Podcast and Video: Deer Hunting with the Quiet Quiver – Field Test


Montie Gear Quick Quiver and bow hanging from a Montie Gear Hunter’s Friend

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.

Design Story – Montie Gear in the Field – Hunter’s Friend

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.

Enjoy those priceless moments!

Click Here or on the image to order

Click Here or on the image to order

Click Here or on the image to order

Click Here or on the image to order

Write a Review – Get an Awesome Coupon!

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 montie@montie.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”.  
Heirloom Quality
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.

Montie Roland


How Lean Manufacturing Helps Us Serve Customers Better

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.

My Journey to Lean – Part 3 – Can Montie Gear go Lean?


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 montie@montie.com


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

[Opening music]

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.

[Closing music]


My Journey into Lean Manufacturing – Part 2 – Active vs. Passive Data


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 montie@montie.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

[Opening music]

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.

So, have a great day. Montie Roland, signing off.

[Closing music]

Podcast: The Return Of The Maker

The Return Of The Maker

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.

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.


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 –

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.

Simple Products plus a Great Back Story = Success

I was reading an email from Etsy this morning and thought I would pass it along.  Etsy is an online market place for handmade or crafty / artsy products.  One of their vendors is a company called Timber Green Woods.  I don’t know much about the company other than what I’ve read and by visiting their store on Etsy.  They have a line of simple (but well designed) wood products that they make from local timber.  The majority of the work is done using a laser to cut out the shapes.

Product from Timber Green Woods
Product from Timber Green Woods

When you think manufacturing, its easy to think everything has to be done in a giant building with a concrete floor.  However employees of Timber Green have parts of their day that look like this:


Using a portable saw mill to cut up the locally grown logs
Using a portable saw mill to cut up the locally grown logs

These products are a great example of turning a local resource (the lumber) into a family of products without a tremendous amount of capital investment.  Then they used an online presence (with a lot of SEO work and wordsmithing) to grow their sales.  This is a wonderful formula where they made the use of the resources at hand and applied good design plus some innovative thinking to achieve success.

Here is the link to the story:  https://www.etsy.com/blog/en/2014/quit-your-day-job-timber-green-woods/

Let me know if Montie Design can help you apply our skills, drive and passion to help your product succeed!  Email montie@montie.com or call 800.722.7987