Podcast: Micromanufacturing In Spring Creek

July – Micromanufacturing In Spring Creek

 

Audio Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks. Have a great evening. Bye.

END AUDIO

Podcast: Understanding Economics Helps Us Design Products with Impact

Lets talk about some of the misconceptions about economics and how that relates to the American political and economics systems.  One big misconception is how wealth is created.  Lets spend a few minutes and dive into the mechanisms of creating wealth.  Its important for entrepreneurs, product designers and engineers to understand how these systems work, so we can design and engineer products that have the greatest benefit for our clients and constituents.  Creation of new products is a great way to benefit our clients, their employees and the community.  Lets dive in and swim through some of these issues.

Misunderstanding Of Economics

NC Product Design Co-Op Lunch & Learn #3

This event is sponsored by the RTP Product Development Guild.

Date: Wednesday, 4 Mar 09

Time: Noon until 1:30

Location: Montie Design / Studio Hagler, 400 Dominion Dr., Morrisville, NC 27560

Purpose of Meeting: Get to know other, potential co-op members in a relaxed environment.  Six attendees will have five minutes each in front of the group to explain their business.  This is an excellent opportunity for us to get to know each other on a professional and personal basis.  If you would like to have your five minutes of fame, please purchase the ticket above with the time slot that you would like to have.

Purpose of Co-Op: Develop a standards-based community that presents a unified public face to the greater business community, both locally and nationally.  Potential clients see the Co-Op and understand that here is a group of design / prototyping-related businesses that already know each other and work together well.

Who Should Come: Local product design, development and prototyping vendors who are interested in working together in a constructiveand substantial way to bring more business to local design community.

This is a great way for entrepreneurs, engineers, managers, and purchasing agents to find local vendors.  If you have a need for engineering, design, or prototyping help this is a great place to not only find new vendors but personally meet the individuals running those companies.

Questions: If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Montie Roland at montie@montie.com, or by phone at 919-481-1845.

Pre-registration is Required:  Register at http://ncproductdesign3.eventbrite.com/

Guild Building 101 The Rise of Expectations and Elevator Pitches

Starting a Product Development Guild has been a journey that has lasted about two and a half years. The first two years were mainly discussions. The last five months have mainly involved laying the groundwork for the guild. We have now moved into a mode where we are starting to recruit members and look at project submissions.

Tom Vass first mentioned the idea to me two years ago at Carolinas PDMA event. At the time, I really didnt think much of the idea. It took several conversations for me to realize that the problem wasnt with the concept, but rather in the articulation and execution of the concept. So we spent about two years, off and on, discussing the concept and refining how we articulated a complex sounding concept.

One of the critical questions in developing in the Guild is ?why does the concept seem so complex The concept, in the simplest form I can come up with, goes something like this:

Consultants, and other product design professionals, band together in a contractual organization. This aspect of the organization most closely resembles a volunteer fire department. Guild members pay quarterly dues and an initiation fee to join. Guild members are proudly displayed in the Guild directory which is available online and in a print format next year.

Product champions submit project proposals to the guild in a structured format. The Guild evaluates each submission and picks the best submissions. The Guild looks for product concepts that are going to help launch product-driven companies. Products that combine technology from two different industries are given priority.

Once a product concept is selected, the product champion becomes the nucleus of a seven member team. Project champions can be inventors, entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneurs, a designee from a start-up company, or a designee from an existing corporation that has a product concept that they would like to spin-off into a new company. Six of the seven team members are product development professionals. These members could come from disciplines such as industrial design, engineering, software, electronics, business management, marketing or sales.

Projects run for six months. The goal of the project is to complete the fuzzy front end design of the product. At the start of the project, the Guild receives options for the clients stock. These options can only be exercised upon a trigger event such as a sale or initial public offering (IPO). At the end of the project the Guild transfers a portion of those options to team members.

Projects are structured so Guild members spend two to four hours per week on the project. The product champions (client representative) spend fifteen to twenty hours per week on the project.

The team makes a presentation at the end of the project to selected angel investors and venture capitalists. This last step of the project is designed to help the client get funding for the next step in designing and then commercializing their product.

The goal is to complete twenty six month projects per year (ten every six months). This would add twenty new, high-growth companies to the RTP area each year and significantly impact the local economy. This means that the efforts of approximately one hundred and twenty Guild members can help drive the future economy in the regional area for the next ten to twenty years..

I am still struggling with how to present this in a thirty second elevator pitch. This is not an overly complex process when you consider the amount of work to be done. Sometimes I wonder if the previous presentation is trying to explain too much. Maybe the elevator pitch should go something like:

The RTP Product Development Guild is a confederation of product design, and business, who work together to help local entrepreneurs and businesses commercialize their products. The Guild seeks to improve the regional economy in North Carolina by helping create now product driven companies.

Salesmen reading this article are probably wondering why not just use the shorter version first. This is the difference between salesmen and product designers. Engineers and industrial designers often focus on how wonderful, and cool, the details are. A good salesman wants to convey just enough information to close the deal. They know that giving too much information is a possible way to talking your client out of doing business with you. The role of President of the Guild requires me to live in both worlds. This can be challenging at times. Product developers must always keep in mind that successful products find a balance between design and execution.

The chicken, or the egg, syndrome is alive and well at the RTP Product Development Guild. On one hand, we need a strong portfolio of consultants to attract product concept submissions. One the other hand we need strong product concepts to attract consultants. This means that there is going to be slow progress between now and the kick-off of the first project. We have spent the last month lining up product submissions and potential Guild members. The first inquiries about memberships are mostly coming from sales and marketing professionals. Another high interest area is the service providers. We have a class of Guild memberships that are designed to allow service providers to participate in the Guild without having to participate in a project team.

Another concurrent action item is to promote the Guild within the economic development community. North Carolinas economic development community is heavily focused, and politically invested, in the mode of using massive tax incentives to bring existing companies to North Carolina. There are other efforts that focus on using the universities and community colleges as concentrators of innovation. The Guild believes that there is enough talent, dedication and ambition in the local community to create new product-driven companies. This ?believe in the people? approach is counter-culture. The Guild isnt relying on tax incentives or government grants to drive new products to market. We are relying on our members to work together and help lift new companies from the stage of ?I have an idea? to the stage of ?we just rented office space?. Dreams are best pursued by the dreamer. It is hard to pursue someone elses dream. Product champions rev up your dreams, because you now have a home.

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