After getting lots of emails and requests, we decided to do another batch of Montie Gear DIY Slingshot Kits.
They make a great Christmas present. There are only 24 available, so get your pre-order in now. They should start shipping by 31 Oct.
We accomplished a lot on Day 1. Most of the stumps were removed. The brush and logs that were left from the last trip were cut up and pushed into piles on the side of the property. I also was able to start cutting some of the unhealthy trees on the perimeter.
The brush piles are good for the wildlife. They provide shelter for birds like grouse. They also provide places for a momma deer to stash a young fawn while she feeds else where. My wife was pulling brush into a pile (on the previous trip) and suddenly realized the was a fawn tucked away just a few feet from where she was working. We had been working in the area all day and the fawn had been there. We didn’t realize it until Connie saw it.
The apple tree in the middle of the campsite has been a subject of much discussion. The tree has struggled to survive under a canopy of faster growing Ash and Poplar trees. We cleared the trees that shaded the apple tree earlier in the year. The apple tree has put on a bunch of new growth with the extra sunlight hitting it.
The challenge is that the apple tree is in a spot that it is exposed to vehicular damage so we had to adjust the plans for the driveway to protect the apple tree. When we discussed the tree as a family, the consensus was to cut it down. I was the lone hold out to keep the tree. We’ll need to top the tree next year to keep it healthy and trim away growth that isn’t good for the tree long term.
It is important to note that those green apples are sooooo sour that the deer are even reluctant to eat them. You’ll see an apple on the ground with a couple of bites missing, like the deer tried it and walked away. They are cooking apples, just way too sour to do anything else with.
The saga of the apple tree continues, well see how it goes.
I was recently interviewed for the Everyday Innovator podcast. This is a great podcast that interviews leaders in the product development and product management field. I’m honored to be included in the podcast.
Excerpts from the interview:
Our guest for this episode is Montie Roland. Montie used my online training course to prepare for, and pass, the New Product Development Professional exam, earning him the NPDP certification from PDMA, which is the oldest and most established professional group for product managers. After passing, he contacted me to discuss providing training to product managers in his company. This is a topic I always enjoy because I love helping organizations improve their product management capability and helping product managers further their skills and how they work with each other and the product team.
As I talked with Montie, I also learned about his background, became fascinated by his experiences, and knew he had to join us here to share his stories and knowledge.
Montie has pursued an entrepreneur path, building his own company, and an intrapreneur path working in an established company. He is a mechanical engineer with a ton of design experience.
We talked about his experiences, including the pros and cons of working for yourself vs working for an organization.
[3:19] What is your current role as an intrapreneur?
I’m on the new product development team at Pentair. If you’ve ever been in a swimming pool, the water probably went through one of our products. I get to do a lot of front-end work in industrial design and the connection between customer and product. The strongest part of my skillset is bridging that gap, and I have the chance to do it on a lot of different projects in a large organization.
[5:26] What kind of products did you create as an entrepreneur?
I ran Montie Design for about a decade. We started in B2B products and eventually moved into B2C. We made rack-mount servers and packaging electronics. Clients would come to us because they were trying to get around politics in their company or were behind schedule on a project. We developed products that they could transition into manufacturing. On the B2C side, we made in-home air filters that were highly stylized. We tried to make as much as we could locally so that there was a community feeling to it. We wanted people to look at our products and say that’s the way they would have made it themselves.
[13:02] What are the advantages of working on your own?
I enjoyed the sense of self-determination. You don’t have someone looking over your shoulder like you do in a big corporation. You can explore directions that you might not be able to otherwise. People who work in product development have an inherent sense of adventure, which tends to be more constrained in a corporate environment.
[14:40] What are the disadvantages of being an entrepreneur?
It requires a lot of work. If you have a spouse or family, you need to have buy-in for your entrepreneurial endeavor at home. You also need to have the funding you need and scale your operation based on the funding you have. I had a great time working on my own, but went back to the corporate world because I needed a lifestyle change. I scaled my business back as a result and now do Montie Gear on the side.
[20:45] What are the advantages of working for an organization?
I’m part of a large, multi-disciplinary team that has a lot of depth. There are times when you might have to switch projects and hand off what you’re working on to another engineer who is a better fit. Pentair fosters the sense of trust necessary to make those transitions happen. It’s also much closer to a 40-hour work week and I don’t have to worry about everything. I have a lot of people around me who are experienced at product development, which pushes me to keep my skills sharp. My colleagues and I challenge each other, which creates a very collaborative environment. I get to focus my time designing things and don’t need to worry about all the other aspects of running a business.
[25:55] What are the disadvantages of working for an organization?
There’s a lot of skepticism from companies about hiring entrepreneurs because they think you’ll get tired of the corporate environment and be out the door to do your own thing in six months. Look for companies that see your entrepreneurial background as a benefit because you can bring different skills to the table. It’s also difficult for HR to translate entrepreneurial skills into existing roles and job levels. You need to be flexible about starting at a lower rung and working your way up over time. Another disadvantage is that you’re not responsible for every decision; the scope is much smaller and you need to be okay letting go of some responsibility. There’s also a culture shift because every company’s culture is different.
[32:58] Why did you pursue the PDMA NPDP certification?
It’s easy to back off on training and certifications when you’re an entrepreneur because you’re so caught up in the day to day of running the business. In a corporate environment, you have time and money for professional development. The company wants you to grow and that makes it really easy do things like certifications.
“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” – James Keller
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
I’m excited to announce that book 2 of the series is now available. You can get your copy at:
Written for beginner to semi-seasoned outdoor-enthusiasts, this book delves into how to select gear, effective ways to set up your campsite, safe drinking water, shower options, and more. The word “camping” inspires smiles in many people. Learn how to escape your daily life and create memorable family experiences in the woods.
ISBN # 978-1733596947
More about the book
The word “camping” inspires smiles in many people. My goal is to show you how to create memorable family experiences in the woods. First off, I’d like to thank you for buying this book. If you’re about to embark on your first camping trip then forge ahead and let me share what I’ve learned over the years. On the other hand, if you’ve camped a few times and are looking for tips on how to be more efficient and accomplished in your future trips, then read on. I always say knowledge weighs nothing. My hope is that you’ll find yourself better informed after reading this book.
This book ships for free to the Continental US only.
About the author:
Allow me to share a little about myself. As a graduate of North Carolina State University, my day job is mechanical engineering specializing in new product development. I was raised in Asheville, NC, where I earned my Eagle Scout award. Growing up, our home was located only a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, so I had many blessed opportunities to spend time outside. My childhood was an exceptional gateway to outdoor adventure for an inquisitive kid with tons of time and a vivid imagination.
As an avid outdoor enthusiast, I’d say my happy place is being in the woods. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to camp in North Carolina, Virginia, and New Mexico. The trip to New Mexico was a ninety mile backpacking trip to Philmont, the famous Boy Scout reservation. These rich experiences have molded me into the man I am today.
My wife and I own land in the mountains near Hot Springs, NC, where we hope to build a cabin sometime over the next couple of years. Until then, Connie and I enjoy tent camping there several times a year.
During the final edit of this book, we camped near Blowing Rock, NC, and hiked the Profile Trail up Grandfather Mountain. What a glorious hike and memorable weekend enjoying tent camping just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
I have found that camping is a great way to enjoy nature while keeping your trips inexpensive. When you camp, you save money so you can spread your funds over more excursions and spend more time outdoors—which is a win-win for everybody involved! Just like everyone else who works nine-to-five, I struggle with my work life balance. Throw in family and responsibilities at home, you quickly realize you must carve out time to do what you enjoy.
This book covers a lot of skills and topics that apply to camping in your area and at different stages of life. Camping is a great experience for your family. Hopefully Family Camping (Montie’s Guide to Camping, Book One) helps you escape your daily life and enjoy the outdoors!Sign up for Montie Gear, Inc. newsEmailSubscribe
My new book on your first family camping trip is available on Amazon Kindle. This book has been a 2 year journey to complete but now it is ready to review. I need your help to provide potential readers on Amazon with candid reviews. The ebook is available on Kindle or as a paperback.
Honest feedback is great and I really appreciate it.
How to get the book for free
You can download the book for free from Amazon Kindle from Friday, February 22nd through Sunday, February 24th. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to Leave a Helpful Review on Amazon
The best reviews are candid and list what you like about the book and what you don’t. Comments that just say it is wonderful are good, but comments that explain why you like the book are the most valuable to other potential readers.
Once you create your review and it is posted on Amazon, please email me at email@example.com. To be eligible for the contest you must post your review and send me an email with a screen shot or your reviewer name and date of review. I’ll collect those and add them to the drawing. The drawing occurs on Saturday March 16th.
The prizes for the drawing are:
1st Prize – Montie Gear DIY Slingshot kit – Get the kit for your own slingshot. These slingshots are highly rated around the world.
Check out Joerg Sprave’s review on the slingshot channel at:
or check out the slingshot on the Montie Gear website:
2nd Prize – Montie Gear X-Rest – Great for supporting your rifle or long camera lens.
3rd Prize – Paperback copy of “Family Camping”. I’m have 10 of these to give away.
So, when we got the opportunity to pick up the quiet quiver product, it seemed pretty cool. And I spent a little bit of time with it on top of the mountain a while back, but haven’t spent the day hunting with it. So, I’m going to do that. So that was today. So, I took the quiver off my bow. And I will say that when you remove the hard quiver off your bow do it at home, because if you forget to do it at home and it’s oh-dark-thirty and you’re standing in the dark by the truck, when you unscrew that quiver and don’t realize you unscrewed the catch nut on the backside and that falls down, and it’s black and its dark (and its early) probably best to take that quiver off at home, the hard quiver. It took me a little while to find that nut. Found it though, so life’s good.
So, we’ve got the quiet quiver and the quiet quiver is kind of like a single strap backpack, but it’s just big enough to hold your arrows and a couple of real small pockets. One of the pockets was intended as a bowstring pocket for longbow shooters. What that allows you to do is to get the arrows off your bow and cuts down your visual signature as well. So, when you’re in a tree stand and you’ve got six fletchings or three fletchings (or however many you have in your quiver) and you move your bow, you’re taking those brightly colored fletchings and you’re waving them in front of the deer. A quiet quiver hides those fletchings inside the quiver, so you’re not adding that visual signature to your repertoire. Instead you’ve got a fairly quiet way to hold that.
So, here’s some things I learned with actually taking this out in the field. One is that, of course, it’s one more thing to manage on your back. So, if you’re carrying a hunting pack that has calls in it, my line to pull my bow up a tree, snacks, what have you – then it’s something you’ve got to figure out how you manage both of them. Because if you just throw this over one shoulder, then I don’t like that because its constantly moving around. If you put it over shoulders, then you’ve got a strap that’s going underneath your pack or over your pack, so how are you going to kind of rig that. And the other option is that you can use the strap . . . unsnap the strap and connect it to straps on some hunting packs that are meant to hold equipment. That’s an option depending on what type of hunting pack you use, or maybe you sew something on or Velcro or zip tie something on that allows you to snap your quiver into your pack. And that’s really nice. I haven’t done that yet. But it seems like that would be pretty easy to do, just looking at everything.
Once you get the quick quiver situated on your back, to where you’re comfortable with how you’ve kind of rigged everything up – which strap goes where and so forth – then it’s light enough weight that you really don’t notice the weight. The arrows are light, the quiver’s light. It’s just not a big weight penalty. Some nice things are that once you get up in your tree stand, you can unsnap the quiet quiver and snap that to a carabiner off your tree belt or off your tree stand or what have you. And then its right there at the right height if you need. So, you can quietly drop your (in my case, left) hand down, push the arrow up slightly off the foam that’s capturing the broadhead lightly, and then push it up and then slide it down. And then you’re ready to nock the arrow.
We have product called a Hunter’s Friend that’s a Montie Gear product, that works great for bow hunting; it works good for rifle hunting. It works awesome for bow hunting, though. And what it allows you to do is to strap this to the tree and it basically sticks an arm out from the tree; an aluminum, ultra-lightweight arm. And that arm supports your bow. It also supports my binoculars. And the other this is the strap for quiet quiver. So now I’ve kind of got everything I need right there, at arm’s reach, but I’m not having to hold onto that bow for four hours. Which, I get tired of doing that after a while. And so, the quiet quiver works really well with the Montie Gear Hunter’s Friend. And the other place it works really well, too, is that after I came out of the tree stand, I decided to do a tour of the property and just see what I flushed. And so, I had the quiet quiver strap over my shoulder, kind of messenger bag style, cross style, and that works fairly well once you get the length of the strap adjusted right. So that way I can move easily. It’s really not in the way of shooting my bow. And so, overall, that worked pretty good. The downside’s I see are that its one more piece of stuff to manage, moving in and out. It manages easily on the tree stand. I was really happy about how its not a pain when you’re in the tree stand to manage. Now, of course, that’s going to vary, too, depending on the size of your tree stand, how you set up your tree stand. There’s a lot of things that could impact that. But, like I said, using the Hunter’s Friend, getting in and out – I really didn’t have any problems. So, I was pretty happy with that.
So, this wasn’t a product we designed. This was a product from a gentleman that we were introduce to up in the mountains. And he’s a longbow hunter and so the few minutes I spent with the product, when we met up at Troublesome Gap to take delivery of the first batch, it seemed good; but I wanted to test that out, of course, in real conditions.
So, overall, I think that for this to be an effective product, just like with any piece of equipment you’re going to use for hunting, spend a few minutes before you get on the trail, before you get in the stand, and work out how you’re going to carry it, how you’re going to use it. Practice with it. And especially, since, as I said, if you mix a hunting pack with this, you want to make sure that you can don the hunting pack and quiver easily, and doff it (or put it on and take it off) so that you’re not fighting that in the dark. And then the other thing, too, is think about how this works with your tree stand. Where do you put your gear and how is that going to fit into that? I think, overall, though, I was pretty pleased. I’m pretty happy. Some notes – the one that holds twelve arrows, I carried six in it. You could put twelve in there; its plenty big for six. We have one that’s a six-arrow one in the batch we got. And that would be fine for six or fine for a lower number. I think that one thought there is that if you’re only going to carry three arrows, then get a six one; don’t get a twelve one because its just a little extra bulk that you don’t need. If you want to carry more arrows, if you want to carry six or more, then the twelve is fine. So, I would just throw that out there. The twelve arrow version is big enough for twelve, and you might feel like it’s a little too big if you’re only going to carry three. At the same, the six-arrow one you can fit six in. Just a note for sizing.
We also do have a left-handed one that you can get. And if you need a special one, we can special order that. There’s so much hand content that goes into these that doing a special order is not really a big deal. They’re all made one-by-one, anyway, and there’s so much labor that goes into it. It’s not a big deal. It is quiet. It definitely lives up to that name. There’s not a lot of noise. The only noise that you can have off this, one is unsnapping it and snapping the snaps for the strap; and those nylon snaps can be a little noisy. So, I think that’s a negative. But any strap you’ve got that if you want to unsnap it in the field, there’s going to be some noise. Other than that, it’s extremely quiet.
You may want to, when you place your arrows in there, spread them out. I just kind of slid six arrows in, in a bunch. And there was a little bit of noise when the shafts hit each other. But I only saw that noise when I was messing with the arrows and I was in the tree stand and, like, for example, I’m pulling an arrow out. One time there was a little bit of noise. Like I said, because I really didn’t put any time into placing the arrows carefully, I think the next time I do it, I’ll take the twenty seconds and just kind of spread those out. There’s a foam, a very robust foam, that the broadhead sinks down into and just spreads those broadheads out, so that they don’t touch. As I said, I was a little sloppy about that and it caused a little bit of noise in the tree stand. But, overall, it’s pretty doggone quiet, especially when you’re moving through the woods. It’s soft. But if you spread those arrows out, you’re just not going to have any noise come off of that.
And the other thing, too, is that you may want to consider if you’re going to attach this to your Hunter’s Friend, and you’ve shorten the straps, then you don’t need to unsnap it. If you want to snap it to something else, you may want to consider leaving a carabiner on your tree stand, and then dropping that, like, for example, on your tree belt, I’ll leave a rope, a static line on a tree belt. I’ll put it up first of the season. And then every time I go its already there; its not something I have to carry. And I can snap it and go up the tree stand safely, and come out of the tree stand. So, I’ll leave a carabiner up there.
So, another option, of course, is to take the strap that goes across your body and just drop that onto the carabiner, which is a little quieter than unsnapping. So, there again, that’s a matter, too, of you working out how your gear’s going to interact, and how you’re going to use it and a little training and a little practice and all’s good.
So, that’s kind of my review on the way back. I did not get a deer today. I did not take a deer. I saw three nice ones, and never had a shot. So, they’re deer. But, that’s alright. It’s always a learning experience. In this case, now, I’ve got a much better idea of some of the pattern that they’re following as they’re moving. Fortunately, I got to watch them follow that pattern as they left. But, fortunately, though, it was a nice day hunting. If we got something every time out, then it’d be a boring sport. It’s a nice activity. It’s nice to get out. I appreciate Al letting me use his place.
I hope that this helps you, not only with thinking about the Quiet Quiver and whether that’s something you want to own or give as a gift, but also, too, it gives you insight into, you know, some of my hunting experiences which I enjoy getting out to. There are people that are much better hunters than I am. But I definitely enjoy it. And occasionally I’ll harvest a deer, catch a fish. But, in the meantime, I’m pretty happy. Good day and a beautiful day, especially for late October. I’m hoping this weather doesn’t get too nasty before my trip to the mountains. The last couple years it wasn’t too bad. And the year before that it was just cold. When you roll out of that tent at seven degrees, nine degrees, that’s just cold. But, there again, it was beautiful. It was quiet. You could hear the dear walking towards you for, if felt like, a mile. Unfortunately, they could probably hear me for (felt like) a mile. But we’ll see what happens in a few weeks, and I’ll try to send you some pictures. And we’ll kind of go from there.
Thanks, and have a great weekend and enjoy your next hunting trip. And if you’re looking for a present for your hunter boyfriend or husband or brother or . . . ha-ha, or sister or wife that hunts; there’s a lot of women that enjoy hunting. So, if you need something as a present for them, then I would encourage you to check out some of our Montie Gear products. They’re pretty cool. It’s not something you’re going to see everywhere you go. We only make a few, and have a good time making them. So, it’s a little different approach. Made in America. And we make products pretty much the way we want to make them. A lot of times the way I want to make them. But I get a lot of input from the community, too, so its really not an “I”, it’s a “we”. And so, we end up with products that are different; they’re tough; they’re rugged; and you can be proud to give as a gift or maybe one day you’ll give it to your grandkids or your kids when they take up hunting. So, we try to make heirloom quality products for our outdoor gear that you can feel good about that you’re going to give as an heirloom.
The Quiet Quiver, it’s a soft case; we’ll see how that wears over time. If you take good care of it, it should last a lifetime. It’s built to. And the Hunter’s Friend, that’s aluminum and stainless steel; if you don’t bend it or do something crazy with it, then that should last multiple lifetimes.
So, this is Montie Roland. I am signing off. And I’m going to go put up my gear and see what my wife’s fixed to eat. So, thanks for listening and have a great day.
Montie’s Note: Here is a Montie Gear product story that gives a insight into the design and a use case that includes testing and field use by the designer. This was a customer newsletter item.
Fall is synonymous with whitetail deer hunting in the South. Our wives become “deer widows” for 2-3 months while we disappear into the woods and look for that giant buck we’ve been watching for. Wives get used to seeing their husbands up late at night looking a pictures from trail cams and learn to cook venison. Saturday mornings are viewed from 20 feet up in a tree stand. Good times and priceless moments.
The Hunter’s Friend was initiated by a suggestion from Al Davis, owner of AllFab Solutions. He is an avid hunter and wanted a way to hang his bow or rifle from a tree without having to run a screw into the tree and damage the tree. A few weeks later, the Hunter’s Friend was born.
Getting your gear to the field and into the tree stand means work. Gear that you take up to the tree must be compact, lightweight and easy to deploy. Setting up your gear while you are hanging from a tree and 20 feet up means it must be well designed and flawlessly task at hand. Anything else is just something that will get left at home.
The Hunter’s Friend holds your bow (or rifle) in the ready position. Holding your bow, or rifle, in your lap can be tiring after a few hours. The Hunter’s Friend solves that problem while keeping your bow at the ready position. I also use it to hold my calls, binoculars and range finder. It straps around the tree without damage so you keep the landowner happy.
I believe that we have 3 in stock so don’t delay in ordering yours, or suggest it as a gift. Check out the pictures below from a recent hunt in Chatham County, NC.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll email a coupon code good for 25% off your next purchase!
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’s Note: As product designers, we often obsess with QFD, House of Quality, Pairwise groupings, but some products are just simple and fun. Here is a new product announcement for a Montie Gear product that we had fun with. Here is an example of a simple and less serious outdoor sporting goods product that is very handy for the user in an outdoor environment.
In the pine trees found in Western NC, resin naturally accumulates over years of growth, creating what is locally known as Fatwood. The resin impregnated pine wood makes a great fire starter. One of our local outdoors experts, Bill, harvests our fatwood from the stumps of pine trees that were cut years earlier.
We all love sitting by the camp fire, but the toughest part about starting a campfire is the preparation. Fatwood works as great kindling, as a small amount is all that is required to help you get the fire started. Checkout out our Fatwood options at the Montie Gear store!
Click on the image above to watch Bill’s video
.5 lb Bundle of Fatwood – Click to Order
.5 lb Bundle of Fatwood- Click to Order
1 lb Box of Fatwood- Click to Order
3/4 lb Fatwood Block- Click to Order
We use Kanban cards at Montie Gear to manage our inventory. The purpose of the cards is to make sure we don’t run out of inventory so we have the products you want, when you want them. Kanban is a way to use a simple formula to determine how much product to keep on hand by using customer demand and the time it takes to produce the product. You can hear more about Kanban cards at:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.