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina.

And this morning what I’d like to talk about is how to structure your project from a file standpoint, from an organizational standpoint.

Montie Design is a full-service design firm in Morrisville, North Carolina. We provide industrial design, mechanical engineering and prototyping capability on demand to help you move your project from concept to ready-for-the-shipping-dock.

It’s always good to have processes and procedures. Now, I think . . . and, of course, any company can take that too far. And the counterpoint is if you take it too far, then you get that big company mentality and you’re painful to deal with. But, a lot of these processes and procedures benefit the company. I’ll be the first to admit that, as we’ve grown, we’ve . . . I’ve not been the biggest proponent of procedure and process, because, as a small group, you get everybody reading your mind and you don’t have to worry about it. But . . . this changes as you have more employees, because you have different levels, different capabilities, you have to keep re-training. And so, all of a sudden, it’s more important to have policies and procedures just to make life easier for your staff.

It’s also important when you think about interns. You’ve got someone’s who’s going to be there for a limited amount of time. You want to get them in, get them trained, and get them some experience; and then also get some work product completed so it’s a win-win for both the employer and for the intern.

So, let’s just dive in. A lot of these topics I’ve covered in past podcasts were much more . . . higher level. And so, this case, though, I want to dive in and let’s talk about this in detail.

So, first thing is that when you think about how do you organize your files. You want to have a place that everybody can get to. So, let’s say . . . let’s call it the “Z-drive”. And on the Z-drive, you have a space that is a shared working space. Now, what you need is you need a set of rules so everybody knows what to do. On a project where there’s more than one contributor, you really want to have a gatekeeper. So, the gatekeeper is in charge of files that go in certain locations. One is that files that go in current design and the other is files that go in your release directories. So, let’s kind of roll through those directories so I don’t get too far ahead of myself.

So, we’ve got a project direction. Let’s say our project is Zigsess (spell that one). And so, we got the . . . so I created a directory in this case . . . maybe for the client Zigsess. And then I have to make a decision. Is it likely I’m going to have multiple projects from this client? Or is it likely that I might just have . . . one. Or, not now . . . So maybe what I’ll do . . . I’m thinking that this might be a repeat client. So, let’s say that, if it is, then I’m going to want to have a directory for each project that we do for that client. So, we’ve got a directory called “Clients”; and then the client name. And then underneath that, let’s say Project A is the Vertical Inductor. So, we create a directory called “Vertical Inductor”. Alright. And under Vertical Inductor, we’ve got several directories. And what we try to do is keep these file names the same so that it’s consistent for everybody. Otherwise, you run the risk of people not knowing where the correct file is, which could be really, really bad. Because if you don’t maintain control over where files are placed, then you end up with names like . . . “12 February ’04”; “13 February ’04”; “29 November”; or, “Latest”; “Latest Old”, “Latest New”. So, you can imagine that someone stepping in who isn’t the person who created those directories is not going to have a clue which is the correct set of files. Same thing for the person who created them comes back six months’ later, may go, “Ah . . . I don’t know.” And the scary part is you might grab the wrong files. Let’s say you grab the wrong files and made some parts. You just made some scrap metal, potentially. Or worse than that, it may take you a while to figure out what’s scrap metal and what’s not, and that may be more expensive than just doing the whole thing again. So, in order to avoid that entanglement, what we do is to have a directory called “Current Design”. Current Design is the working directory. After the project’s over, the files in Current Design, theoretically, should be the latest, but may or may not. So, then . . . while the projects active, Current Design should always have the up-to-date files. And that’s not necessarily released, but that’s the current working files. And by working files, it means the ones you’re working on; maybe if you just released and maybe those are the latest (same as the released). But if you’re between releases and your current design is your . . . is the directory that you’re using to pull files out of.

Now, once you get a lot of hands working on a project, it’s always good to have a gatekeeper. And the gatekeeper is the person that controls what goes in Current Design. So, he may have ten people providing files to him; then he turns around and puts those in Current Design.

We also have a directory called “Released”. Released contains files that have been released. And what released means is its gone out to the vendor. Because most of the time we’re operating in a development mode, our release policies may be a little different than your released policies in a large manufacturing facility. Or in any manufacturing facility. Because what we do is every time a drawing goes out to a vendor, we bump up the Rev. In absence of a specific revision policy, what we do is we go up by numbers. So, we’ve got a part number, and then the revision starts at 00; goes to 01, 02, 03, 04, 05. So, we can have a release at 07 or release at 12, a release at 99.

So, one of the things is I think it’s important to keep in mind is that your revision number structure is something that someone eventually picks. And as long as it works for you it just doesn’t matter. It just needs to be consistent. You can do A.1, A.2; we’ve seen that. You can do . . . a major release as A, a minor release is numerical. So, it could be A.01 or A01. We just think it’s easier just to use 01, 02, 03, 04.

Now, whenever we release a drawing to a vendor, or send it out to someone who . . . may use that to make a part, then, if we make changes to that drawing, we revise that drawing. If the change is very, very small, i.e., does not affect the final result that you get back (and maybe it’s not rev’d at that point) . . . so, for example, if you add a comma to a note that cannot possibly affect the outcome of the part (it’s just to fix some grammar), then maybe you don’t release that if you’re in the middle of development. At the end of a project, everybody has drawings; I’m sure you’ll need to rev that.

So, the release directory . . . so, we’ve got a directory called Released, under our Induction directory. And so then underneath that, we’ll have “Rev (R-E-V) 01”. And so that’s our first release, when we first send out drawings to someone, or to the client, call it Rev 01. The next time we have a release, we’ll call it “Rev 02”. It’s important to note that part numbers and assembly-drawn numbers may not necessarily align with this Rev 02, Rev 03; it just means it’s the next time we released a set of drawings. Now, it may (depending on the client, depending on the client’s needs) there is a possibility that we may rev the assembly to match the top level assembly to match that revision in the directory. It kind of depends on where we are on the development process. But that way you always know that here is the latest and greatest that we’ve sent out. The . . . Release directory also gives you a historical reference for what you’re working on. So, that way you can go back and look at earlier versions of files if you need to. Hopefully you never need to, but if you have a corrupted set of files, or something along those lines, you could.

We also create “Concept” directories. And that Concept directories will then have sub-directories underneath that indicating which part of the project. So, maybe if you did . . . sketches for the rear-mount, or the fascia, they might have separate directories. Usually we name concept sketches by date, which seems to work well, but that’s up to you. So, usually what we’ll do . . . so, we’ll do “2014 Sept 24 – “ and then the name of the concept . . . “Rounded Fascia Concept”, not PDF or what-have-you.

If you have any questions about this, please don’t hesitate to give me a call. It’s kind of a long section here and technical, but happy to entertain your calls, questions. It’s 1-800-722-7987. That’s Montie Roland. Email – montie (M-O-N-T-I-E)@montie(M-O-N-T-I-E).com. Or you can visit our website – www.montie.com. You can see the results of client work we’ve done at the montie.com website. Or you can see some of our projects that we’ve done for ourselves at montiegear (M-O-N-T-I-E-G-E-A-R).com.

I hope this has been beneficial. Montie Roland, signing out.

Joys of Unintended Use

Sometimes products can be used in ways you didn’t intend when you originally created them.  As an example, the Camping Shelf we design for Montie Gear was originally intended as a camp kitchen organizer / food prep area.

The realization came, as we were standing on top of the mountain, that this shelf would also work really, really well to hold up our camp shower.  Not only did it hold up the camp shower it also held up the wash clothes, soap and served as a hanger for the nozzle.  It also made it easy to pull the bucket down to add more hot water.  Here are some pictures of the final result.

To buy one of these wonderful shelves, please visit www.montiegear.com.

Product Win – Paintball Marker Rack

The variety of paintball markers seems endless. They come in many, many shapes and sizes so designing a “universal” rack looked like a daunting task at first. The secret to the success of this design was to look for areas of commonality between the different markers. We identified the areas that didn’t vary significantly from marker to marker. These included the thickness of the pistol grip, barrel outer diameters and the presence of finger guards that varied in location, but along a single vector.

The rack has to keep the marker upright to prevent balls from spilling out of the hopper. The rack also holds the marker upright for maintenance, hopper fills, and to protect the marker when not in use.

The rack quickly breaks down for transportation. The aggressive shape is designed to compliment the nature of the paintball sport. The racks are available on the Montie Gear site starting in March. Do you like the rack? Give us a call at 1-800-722-7987 and we’ll put our engineering and design skills to use on your product!

AnchorNeed Engineering or Design Help?
We can bring our know how and drive for success to your products and help you succeed. Call us today help with:- mechanical engineering
– industrial design
– prototypes
– project management and cost prediction

We help manufacturers engineer, develop and prototype new products. Whether you are a funded startup or a medium-size manufacturer, we can help!

Contact Montie Roland at 800-722-7987 x107 or montie@montie.com. Please visit our website at www.montie.com.

Podcast: Types of Prototypes

There are many types of prototypes available today. Lets talk though the various types and help you decide which level of prototype is right for you.

Types of Prototypes

 

If you like what you hear, please give us a call so we can apply our process to your product and help you succeed in the marketplace.  Call 919-481-1845, email info@montie.com or visit www.montie.com to get started!

Here is the transcription of the podcast:

Audio Length: 12:04

Hi. My name is Montie Roland. And I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina.

Today I’d like to talk about prototypes.

What I’d like to do is spend a few minutes kind of going through what is a prototype and what does that term mean, and what are different variations, because those are very important.

When we think about a prototype, most people think something that was handmade and it generally looks like the product and generally functions, but it has some issues. But the broadest definition of prototype could extend all the way to something that’s a written document or that describes the device or service, or a sketch; all the way up to a pre-production prototype, which is almost identical to the production model.

So there’s this broad range. Now, when we get to either extreme of the range, we think about a written document describing something, that generally becomes a product specification. So, we tend to categorize that into some category. A sketch could be a prototype in the broadest sense. We tend to throw that as a, you know, a concept sketch. So, that leaves us with some of the stuff that’s in-between.

When we first start with a project one of the things we want to do is to get an understanding of what the project feels like; where it lives; what’s the context; and once we do that we start making sketches. And from those sketches, we start to get an idea of, you know, what the product can be and some directions we’d like to explore.

Pretty quickly we get to the point where we say, it’d be awful nice to hold this. Because the advantage of a prototype is that everybody in the room can instantly understand a lot about the product just by holding it; picking it up and looking at it. It’s been my experience that you can show videos, animations, drawings – all day long – but, there’s always this moment when people hold the prototype where they go, Oh. And they learn something. Or they tell you something they weren’t able to articulate before.

So, kind of the first level of prototype is what we call a “massing model”. And a massing model is a prototype that probably is non-functional, but has the external characteristics as far as gross size. So you can pick it up, hold it, flip it around, and go, Okay, that’s about the size I expected it to be; or, This fits my hand; or, This doesn’t. So, massing models tend to be crude. They’re made with quick processes. Maybe its 3-D printed; maybe it’s hand-carved from a block of foam. Something that came out of the shop real quick. So the idea there is to have a prototype that gives you that sense of size, shape. And then . . . but before we did the massing model, hopefully, someone proved out that the concept works. So let’s say we have a novel way of . . . I don’t know . . . let’s say shelling beans. Before we build a full-size sheller and we build the control panels and the user interface and the stand and . . . maybe what we ought to do first is to prove that this method will actually shell, let’s say, a butter bean. So, we need to build a proof of concept. A proof of concept, when we’re done, is going to prove that our theory works. So, let’s say that I have a theory that I can shell a butter bean quicker than a mechanical sheller with a blast of air. In that case what I’d want to do is build what we call proof of concept. Proof of concept has no relationship as far as its size, shape, materials, probably, to the product, because in the proof of concept, all we want to do is make sure it works. So we’re going to cobble together whatever we have available. That could pneumatic cylinders; that could be parts in back; stuff we buy at Lowe’s. But in the proof of concept we want to prove to everyone’s satisfaction that if we go forward with a design, we’ll have something that actually works. So that proof of concept is often this Rube Goldberg-type device. It’s overly complicated but we got it to work. Proof of concept and then move on with the design.

So, proof of concept. Maybe at the same time we’re working on a massing model, so we’re working on the industrial design at the same time we’re doing the proof of concept. Sometimes those are done linearly with one before the other. And then the next step is to start creating functional prototypes. These prototypes duplicate the function of the product. As we move forward these functional prototypes get more complex . . . well, hopefully, simpler as we improve the design. But the construction method becomes more precise, I should say. And so we’re proving out that our design works; not the concept works but the design works. And these prototypes are really more meant for use by the staff, engineers, industrial designers. They’re really not meant as a boardroom-type prototype.

So, boardroom-type prototype is a prototype that’s pretty. It has a nice finish; it feels good in your hand; it’s not the kind of prototype you want to beat up in the lab. It’s the kind of prototype you want to put on the boardroom table and have everybody go, Wow; this is great. We’re spending all this money to design this. I really like it. So that prototype that you give to the board members or the CEO or the upper management, is usually one that we want to have that really reflects an inherent quality in the product; that is appropriate for the context which it suits.

So, we’ve been building these functional prototypes. And then at some point we build this . . . I’m going to call it a “pretty prototype” or a “boardroom-class prototype”. And then after that, one of the next steps is to go back and build a beta level prototype or an alpha level prototype. Once you get to this point, you’re really starting to spend more money on the product because you want to have the prototype resemble as closely as possible the finished product. So, for example, sheet metal is always a challenge to prototype because most of the cost for one piece is in the set up. So, for sheet metal part, we might go to somebody at KODAMA or a Rapid Sheet metal, and get them to build a couple pieces, which on a per piece basis, makes it a very expensive part. But, it gives us a chance to validate the design before we make hundreds or thousands of parts. So it’s well worth it.

And these alpha and beta level prototypes are very close to what you would actually expect the product to be. And some differences – let’s say that we have a preproduction prototype, and it’s got an extrusion in it. We may not want to wait six weeks to have an extrusion. So, instead we machine one. Thermally, the performance is very similar. The cost, however, is probably a hundred to a thousand times higher for that particular part – maybe less, depending – then it would be to extrude it. So you have a very high cost part. But on the other hand we have something that’s completely functional.

So, we’ve kind of gone through this gamut here of prototypes from, you know, initial concepts to massing models, proof of concepts, functional prototypes (seen by the engineers), the boardroom-class prototype (which is upper management, board; maybe if you’re going for funding you want to have this beautiful prototype to show off at your pitch), and then the next level of prototype would be a preproduction, or an alpha or a beta, which is very, very similar to materials, construction, to the actual finished product. And that’s kind of how the pipeline of prototypes goes. A couple of best practices: one is to prototype often and prototype early. You always want to be building prototypes, even if it’s just to prototype one particular facet of the device, because that gives you a way to prove it out and make sure your design’s headed on the right track.

As you go through the project, prototypes typically get more expensive. Massing model prototype cut out on the bandsaw out of foam could be pretty inexpensive; whereas a preproduction unit, that’s heavily machine and rapid sheet metal and rapid machine parts, can get very expensive.

So, you want to match the level of prototype to the need and to the audience. It’s always critical. Because you want your prototype to be cost effective. You want it get the job done from a functional standpoint. And then also you want the prototype to reflect where the product is in the pipeline. So, if the product’s almost done, you’re prototypes probably need to be a little nicer than if you just started. And that helps from an acceptance standpoint, both to stakeholders and customers.

We’re a product development firm with core competencies in mechanical engineering and industrial design and prototyping.
I hope this was helpful. We build prototypes all the time. And we’d love to build one for you. My name is Montie Roland. Again, I’m with Montie Design. We’re in Morrisville, North Carolina. If you have any questions or commentary, positive or negative about this podcast, please engage me at montie@montie.com; M-O-N-T-I-E at M-O-N-T-I-E.com. Or give me a call at 919-481-1845. That’s 919-481-1845.

Thanks, and I hope you have a great day.

END AUDIO

 

Slingshot Testing Soon!

This week has been very interesting, we’ve been wanting to test the speed of ammo when fired from the Y-Shot Slingshot, so we setup a testing area in the shop. The setup uses a mechanical release to fire the slingshot and a chronograph to measure the speed. We ran into a problem with the chronograph, it would not work indoors because of the fluorescent lights in the shop.
We need an indoor testing area so we can control the temperature of the room and avoid wind and other variables. We found an accessory that uses infrared LED’s to give the constant light source the chronograph needs to work. We plan to test many different bands and record the speeds compared to our current slingshot bands. The setup is working very well, now that we have the chronograph lights, and we will be testing the bands soon.

Thanks for Reading,
Daniel Helms

"Looking down the barrel" of the slingshot.
“Looking down the barrel” of the slingshot.

Slingshot Test Area

Slingshot Test Area