Freeze drying is a great way to preserve food. It is much easier than pressure canning while preserving more of the food value. A pressure canner is very simple and pretty much just requires heat and water to operate. Freeze dryers are automated and allow you to do other things while the freeze drying process is running.
Freeze dryers require reliable power (its a long process – 1-3 days) and a functioning freeze dryer. The “functioning freeze dryer” part may sound silly to say, but I mention this because a freeze dryer is a complex piece of equipment. A freeze dryer is very similar to to the heat pump that heats and cools your house plus a vacuum pump.
If your freeze dryer has a mechanical or electrical failure then you could be left in a situation where you are unable to process your harvest until after it is repaired.
Here is my experience with Harvest Right tech support.
Day 1 – Saturday – freeze drying quits and screen goes black. I login to Harvest Right website and create a tech support / trouble ticket
Day 3 – Monday – Receive email from Harvest Right and set up tech support call on Thursday
Day 6 – Thursday – Tech support call with Harvest Right to troubleshoot problem. Thankfully there is a workaround. There was a $45 charge for the tech support call
Day 14 – Parts ship from Harvest Right. Note it took 6 business days for the parts to ship
Day 20 – Parts scheduled to arrive
The tech support lady was knowledgeable and diagnosed the problem quickly. Thankfully there was a work around. Otherwise the freeze dryer would have been down for 20+ days.
What to Do When Your Freeze Dryer Breaks Down
There are several options to get through this period until you can repair your freeze dryer.
Option #1 – continue to fill trays and stack those trays in your freezer while you wait for replacement parts to arrive from Harvest Right.
Both extra trays and stackers are purchases the will help you make the most of your freeze drying in regular times. When your garden is really producing or when local produce is plentiful, consider having a 5-6 sets of trays and some freezer space. That will help you deal with surges in available food.
Option #2 – keep spare parts on hand so you can repair the freeze dryer without having to wait for a tech support call and shipment of spare parts from Harvest Right
Option #3 – come up with a workaround to get the freeze dryer back up and running. Harvest Right was great about helping with this
Prevention / Recovery
Having spare parts on hand is a great insurance policy. The tech support lady at Harvest Right took time to help create list of spare parts. These are parts that are often replaced. There is no way to guarantee that the spare parts will be the ones that are needed if there is a breakdown in the future, but it is good insurance to have these. Also, parts like the door gasket and vacuum hose o-ring will eventually need to be replaced.
Here are some commonly replaced spare parts
Spare Parts Kit – Medium Harvest Right Freeze Dryer – 2020 Model
Harvest Right Part #
Power Switch (M, L) 2.000 Units 7.000 50.00 7.0% $ 7.00
Power Harness (M) – Medium FD Power Cable
Part # N/A
Capacitive Kit- USB & Touchscreen
Door Gasket (M) – Medium Door Gasket
JIC Hose O-Ring
Vacuum Hose (JIC, O-Ring)
Valve (Ball, Drain)
Oil Pump (Standard, 110V 60Hz) – Standard Harvest Right Oil Pump
HR Oil – Food Safe Vacuum Pump Oil
Vacuum Hose (Standard, JIC, 3/8″ x 36″)
$729 is a lot of money. But when you look the timetable above, it is very possible that a repair could take 20+ days. We had several sets of trays, cookie sheets and zip lock bags and that got us through the 6 calendar days to get the freeze dryer back up and running. Waiting 20+ days would be rough, especially during peak harvest.
If you have to pay for a tech support call with Harvest Right, then make sure to schedule a follow call (during your initial call) to discuss any issues that you have installing any replacement parts. That way you avoid an additional $45 charge and a delay in setting up the 2nd call.
I have received no compensation, products or other considerations from any company mentioned above. If Harvest Right wants to send a freeze dryer or more medium trays, that would be great! Ditto for Freeze Drying Supplies. The links take you directly to the company website with no affiliate relationship.
Lets take a few minutes and talk about how redefining words and can be dangerous to you and your family.
Hoarding is a term you often hear from people who refuse to prepare for the possibility of a disaster (natural or man made). Often those people think anyone who prepares for bad times is just a “hoarder”. Even saying that while state and federal government agencies encourage people to have two weeks supply of food and water.
Discernment and common sense are in short supply these days. Some people make fun who people who take steps to protect their family. Those same people often had parents who stored up food for the winter. Those people have determined that storing up food for the winter or bad times is something that rednecks and preppers do. They feel that the world is a more civilized place now and that isn’t needed. At the same time they are spending way more for groceries than they need, just because they don’t want to put effort into preserving food (and buying that food in season when it is much less expensive). Maybe they feel like its too much work. Who knows. But you at least suspect that you need to prepare for an increasingly unsure future in America because you are still reading.
Don’t let someone’s ignorance and normalcy bias dictate what you do.
So, when we got the opportunity to pick up the quiet quiver product, it seemed pretty cool. And I spent a little bit of time with it on top of the mountain a while back, but haven’t spent the day hunting with it. So, I’m going to do that. So that was today. So, I took the quiver off my bow. And I will say that when you remove the hard quiver off your bow do it at home, because if you forget to do it at home and it’s oh-dark-thirty and you’re standing in the dark by the truck, when you unscrew that quiver and don’t realize you unscrewed the catch nut on the backside and that falls down, and it’s black and its dark (and its early) probably best to take that quiver off at home, the hard quiver. It took me a little while to find that nut. Found it though, so life’s good.
So, we’ve got the quiet quiver and the quiet quiver is kind of like a single strap backpack, but it’s just big enough to hold your arrows and a couple of real small pockets. One of the pockets was intended as a bowstring pocket for longbow shooters. What that allows you to do is to get the arrows off your bow and cuts down your visual signature as well. So, when you’re in a tree stand and you’ve got six fletchings or three fletchings (or however many you have in your quiver) and you move your bow, you’re taking those brightly colored fletchings and you’re waving them in front of the deer. A quiet quiver hides those fletchings inside the quiver, so you’re not adding that visual signature to your repertoire. Instead you’ve got a fairly quiet way to hold that.
So, here’s some things I learned with actually taking this out in the field. One is that, of course, it’s one more thing to manage on your back. So, if you’re carrying a hunting pack that has calls in it, my line to pull my bow up a tree, snacks, what have you – then it’s something you’ve got to figure out how you manage both of them. Because if you just throw this over one shoulder, then I don’t like that because its constantly moving around. If you put it over shoulders, then you’ve got a strap that’s going underneath your pack or over your pack, so how are you going to kind of rig that. And the other option is that you can use the strap . . . unsnap the strap and connect it to straps on some hunting packs that are meant to hold equipment. That’s an option depending on what type of hunting pack you use, or maybe you sew something on or Velcro or zip tie something on that allows you to snap your quiver into your pack. And that’s really nice. I haven’t done that yet. But it seems like that would be pretty easy to do, just looking at everything.
Once you get the quick quiver situated on your back, to where you’re comfortable with how you’ve kind of rigged everything up – which strap goes where and so forth – then it’s light enough weight that you really don’t notice the weight. The arrows are light, the quiver’s light. It’s just not a big weight penalty. Some nice things are that once you get up in your tree stand, you can unsnap the quiet quiver and snap that to a carabiner off your tree belt or off your tree stand or what have you. And then its right there at the right height if you need. So, you can quietly drop your (in my case, left) hand down, push the arrow up slightly off the foam that’s capturing the broadhead lightly, and then push it up and then slide it down. And then you’re ready to nock the arrow.
We have product called a Hunter’s Friend that’s a Montie Gear product, that works great for bow hunting; it works good for rifle hunting. It works awesome for bow hunting, though. And what it allows you to do is to strap this to the tree and it basically sticks an arm out from the tree; an aluminum, ultra-lightweight arm. And that arm supports your bow. It also supports my binoculars. And the other this is the strap for quiet quiver. So now I’ve kind of got everything I need right there, at arm’s reach, but I’m not having to hold onto that bow for four hours. Which, I get tired of doing that after a while. And so, the quiet quiver works really well with the Montie Gear Hunter’s Friend. And the other place it works really well, too, is that after I came out of the tree stand, I decided to do a tour of the property and just see what I flushed. And so, I had the quiet quiver strap over my shoulder, kind of messenger bag style, cross style, and that works fairly well once you get the length of the strap adjusted right. So that way I can move easily. It’s really not in the way of shooting my bow. And so, overall, that worked pretty good. The downside’s I see are that its one more piece of stuff to manage, moving in and out. It manages easily on the tree stand. I was really happy about how its not a pain when you’re in the tree stand to manage. Now, of course, that’s going to vary, too, depending on the size of your tree stand, how you set up your tree stand. There’s a lot of things that could impact that. But, like I said, using the Hunter’s Friend, getting in and out – I really didn’t have any problems. So, I was pretty happy with that.
So, this wasn’t a product we designed. This was a product from a gentleman that we were introduce to up in the mountains. And he’s a longbow hunter and so the few minutes I spent with the product, when we met up at Troublesome Gap to take delivery of the first batch, it seemed good; but I wanted to test that out, of course, in real conditions.
So, overall, I think that for this to be an effective product, just like with any piece of equipment you’re going to use for hunting, spend a few minutes before you get on the trail, before you get in the stand, and work out how you’re going to carry it, how you’re going to use it. Practice with it. And especially, since, as I said, if you mix a hunting pack with this, you want to make sure that you can don the hunting pack and quiver easily, and doff it (or put it on and take it off) so that you’re not fighting that in the dark. And then the other thing, too, is think about how this works with your tree stand. Where do you put your gear and how is that going to fit into that? I think, overall, though, I was pretty pleased. I’m pretty happy. Some notes – the one that holds twelve arrows, I carried six in it. You could put twelve in there; its plenty big for six. We have one that’s a six-arrow one in the batch we got. And that would be fine for six or fine for a lower number. I think that one thought there is that if you’re only going to carry three arrows, then get a six one; don’t get a twelve one because its just a little extra bulk that you don’t need. If you want to carry more arrows, if you want to carry six or more, then the twelve is fine. So, I would just throw that out there. The twelve arrow version is big enough for twelve, and you might feel like it’s a little too big if you’re only going to carry three. At the same, the six-arrow one you can fit six in. Just a note for sizing.
We also do have a left-handed one that you can get. And if you need a special one, we can special order that. There’s so much hand content that goes into these that doing a special order is not really a big deal. They’re all made one-by-one, anyway, and there’s so much labor that goes into it. It’s not a big deal. It is quiet. It definitely lives up to that name. There’s not a lot of noise. The only noise that you can have off this, one is unsnapping it and snapping the snaps for the strap; and those nylon snaps can be a little noisy. So, I think that’s a negative. But any strap you’ve got that if you want to unsnap it in the field, there’s going to be some noise. Other than that, it’s extremely quiet.
You may want to, when you place your arrows in there, spread them out. I just kind of slid six arrows in, in a bunch. And there was a little bit of noise when the shafts hit each other. But I only saw that noise when I was messing with the arrows and I was in the tree stand and, like, for example, I’m pulling an arrow out. One time there was a little bit of noise. Like I said, because I really didn’t put any time into placing the arrows carefully, I think the next time I do it, I’ll take the twenty seconds and just kind of spread those out. There’s a foam, a very robust foam, that the broadhead sinks down into and just spreads those broadheads out, so that they don’t touch. As I said, I was a little sloppy about that and it caused a little bit of noise in the tree stand. But, overall, it’s pretty doggone quiet, especially when you’re moving through the woods. It’s soft. But if you spread those arrows out, you’re just not going to have any noise come off of that.
And the other thing, too, is that you may want to consider if you’re going to attach this to your Hunter’s Friend, and you’ve shorten the straps, then you don’t need to unsnap it. If you want to snap it to something else, you may want to consider leaving a carabiner on your tree stand, and then dropping that, like, for example, on your tree belt, I’ll leave a rope, a static line on a tree belt. I’ll put it up first of the season. And then every time I go its already there; its not something I have to carry. And I can snap it and go up the tree stand safely, and come out of the tree stand. So, I’ll leave a carabiner up there.
So, another option, of course, is to take the strap that goes across your body and just drop that onto the carabiner, which is a little quieter than unsnapping. So, there again, that’s a matter, too, of you working out how your gear’s going to interact, and how you’re going to use it and a little training and a little practice and all’s good.
So, that’s kind of my review on the way back. I did not get a deer today. I did not take a deer. I saw three nice ones, and never had a shot. So, they’re deer. But, that’s alright. It’s always a learning experience. In this case, now, I’ve got a much better idea of some of the pattern that they’re following as they’re moving. Fortunately, I got to watch them follow that pattern as they left. But, fortunately, though, it was a nice day hunting. If we got something every time out, then it’d be a boring sport. It’s a nice activity. It’s nice to get out. I appreciate Al letting me use his place.
I hope that this helps you, not only with thinking about the Quiet Quiver and whether that’s something you want to own or give as a gift, but also, too, it gives you insight into, you know, some of my hunting experiences which I enjoy getting out to. There are people that are much better hunters than I am. But I definitely enjoy it. And occasionally I’ll harvest a deer, catch a fish. But, in the meantime, I’m pretty happy. Good day and a beautiful day, especially for late October. I’m hoping this weather doesn’t get too nasty before my trip to the mountains. The last couple years it wasn’t too bad. And the year before that it was just cold. When you roll out of that tent at seven degrees, nine degrees, that’s just cold. But, there again, it was beautiful. It was quiet. You could hear the dear walking towards you for, if felt like, a mile. Unfortunately, they could probably hear me for (felt like) a mile. But we’ll see what happens in a few weeks, and I’ll try to send you some pictures. And we’ll kind of go from there.
Thanks, and have a great weekend and enjoy your next hunting trip. And if you’re looking for a present for your hunter boyfriend or husband or brother or . . . ha-ha, or sister or wife that hunts; there’s a lot of women that enjoy hunting. So, if you need something as a present for them, then I would encourage you to check out some of our Montie Gear products. They’re pretty cool. It’s not something you’re going to see everywhere you go. We only make a few, and have a good time making them. So, it’s a little different approach. Made in America. And we make products pretty much the way we want to make them. A lot of times the way I want to make them. But I get a lot of input from the community, too, so its really not an “I”, it’s a “we”. And so, we end up with products that are different; they’re tough; they’re rugged; and you can be proud to give as a gift or maybe one day you’ll give it to your grandkids or your kids when they take up hunting. So, we try to make heirloom quality products for our outdoor gear that you can feel good about that you’re going to give as an heirloom.
The Quiet Quiver, it’s a soft case; we’ll see how that wears over time. If you take good care of it, it should last a lifetime. It’s built to. And the Hunter’s Friend, that’s aluminum and stainless steel; if you don’t bend it or do something crazy with it, then that should last multiple lifetimes.
So, this is Montie Roland. I am signing off. And I’m going to go put up my gear and see what my wife’s fixed to eat. So, thanks for listening and have a great day.
Montie’s Note: Here is a Montie Gear product story that gives a insight into the design and a use case that includes testing and field use by the designer. This was a customer newsletter item.
Fall is synonymous with whitetail deer hunting in the South. Our wives become “deer widows” for 2-3 months while we disappear into the woods and look for that giant buck we’ve been watching for. Wives get used to seeing their husbands up late at night looking a pictures from trail cams and learn to cook venison. Saturday mornings are viewed from 20 feet up in a tree stand. Good times and priceless moments.
The Hunter’s Friend was initiated by a suggestion from Al Davis, owner of AllFab Solutions. He is an avid hunter and wanted a way to hang his bow or rifle from a tree without having to run a screw into the tree and damage the tree. A few weeks later, the Hunter’s Friend was born.
Getting your gear to the field and into the tree stand means work. Gear that you take up to the tree must be compact, lightweight and easy to deploy. Setting up your gear while you are hanging from a tree and 20 feet up means it must be well designed and flawlessly task at hand. Anything else is just something that will get left at home.
The Hunter’s Friend holds your bow (or rifle) in the ready position. Holding your bow, or rifle, in your lap can be tiring after a few hours. The Hunter’s Friend solves that problem while keeping your bow at the ready position. I also use it to hold my calls, binoculars and range finder. It straps around the tree without damage so you keep the landowner happy.
I believe that we have 3 in stock so don’t delay in ordering yours, or suggest it as a gift. Check out the pictures below from a recent hunt in Chatham County, NC.
Do really like your Montie Gear slingshot, AR-Rest or other product? Help us tell the world about the Handmade, Heirloom Quality products that we make right here in NC!
Reviewing your Montie Gear product is a great way to give potential customers access to your opinion before they buy. We’ve streamlined the review process to make it quick and easy for you. Please a take a few minutes and review your Montie Gear products by going to www.montiegear.com, logging into your account, navigating to your favorite Montie Gear product at www.montiegear.com and then click on “Add Review”. Once your review is submitted, please email me at email@example.com and I’ll email a coupon code good for 25% off your next purchase!
Our philosophy for Montie Gear products is pretty straight forward. We provide “Heirloom Quality Products That are Troublesome Gap Tough”.
Many products in today’s world are meant to have a limited life time. A good example is that cell phone that you need to replace every two years. It works great, but over time technology changes and the fragile electronics have a limited lifetime. We want to design and sell products that have a very long lifetime and may actually get passed along to your kids or grandchildren. Many rifles get passed along from parent to children, sometimes marking a rite of passage. Granted a shooting rest isn’t as special as your Grandfather’s rifle. However, we work to design and sell products that are simple, elegant and high enough quality that you will want to pass them along to your kids or grandchildren.Troublesome Gap Tough
Troublesome Gap is a place in Western North Carolina, near the peak of Hap Mountains and overlooking Spring Creek, NC. My parents purchased the property over 40 years ago. I grew up spending time there. We cut firewood for heat, picked blackberries and raspberries, and spent some great weekends up there. Troublesome Gap is remote and rugged, the prefect place to test our products. Troublesome Gap Tough means that the products are rugged and easy-to-use. A delicate, hard-to-use product is a liability in the field, so we avoid that by making sure all our products provide a great customer experience and are built to last, even in demanding conditions.
As President of Montie Design, I am proud the fact that we are shipping high-quality, U.S. made products. I am also proud to be an American.
If you are going lean, the boss has to set the example. One of the places where I spend a lot of time is at the shipping desk. So my 2 second lean project for the week is cleaning up the shipping desk. Here are the results.
Questions, comments, videos, suggestions are all welcome!
Managing Production and Inventory in Context of Lean
by Montie Roland
Audio File: 2016 Mar – Managing Production and Inventory in Context of Lean.mp3
Good morning. My name is Montie Roland with Montie Gear in Apex, North Carolina. And I’d like to spend a few minutes talking about managing your production and inventory in the context of Lean.
So with Lean, you have a thing called a Kanban, and the ideas that you have established a level of inventory that you need to maintain in order to meet your customer needs and your anticipated customer needs. So, when we think about it, we’ve got two types of parts and assemblies. One is parts and assemblies that we’re going to use to make finished goods, and the others, of course, finished goods that we’re making in anticipation of sales.
There’s a lot of different sizes of companies out there and a lot of different types of products. And some products are built to inventory and some products are built to order. And so if we just look at Montie Gear, in the past I’m realizing we had this kind of crazy system that didn’t really serve us well financially. And so in the past what we do is that we would build a batch of products and in this, the reason why we build a batch is mainly because of we’ve got several processes where we need to have a minimum order. And there’s just no getting around that without having ridiculous costs. So let’s say that with slingshots, the two places where we have to have minimum orders – one is to cut the slingshot and then where we do our secondary machining ops. You do the set up – that’s a lot of the work – and so you really want to have a minimum batch size through the secondary machining. And then the other one is paint or finishing if it’s to anodize (it’s called finishing). So, finishing also has a minimum order and can get very expensive if you don’t do a minimum number of parts. So in this case, we’re not going to have a single piece flow through these external processes. But we can have single piece flow through our assembly area (maybe). Alright, so in the past what we did, somebody (usually me) would sit down and say, okay, we need to build this, this and this. I guess we’re getting low on this. And I don’t know, we’ll sell these. Well, there was a huge lack of scientific method here. And what that tends to do is that tends to eat up capital because if you’re building parts that you’re not going to use for the next year, that’s money that’s tied up; it’s really not doing you any good. And it’s not doing your customers any good either because its money you can’t spend on products that they really want. So the next step for us, I believe, is to create a chart or a spreadsheet that shows each product; what we sold last year, what we sold this year, and the year before. And that way we’ve got three years’ worth of sales. And then we can say, okay, well based on this historical data, we expect we’ll sell this many of this product this year. Then what I need to do is to take and apply a time to manufacture that good through all the processes. And the external processes occupy ninety percent (or higher) of our manufacturing calendar days for Montie Gear. So, paint, water jetting, machining; what have you. And so if I apply a calendar date or calendar time to each one of these products . . . so, for example, with a slingshot. Maybe generally the queue at ADR for the water jet cutting is two weeks. And let’s say the queue for paint is generally two weeks, and the queue for machining is generally a week. So, I’ve got a five week delay from the time I order to the time I get parts that are ready for us to assemble. In this case, we’re cutting the frames, we’re painting the frames and the side plates, and then we’re machining the secondary operations in the frames. And so I’ve got a five week delay. So then if I know that I’m going to sell -amount of slingshots this year, then I can take and multiply that sales number by five-over-fifty-two. Now, I take the yearly sales, multiply by five weeks, divide by fifty-two weeks to prorate it for five out of fifty-two weeks. And that tells me how many slingshots I should sell during the period while I’m waiting on more slingshots. So, I establish a number that I know I expect to sell while I’m making more. And then also, I need to factor in any seasonal demands. So, you know, look at, for example, Christmas. So we sell more slingshots at Christmas than any other time just before. So I need to also factor in the seasonal affect. So, the yearly sales and then bump it up by the percentage that is increased for Christmas sales. Now, I know what I need to keep on hand. But I also need to apply safety stock, because there’s always going to be some variation. So, I don’t know, let’s say our safety stock – we’ve got to come up with a metric for that – but maybe the safety stock is one month’s sales. So now what I’ve got is I’ve got my yearly sales, prorated for the amount of time it takes to make those pieces, and then times the yearly sales. I’ve got how many I need during the period when I’m making parts; what my safety stock is; and then any adjustments for seasonal variation. And that gives me a much better idea of how many I need to keep on hand.
Now, I’ve also got to factor in the effect of minimum orders on this, because I want to keep my production economical by ordering above the minimum order. But that gives me an idea of how many of each product I should stock. And that way I don’t have inventory sitting on the shelves that I’m just not going to sell. Now, this can get a little . . . you know, this is not a perfect system but this is an excellent baseline. And it works well for products – or I think it will work well for products like the slingshot, where we have continuous sales of those. We have other products that the sales are not as continuous and they have larger variations and swings. Like, for example, our RFID products. Because they’re commercial orders we may get an order for two hundred or two hundred and fifty or twelve hundred. But with those, and those big orders, the lead time is figured in and anticipated by the customer. So, that’s a little different situation to calculate. Now, however, on those, I think it is important to note that the longer it takes to produce your product, the longer you have to wait for the effects of the profit from that sale because obviously, you know, percentage of the sales . . . for a domestic sale, where there’s terms, you don’t get paid until you ship; if an international sale, you may get paid a deposit upfront and then paid when you ship. But so, the longer you wait to ship, the longer you wait to get paid and the longer you wait for the benefits of the profit from that sale. So that’s definitely an important consideration but for the purposes of looking at it from Kanban, it’s a little different.
So back to our slingshots and other things where there’s consistent sales. So now what we’ve got is we’ve got product, and then what I’m planning on doing is to then do an inventory once a month. And then on that inventory we’ll post in the bin where we keep each product (we have a bin for each product in our inventory . . . or for each product SKU; so there’s a bin with slingshots, there’s a bin with glove shots, arrow rests. And so some of our bigger sellers like slingshots, there’s actually multiple bins depending on what color your slingshot actually is.) So then what I can do is to do an inventory once a month; compare that to our minimum stocking level that we created, which was, you know, our time to produce and you know, relating that to time to produce versus sales, so we know how many is in there; plus, our seasonal variation during the period where we’re going to be making new parts; plus, our safety stock. So we watch that and then flag it during our inventory and pull a card out that says we need to make more of these. So that way then we collect those cards and then those cards then become an indicator that it’s time to produce more. And that’s a nice, easy solution. And I think, too, that when we’ll have to post what that minimum stocking level is so that when someone is withdrawing products for shipment, then they can watch that as well. So, for especially where there’s, you know, low numbers, like, for someone where the bin’s starting to look empty, they can check. So maybe it’s between inventories; they check and go, Hey, Montie, here’s the card for this; we’re starting to get low.
So, I think that’s one of the concepts is that you’ve got this visual indicator where this product, this produce and this product are getting low and then we can leave those cards in the bins and walk by to see them, or we can collect those cards and know that we’ve got to produce some inventory – or at least check to see what the inventory is to decide when we’re going to. And the same thing for goods that we use on a regular basis to produce those products. Now, that depends, too, on how long it takes to get those. So, for example, for slingshots, the lead time on these services we purchased or the parts we purchase, it’s fairly long in some cases. For other pieces like screws, it’s fairly short. So it may be that we order screws, you know, about the same time we send out slingshots for paint, because we can get screws in just a few days easily without expediting anything.
So this is kind of the thought process I’m having to go through to decide, you know, how we’re going to make all this work. And also it’s good, though, because now, all of sudden, I’ve got a framework, so I can use that framework to make buying decisions, and keeping those simple. So, now we have a simple process for deciding, you know, how many of something we should keep. It’s no longer a “gut-feel” thing or something where we have to wing it. Instead, we’ve actually applied a metric to that. And I think that’s part of the value of Lean is that now, all of a sudden, we’re using a simple tool, getting organized and, in this case, making sure that we have the inventory so we can get it to the customer quickly. But, also, at the same time, conserving our resources so we’re not stocking too much inventory. And having a simple system means a couple of things. One thing is that it’s something that can be taught, not something that’s a gut-feel or something somebody high up has to make a decision. Instead, by using a simple process we can give someone the authority to make a purchasing decision without having to go through some sort of process or get as much approval. And I think that’s one of the values of Lean is now, all of a sudden, you can scale a lot easier; as the company grows, you have a simple process and your associates or employees, contributors, what have you – can learn that simple process. You can audit that process because it’s simple; it’s not a gut-feel thing or it’s not some guy in the corner that guesses what the seasonal demand will be. Instead you’re actually using simple math to solve what used to be a complex problem. And I think that’s great.
So this is kind of how I’m looking at developing our inventory control to function in more of a Lean way. It’s kind of cool. I’m excited because it’s a simple solution to something I thought would be a . . . before I thought, Hey, this is going to be a complex, computerized, we-need-to-have-some-sort-of-software-to-manage-this; but, no, I mean, we can do it with a card stuck in the back of a bin that gets collected when inventory reaches a certain level. And that’s kind of a wonderful thing to keep it simple.
Well, comments and suggestions and questions and thoughts are always welcome – Montie (M-O-N-T-I-E) at Montie (M-O-N-T-I-E) dot com. If you get a chance, visit our Montie Gear site. We make some kick-butt slingshots and some other cool products. And Montie Roland, signing off. Have a great day.
Join me and talk about the first steps in considering how Montie Gear could go Lean.
Normally, when you think about Lean Manufacturing it is in the context of a large manufacturer. Can a micro manufacturer go Lean? Six Sigma? Lets talk about it.
Comments welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the transcription from the podcast……………………………………………..
Audio file: 2015 May 17 – Lean Thoughts 2 – Lean at Montie Gear – Can it be done.mp3
Time transcribed: 17:58 minutes
Hi. My name is Montie Roland. I’m with Montie Gear in Apex, North Carolina.
I want to spend a few minutes having a chat and a little bit of dialogue, and talk about the first steps towards implementing lean at Montie Gear.
So, I’ve been on this journey of learning lean. And, what does it mean? You know, what does it really mean? Not just, you know, overarching concept, but how do you make it work? You know, and how does combine work? How does, you know, work site visits work? How do MDI boards work? So, there’s all these things, these tools that lean uses to monitor your process and communicate to everyone.
So, now the trick is how to implement that in a very, very, small, micro-manufacturing environment. I’m going to make the argument that a lot of the tools in lean are going to apply even to a micro-manufacturer. And, at first, you sit there and say, “Well, yeah, if I want to tell John something, I’m going to lean across the table and tell him. I mean, there’s only three of us” – blah-blah-blah. Okay, so, I still think that there’s a place for lean within the organization because it helps you monitor your process. And in a small company, monitoring the process often doesn’t happen, because you assume it’s not worth it; you don’t have the manpower; you’re too busy putting out today’s fire; or just barely getting stuff out the door; keeping things resourced efficient. But, I think there’s more to it than that. So, one of the things that we want to do with lean is we want to optimize for flow first, and optimize for resource efficiency second. So, optimizing for flow means we want to get stuff out the door; optimizing as quickly as possible to the customer. So we want to add that value as quickly as possible. Whereas optimizing for resources means we want to do it as cost-effectively as possible. Well, the problem with putting too much of an emphasis on optimizing for resources is that it’s easy to create silos where people are thinking, Wow, I’m doing a great job. I’m cost efficient. But, then, what they’re doing isn’t necessarily getting the product out the door to the customer as quickly as possible, which interferes with cash flow. Because the quicker it gets to the customer, the quicker the cash flow happens, and the happier the customer, or more satisfied.
So, one of the things that we were already doing (and I didn’t realize how it already really fit into lean until after we started learning all this) is that . . . two things. One is that we were already doing single piece flow. So, in lean, lean’s going to most likely push you to single piece flow. So, single piece flow means that you build your products in a continuous manner down the line. So, in the past, you might have had facilities where someone with, let’s say, building a rifle – they’d make two-hundred-and-fifty barrels. And then everybody would go and they’d make two-hundred-and-fifty triggers. Then they’d go and make two-hundred-and-fifty stocks. So, what happens is that you’re putting all this in inventory while you’re finishing. This is kind of an extreme example. But with single piece flow, once we start the process of making a product, then it goes all the way through the process as quickly as possible. So, instead of having ten people making one part, we’re going to have ten people doing ten steps to make that part. So, now the advantage is that we have less inventory, and once we start making a product it goes through the line fairly quickly. So, if we were making all the pieces in a batch mode, then it takes a while when there’s a customer order for you to fill that order. Now, so, really quickly, there’s two ways that pull works. One is that you build to a certain level of inventory based upon your expected sales over a given period, and you maintain that inventory. So when that inventory is depleted, then there is a call to make more inventory, there’s an authorization to make more inventory, and that authorization results in the manufacturing floor making those parts to bring that level back up to that inventory level. The other way to do that would be you made-to-order, so you got an order for fifty, so now you make fifty. So, what we want to do is get that order through and out the door as quick as we can.
So, when we think about a slingshot and put it in that prism, a slingshot is a combination of batch and single piece flow manufacturing. For example, we’re not at a quantity level, where we make enough parts so that we paint every day. So as a result, we will make, for example, a bunch of slingshot frames, and then those will get cut at a vendor’s location. And they want to cut a minimum. You know, there’s work in setting it up, running it. And so they want to sell us a minimum of slingshots in a batch, otherwise it’s not cost effective to make them. So, there’s a batch of slingshots that’s cut on the waterjet, and then they go to paint as a batch. Now, and currently, we have two different processes that now I need to start rethinking now that I’m learning more about lean. One is that we’ll get the slingshots back; they go to the machine shop. Now, one of the things we haven’t invested in is specialized equipment to just drill the slingshot holes. So, they go to the machine shop in a batch and the holes get drilled in the slingshot frame. They come back to us and then we put the heli-coils in, and then they go out to be wrapped. So, so far, we’re not doing single piece flow; we’re doing small batches. But that’s driven by the fact we have to do it out-of-house, and it’s just not economical to do that as single piece flow – yet (the painting and the cutting). So, then what we do is those slingshots go to two places. Part of them go to the mountains, because we have capabilities there, and we anticipate inventory, we build to inventory, so probably two-thirds of them go to the mountains, get wrapped there. A third of them stay here. And the reason why we keep those here is to accommodate for anywhere that someone has a custom paracord color we want (because we wrap the handles with paracord), and it’s easy to do a color change. Or, we missed on our projections. So now this is a little bit of a challenge because now I end up, when they come back from the mountains after they get wrapped, so maybe two-thirds of my slingshots have already been wrapped in specific. And so those colors, it may be a third woodland camo, a third desert camo, a third black. So, now what I’ve got is I have frames that have paracord on them with heli-coils in them, and they’re ready for final assembly. So, generally, what we do is at this point we switch over and go to single piece flow. So, what I want to do is kind of put a bookmark here in our conversation, so we’re going to come back to this point.
So this is happening; our website, you know, our main customer contact point. And so folks are visiting the website and placing orders. So if you visit the Montie Gear website and you place an order, that order gets recorded on our website. And then, usually three times a week – Monday evening, Wednesday evening and Saturday, I’ll go and I’ll download new orders. So, when I download the orders, so I download it into a piece of middle-ware called T-HUB. T-HUB brings up a visual dashboard that shows me what has been paid for, what hasn’t been paid for, what has been shipped, what hasn’t been shipped, and what has been transferred to QuickBooks. And so I take this and I use T-HUB to print out a sales receipt. So I take those sales receipts and then we have a table. And so each sales receipt sits on that table and becomes the routing sheet for the order. What I didn’t realize in doing all this was I was already taking somewhat of a step towards a combine by how we set this up. So those sheets sit on the table. When Lars comes in, he instantly has a visual indicator of what needs to be built. Now, he can also go back to T-HUB and look it up. A lot of times, though, he doesn’t need to because I have already printed them out so he can take a look at it, and instantly know what he needs to build. So, this is a great way we’re communicating; so everybody knows how many orders we have that are unfulfilled. Now, kind of a next step on that would be to track days until shipment. So this is kind of one of the things that we need to do, is to track how long it’s been since the shipment.
Now another thing we need to do is automate the receipt of orders coming from Amazon. Right now, we don’t (and from eBay); right now we process those manually; so that’s a step. Once we get all that going through T-HUB, then we’ll have that computer visualization of, you know, what’s shipped and what hasn’t and what’s been paid for. And then we’ll also the table with a slip and a space for every order. So, as the order gets fulfilled, it gets passed to the next step. So Lars does single piece flow on the assembly – for example, the slingshot. Some products we build to inventory. Does single piece flow on the slingshot, puts it in a box, sets it for on the next table, where, when I come in then I take that box and ship it. Now, the beauty of it here is that we’re using this dashboard and we’re using the presence of this sheet of paper to show us, you know, so in an instant I know how packages I generally have to ship, because its sitting right there. So it’s very quick. Now, then what happens, I take that . . . after its shipped, I take that sales receipt and it goes into the “shipped sales receipt” or “done” pile. And then that gets filed away. And then, of course, the process of shipping it also means that T-HUB records it as being shipped. So, in this way, that’s a nice streamlined way of doing that. What we need to do to be more lean is to track, for example, number of days until shipment; you know, what was the reason why we didn’t ship on a day. So if Lars comes in, I need to track failures; you know, what we were missing, and then track how long it took to rectify that, who’s responsible. So maybe we don’t have a part or are missing some screws. So if we track that and find out that, Wow, we had seventy-seven times we were out of screws, and that held us up from shipping, then we need to keep more screws on hand; or we need to have a better way of monitoring that. So, at some point, what we need to do is actually to track our inventory so that there’s a card, so we can visualize, you know, what’s our safety inventory, what’s our normal consumption, so that when someone goes into the supermarket – which is where we store our parts that are ready to either for final assembly or to ship – when they go in that supermarket, then there’s an easy way to see what we’re low on. So that’s another aspect of lean that’s very common, is that you monitor that visually.
So, at this point, one of the things I’m starting to go after is to say, Okay, how do we monitor our process in a way that I can maintain (or everybody can help maintain), that’s not painfully expensive to monitor, but also lets everybody know where we are, how we’re doing, and gives us information for continuous improvement. So, that’s kind of the next step is to think that through; you know, is it a board? How do we track these things? And so, I’m open to suggestions. Anybody that wants to come by, make some suggestions on how to track this. You know, between X-Cart and T-HUB and QuickBooks, you know, what can we use to have a continuous monitoring of our process so that we can improve that; use our resources more wisely; and, you know, maximize our through-put flow-wise.
So, I hope this gives you a little insight into where we are now and kind of thinking and the process. It’s definitely a big challenge. A lot of these things, you’ve got to change at a very root level of how you do business and how you spend your day. It’s not just a matter of adding on a piece of software. A lot of times it’s a matter of just physically changing how you conduct your business. And that’s one of the tough things about lean, is that it’s a culture change. It’s not just something you throw over the top that adds a burden. If you do that, if all you do is just bolt it onto the top, you never really get a lot of benefit. You’ll never follow it. With lean, you’ve got to dig in and make a real in-depth change.
So, I hope this was a good talk for everybody. I appreciate you listening. Please don’t hesitate to send me an email. Come by the shop and you can see where we are in our lean transformation. And have a great day. Bye-bye.
10 years ago, the push was to go paperless. Is paperless too much of a good thing?
Data in your computer is passive. Yes you can manipulate it, share, mine it but you have to go ask for it. Why not make data active?
Lean Manufacturing techniques include tools to make your data active but getting it out in from of your employees and managers on daily basis. Put that data in front of your team an understandable and actionable format where it does the most good, i.e. right in front of them.
Lets explore the various facets of active vs. passive data. Comments and suggestions are welcome here or at email@example.com
Here is the transcription from the podcast………………………………………………..
Audio file: 2015 May 17 – Lean Thoughts 1 – Active vs. Passive Data.mp3
Time transcribed: 12:29 minutes
Hi. My name is Montie Roland. I’m with Montie Gear in Apex, North Carolina.
What I wanted to do is to share some thoughts with you today and have at least a one-way dialogue – it could become two, if you email me – about the difference between passive and active information. So I’d like to spend a few minutes talking about that. And maybe define it and have some examples.
One of the things that’s happened over the past twenty years is that we’ve had this head-long rush to get everything on the computer. So, we assumed that getting it on the computer is more efficient; is more cost-effective; is safer because you can back it up. And so we’ve created database after database after database. And one of the joys and the beauties of – and potentially harm – of doing this is that everybody can have access to information, without having to go down the hallway and grab something from a file cabinet. Now, of course, the horror is that can be hacked. Someone can get into that from across the world. Whereas, a file cabinet, you’ve got to physically be there to get into it. Now, a file cabinet can be broken into as well, but someone on the other side of the globe isn’t going to be able to do that without visiting here. So, we’ve created this electronic database that contains what we do. And the beauty of it is that everyone in your company can sit down, and if they have the right software and they have the access, they can read that data. The problem is that they have to go read it; they have to go look for it. So I’m going to call that passive data. Now, active data is data that’s right up in your face. And for those of y’all that are family with lean, you’re going to start going “Oh-ho, this is exactly where he is headed” because with lean the goal is to use vertical surfaces as . . . well, I shouldn’t say the goal. Lean is going use boards, charts and effectively, use your vertical surfaces as a way that in an instant you can look at a chart, and have an idea of that particular part of your business and what’s happening in there. And so in lean, there’s a lot of different charts and you chart different areas. And so the idea being that in seconds you can know what’s going on. So, let’s throw out an example. So, one example would be if I have a database of a soccer game. And what I’ve done is, through the magic of the computer and a vision system, I’ve tracked where the ball is, where the people are, what their speeds are, how fast they’re moving, how fast the ball is moving, how . . . blah-blah-blah. So, I have this giant database of excruciating detail regarding the performance of every player on the field. And somewhere in there I have the fact there was a goal scored at this point – point-oh-oh . . . twenty-seven minutes, three seconds and two milliseconds, the ball entered the net. So, if I want to know what’s happening in the soccer game, now I’ve got to have a way to visualize all that data. So, I’ve got to go to the computer; I’ve got to use my visualization tool; I’ve got do all this stuff. But the beauty of it is if I want to know what that player’s performance is, or that team’s performance is, I can do that ad infinitum. Now, let’s make a contrasting example. So, I’ve got the computer database with all this wonderful information. And then the contrasting example is I go to the game. So at the game, there’s several key elements involved – there are players on the field; there’s a ball; from where I’m sitting, I can see the ball. There’s two goals, there’s two goalies (or a football, for our European listeners). And so, I’m in the stadium. I can see the scoreboard. The scoreboard gives me a few pieces of information – what’s the score, what’s the time remaining in the half, what’s the, you know, which half are we in. And so, those pieces of information are there. I can see the ball moving. I can see the ball going in the net. Well, maybe I’m not sure. Did it miss the net? Or did it go in the net? Oh, I look at the scoreboard – boom! So, by going to a soccer game, I can instantly know what’s going on from anywhere in the stadium. So the beauty of it is that I don’t have to have a visualization tool; I don’t have to bring out my computer – it’s all right there, between the scoreboard with an absolute minimum of information (but the right information) – and – watching it unfold on the field, I always know what’s going on just by a glance. Whereas if I monitor this on the computer with this huge amount of data, I have to go to the computer; I’d have to figure out to get what I want and so forth. Now, I think it is important to, you know, throw out there, that you can have a visual board on the computer. I’m going to make the argument that the difference between something you printed this morning and what’s on the computer, effectively if the data is current, it doesn’t matter. And the beauty of printing it on the wall is that someone can walk by and in an instant and see it. And you’ve got a lot more wall space than you have monitor space.
So, yes, there are lean set-ups where people put their display, their information, on monitors. Now, that means you’ve got to bring that information into that display. Maybe it’s automatically from other systems. But the idea is that active information is something that you can glance at and get an answer. You may be glancing at a giant monitor; you may be glancing at a color print-out or a black-and-white print-out that’s hanging on the wall when you walk in the building. But one of the things you see with lean – and lean being, you know, the popular name for the Toyota manufacturing system, is you see active information that’s organized and updated, and that active information lets you know what’s going on. And is a way of communicating what’s going on in an instant because you look at a chart, you know what to look for, you see the colors, you see the ways that everything’s laid out. So now, in an instant, you’ve been updated. Which is a great way to communicate.
So, the opposite of that is passive information, where you’ve got to go to the computer, sit down, look it up on a spreadsheet or look it up here, or do what have you. And so, I’m going to make the argument that where you can use active information, you’re in a much better position because someone doesn’t have to spend the time to go look it up; and also, someone can walk in, know what they have to do, have a constant reminder of where they are and what they’ve got to do; how things are going – because it’s right there and that information’s available. That helps everyone in your organization make better decisions because they’ve got the information they need, and it’s timely and they can make decisions that are timely. And every day every employee makes thousands of decisions. So if you leave them in the dark, they’re guessing at what’s best for the company. If you inform them, give them a structure, educate them, and, you know, lay this all out, now, all of a sudden, those thousands of decisions can be decisions that are the best, the ideal ones, that help get the product out the door quicker with high quality and conserving resources.
So, that’s why I think understanding the difference between active and passive information’s important. And then, also, putting that understanding to use in terms of getting that information to everyone. Now from a Montie Gear perspective. So one of the things that I’ve been thinking about as I’ve been taking my journey into lean is how to implement that in a small company. So, maybe that’s a discussion for another time. But I hope that this has been a good bit of information for you. Give you a little better understanding of that difference between active and passive information, and why it can be so valuable to give your employees the information they need to make those good decisions all day long, every day. Because they’ve got the information they need and then they can act on it.
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: