Who You Are and Why Your Designs are Better Because of It

Forget about designing from a clean sheet of paper.  It can’t happen.  The designer himself prevents brings a tapestry of experience, skills and preconceptions with him.  Embrace that diversity and create better designs, even when you are starting from scratch.  Once you understand you, then you can think on a broader scale and truly innovate on your next project!

This is a podcast I originally created in 2012.



Audio File Transcript: Who Are You and What Does that Mean

Hello. My name is Montie Roland. And I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina. I wanted to spend a few minutes with you this morning talking about who are you and how does your skillset, your drive, your . . . how you go about creating new product concepts or new product ideas; how does that fit into everything.

We all have our own desires, drives and I want to kind of go through it and talk about it. And maybe learn a little bit about each other as we go through it.

I’m the president of Montie Design and also the president Montie Gear in Morrisville, North Carolina. Montie Design is a product development firm. And we develop products for you. And we fill in gaps. Sometimes it’s a small project; sometimes it’s a large one. And what we do is fill in those gaps in your engineering or your industrial design or your prototyping department; fill in those gaps to help get your product to market.

Montie Gear is a company that provides outdoor shooting equipment, and slingshots and fun stuff. Montie Gear was founded about four years ago as one of those things we decided as an institutional learning tool. And we decided that we wanted to design some of our own products, not just everybody else’s. So we did a couple and then said, well, what would it be like to sell them? How do we sell products without spending a lot of money on advertising? So, we put them on our website, Montie Design website, and then we also came up with the idea – thanks to Carl – of doing a lot of test and evaluation units. And over the years that test and evaluation unit approach has even rolled into a service we now call Social Reviews. And so, I don’t want to spend all day talking about that. Something we’re proud of. Montie Gear line has grown from zero to over a hundred thousand dollars in sales in about four years with very little advertising. So we’re very proud of that and we’re proud of the products we sell.

So it gives us a little different perspective on the product development process. So, not only do we develop products, we also are responsible for some of those products for selling, and manufacturing them. And that’s also kind of spilled over in that we’re now doing that for two clients where we’re providing the backend services – they sell them, and we ship them. We make sure they’re manufactured, that they’re packaged, they’re QC’d and then the customer’s happy.

And so, first question, our first thought is I want to throw out the thought of, you know, who is Montie? Who am I? If I’m going to tell you how other people are, I’m thinking maybe I should go ahead and kind of do a little analysis on myself. Now, Montie Design designs products for a wide variety of situations – manufacturing approaches. We have products that we design – they’re going to go straight overseas. We have products that we design and we get to a certain point and we turn them loose to an ODM somewhere the other end of the Internet and they take it from there; and we read about it in a magazine. We other products we’re more intimately involved with throughout the whole lifecycle. But, you know, it comes down to the “Who’s Montie” and how I think. I think the best example is to maybe watch what I do and not what I say in this case and look at Montie Gear.

With Montie Gear we’ve come at it from the standpoint of we want to have a high quality product that’s what we call heirloom quality-Toublesome Gap tough. Which means a very robust product that’s going to perform well in the field and it’s going to be the kind of product that you want to give to your grandkids because it’s that lasting and hopefully timeless.

So, right there, you kind of have to ask, well, how many of those products are high-volume. And the answer is very few. So we have mainly products that are low-volume, low-capital requirements – and by low-capital requirements, we haven’t built a lot of tooling; we haven’t spent a lot of money to get the products to market. Now the trade-off with that, of course, is the products cost more to manufacture, so you have a higher quality product, higher cost of goods sold, but at the same time that fits in with the Montie Gear approach where what we want to have is this heirloom quality, made local, products.

So, when I go to create a product for Montie Gear, or work with someone on our team that does, or work with an intern or what have you, we’re definitely in the mode of Let’s-get-something-out-there-fairly-fast, without spending a lot of capital investment; without a lot of investment. So, we want to design it, have it work well, but not rely on the fact that we’re going to injection mold it to get the price down or what have you; die cast it, and have to sell gazillions instead. We’re going to plan to sell handfuls at a time. So, in this case, my natural instinct is to rely on local manufacturers for Montie Gear, and to work with those local manufacturers closely to have a higher quality product sold at lower volumes – higher cost, but at the same time the higher quality and also that emotional appeal of having a product that the down the street made (which I think is having more and more value in our society). At the same time, if we’re going to have a higher-end product, we need to provide a higher level of customer service as well. So what we want to do there is to treat that customer well and make sure that we meet their needs on a timely basis.

So if we take that a little farther and look at it in a broad perspective, there’s several different kinds of companies. One company is a company that’s service excellence. They may not be terribly innovative, but you get the same service every time. A great example of this is McDonald’s. You know what you’re going to get no matter where in the United States you go; and to a certain extent, you’ve got a good idea of what you’ll get no matter where in the world you go. So, their goal is to bring you a reliable product at a reliable price, and get it to you quickly and have no surprises. So, it’s a safe bet. You stop and eat at McDonald’s, you know exactly what you’re going to get. That’s not a terribly innovative company at this point. It may have been innovative early on by driving the concept of fast food and so forth. But at this point, it’s a mature company and they don’t do a lot of innovations. They do little tweaks here and there. And they definitely don’t create a lot of new intellectual property; at least, that goes into their products. Most of the intellectual property goes into logistics, service.

So let’s look at other companies that have to innovate. So, kind of break it down into two different types. One is a product excellence company. So a product excellence company is a company where you know that you’re going to get the finest product you can get. You’re going to get a high quality product; you’re going to get service to go with it. So, the whole experience is excellent. They may or may not be innovative, but at the same time, you’re going to get this high quality, high satisfaction product. A good example is that you may go buy a ring for your wife (or your husband); and that ring hasn’t really changed a whole lot. You got a little filigree here and its silver instead of gold, but for the most part, your expectations is very high level of quality. Not a lot of innovation in that industry, I would argue, for the most part. There’s some artistic work but not a lot of what I describe as true innovation. And then another example is a company that’s very innovative, or it could also be very inventive, where they create new intellectual property. And so, in either situation that organization is relying on either innovating or inventing to drive their products ahead of their competitors. And that’s a very important part of the whole ecosystem as well. And that’s the ones a lot of times we tend to really want to get behind. And everybody just wants to always tell the example of Apple, but they’ve come up with some really great products by often by innovating and inventing. And so they’re an example of a company where they try to stay ahead of the curve. And a good example of that is if they don’t, they’re products don’t always compete as well because of cost. So, they want to have this innovative customer experience, these innovative products; but as those products age, there are a lot of times that “me, too” products are a lot more attractive. A good example of that is the iPhone is now starting to be displaced by other smartphones, where at first they were “me, too” – for example, Samsung, HTC – but now they’re starting to actually have some innovation and some invention in what they do. And so they’re competing very well. And if you look at the iPhone 5 versus the latest HTC or the latest Samsung, there’s starting to be a technology gap, which in this case isn’t in Apple’s favor because they really relied on having this amazing edge in the marketplace. Now, they also have a lot of other things going for them, but in the realm of phones, that edge is absolutely critical to maintain their market share.

This also applies to smaller organizations. I like going to the Apex farmers’ market. And there are several folks there that cook different types of items. So, one example is there’s a lady there that makes pies and she makes muffins and so all the recipes she’s using are pretty old school. There’s not a lot of innovation. So, what she’s bringing to her product is quality; its handmade from scratch; these very desirable elements, but there’s not a lot invention or innovation that goes into that. So, if you look at this in the context of the three categories I described earlier, she’s in the service excellence category, or product excellence. So, she’s using her time buying some materials and turning that into a product. Now, in no way am I denigrating that as a model for business. There are a lot of very successful businesses that do that. Think about how many large cookie companies there are. And so, it’s a very valid way of doing business. I think the important thing is that if you’re in that type of business, it’s often handy to understand what your model is to help you make future decisions and current decisions.

So a lot of the folks that we buy stuff from that make pies and pastries at the farmers’ market, there’s just not a lot of innovation there. So, they want to provide a high quality product; they want to provide a friendly face; and it tastes good. You like the fact that the person you’re talking to made it yesterday or this morning, put their time and love into it. And so that’s a good way to look at that. The other categories you find in different places. So, for example, if you’re an inventor, then generally when someone considers themselves to be an inventor, or we consider them to be an inventor as an organization, they have an interest in creating intellectual property, and then selling the concept. So, they’re truly inventing. So, in this case, they’re viability as a service provider (or as a vendor) to someone is their ability to innovate. So, they fall in that last category because if they come up with a concept that’s already out there and it’s a “me, too”, as an inventory they really haven’t invented anything. When you look at entrepreneurs, the entrepreneur – and I want to define the inventor as someone who invents for the sake of invention-to-license later – an entrepreneur is someone who builds a company and an infrastructure that is designed around selling a product; manufacturing and selling it. It’s an important distinction.

So when the entrepreneur does this, the entrepreneur may be making pies to sell at the flea market; may be making cupcakes; and in the last few years there’s been this huge amount of cupcake industry forming. It’s really amazing how many cupcake companies there are. These companies that make cupcakes make some amazing cupcakes sometimes. So you can go and get a cupcake at the grocery for $2.50; or you can go to a specialty store – you might get a $20.00 cupcake. Yes, a $20.00 cupcake. So, could a cupcake company kind of fall into these categories? Well, yes. A cupcake company could be a matter of picking twelve existing cupcake designs, styles, and then making those. And in that case, their appeal is service. They’re providing a product that’s based upon their labor. So it’s not a real inventive product in that case. But there are also cupcake manufacturers and cupcake stylists that provide cupcakes that are very different. And they’ll actually do research into different ways that they can do this. Or maybe come up with their own. So, there may be a new style of icing or a new style of . . . packaging. You know, what can they do different that sets them apart? Now, the question to ask is – Are you selling cupcakes because you have something that’s truly original? It’s a, I don’t know, vacuum-puffed cupcake that no one else can do. And you’ve got this trade secret on how to make vacuum-puffed cupcakes. Or, are you selling products that are just based on your hard work and love? And usually there’s a mixture of the two. But, so, it’s important to understand how your business thrives based on where you are in these models. Because then, all of a sudden, you can make better decisions about how much time and resources and money you should put into these different activities. So if having inventive cupcakes doesn’t drive sales, then maybe you’re putting too much effort into inventing those crazy, new technology cupcakes. If the fact that you sell these crazy vacuum-puffed cupcakes is what is driving your new sales (or your existing sales) in a big way, if that’s what’s driving your growth, then maybe you need to put more effort into the crazy ones.

And so it goes a little beyond just the matter of the accounting; saying this cupcake sold this many, this cupcake sold this many. I think it also goes into the strategic planning. So I think it’s important to plan your strategy around what type of company you are. And so understanding these distinctions and where you fall, and how where you fall helps your business grow, is very, very important. This type of strategic planning and understanding is important at the Fortune 500 level; its important at the small business level. Because it important for anyone in a small business to make sure that you’re always, always – always – making good use of your resources. And understanding, you know, your place in the process of developing new products; or not developing new products helps you make the best decision to maximize your return on investment. Which is critical because it’s a small business; it’s tough enough to survive even if you’re making good decisions. So, making better decisions may be a different between subsistence and true growth and just kick-butt kind of company. And I think how you go about product development, or don’t, is an important part of that and can help you dramatically.

I hope this podcast is helpful. This is a tough subject to sometimes kind of articulate through and work through and walk through with you. So I hope it was helpful. Understanding your spot in your strategic model and what the strategic value of your . . . or what the value proposition of your company is, is something that can really help.

Let me know if you have any questions. Montie Roland, Montie Design. (M-O-N-T-I-E)@montie(M-O-N-T-I-E) .com. Visit us on the website – (M-O-N-T-I-E)@montie(M-O-N-T-I-E) .com. There’s a handy little chat tool and you can click on it and get immediate help. Either way, it’d be great to hear from you. And have a great day. Montie Roland, out.

Podcast: Giving The Go Ahead To A New Product

Giving The Go Ahead To A New Product

———– Transcript —————————

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Podcast: Design Process Steps Funnel

Design Process Steps Funnel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Costed BOM TutorialHere is the transcript of the podcast:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solidworks Pack and Go for TutorialHere is the transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victor Sketching


Here is the transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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