How to Design Successful Outdoor Products

Designing any great product is easier when the designer and engineers to have an appreciation for how they are making the customer, reseller and distributor’s life easier and more profitable.  This podcast explores how I was motivated to design products for the camping / glamping market.  We’ll also explore what it means to have a robust product.

Call me at 800.722.7987 or email montie@montie.com or visit montie.com to discuss how we can help with the design, engineering and prototyping of your next product.

Montie Gear Y-Shot Slingshot shooting a break down arrow
Montie Gear Y-Shot Slingshot

Here is the transcript from the podcast.

Hi, my name is Montie Roland. I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina.

I’d like to spend a few minutes today talking about keys to success in designing an outdoor product.

Let me tell you a little bit about what we do. Montie Design is a product development firm. And we’re also the manufacturers of MontieGear line, which is a line of outdoor and shooting-related products.

I personally enjoy designing products of all kinds. One of the products I enjoy the most is products that are outdoor related. I enjoy spending time in the outdoors – enjoy camping, enjoy backpacking – so I’m always trying to come up with, you know, what’s a way to make that trip more pleasurable, safer, easier. Or what’s a way to extend the capacity and do something better.

I think a lot of us have spent time camping. A lot of times, when we’re growing up, maybe going car camping . . . maybe you just went once or twice. Maybe it was with Indian Princesses or with Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. But being outdoors, there’s a certain freedom and there’s a certain . . . lack of captivity then you are when you’re between four walls. Now the trade-off is that you got to work a little harder. It’s . . . not as comfortable, sometimes. You’re out of your comfort zone. You don’t have some of the comforts of home. And so . . . equipment over the past few years has changed in some ways; in some ways it’s very similar. When you’re camping, you want to be comfortable. You know, one of the horror stories you see on the commercials and on TV (and maybe experienced) is getting wet. You know . . . my daughters and I were camping in the Shenandoah’s a few years ago, and Hurricane Bob came through. We had no idea which way that hurricane was going to go. And we had planned this grip in advance and we finally said, Hey, let’s just go. And worst case? We’ll just drive home. And so we were up in the Shenandoah’s and . . . it rained. And . . . and then the tropical storm actually passed over. And it rained. And, did I mention it rained? Yeah. And in between the rain, there was rain. So, needless to say it was a challenging environment for about . . . I don’t know – twenty-four hours? When it rained for twenty-four hours. Did I mention the cooking in the rain? Or no . . . yeah.

But, anyway, so our tent wasn’t up to the challenge. Now, thankfully, our Aerobed was. So, late that evening, our tent in one corner had about two foot of water in it. And the average depth in the tent was probably six inches. Now, we were car camping, and thankfully, we had put everything in boxes, these waterproof . . . or, pseudo-waterproof boxes, because we had stuff in the truck. So, we had the bed full of camping gear. And . . . so when it rained and tent flooded, we . . . we were laying on the Aerobed, and the Aerobed was floating. Our boxes were floating. So, if you wanted something out of a box, you had to reach over and grab it, pull you to it, take the lid off without tipping it over and bringing water in. Also had to be real careful not to let your sleeping bag fall off the Aerobed, because if you did, it was wet.

So, it was definitely challenging in that way. I think that we still had a good time. Have to ask my daughters. I might be being optimistic. But . . . so in that case, the product didn’t live up to the challenge. I ended up taking the tent back.

So, when you’re outdoors, one of the things you want to provide with your products is you want to enhance the comfort of the trip, if you can. Now, the product may itself enhance the comfort. So, let’s say you’ve got an inflatable mattress, making sleeping more comfortable. That is so nice when you’re camping. But at the same time, I think it’s important to also think about how the product’s carried, how it’s stored, how it’s used. So, for example, you may enhance the comfort of the trip by making an existing product easier to carry. So, for example, if something’s big and bulky and takes up too much room in the car, or in your pack, then you may find that it’s really uncomfortable. Or, let’s say that for some reason it pokes you in the back in your backpack; when it’s in the backpack, its poking you in the back. Or it’s causing some sort of other transportation dilemma. So, how the product is carried, how it packs, how easy it is to pack – those are all things that can help make your trip more comfortable in that respect. And also, less work. One of the things with our Montie Gear products that we push is to have products that are very, very easy to assemble. Because when you’re tired, it’s raining, its dark, its cold, the last thing you want is to have a product that’s overly complex and difficult to assemble. Because once that happens, those conditions amplify the difficulty of using it, assembling it, breaking camp, what have you. And you’ve lowered the user’s perception of the product, possibly to the point they’re done with it.

So, you always want products that are easy to assemble, easy to use. Just because something’s that easy to assemble on your desk at work, when you’re sitting in a comfortable chair and not hungry, not tired, no rain, seventy-two degrees . . . you may be able to do it on your desk and go, Well, that’s not so bad. But then once you get outside, in the outside environment, looking for twelve pieces that you just dropped onto the ground and now found out that the color they are is perfectly camouflaged – those all add aggravation. So, you want to have products that are low aggravation. And generally, readying the product for use – assembly, what have you – is an area where we’ve seen a lot of . . . I have personally when I was camping seen a need to really think through the product. So, you want a product that’s comfortable; you want a product that easy to assemble, easy to bring to bear, easy to stand up. We want a product that is easy to use. There again, if you’re sitting by the fire and its dark, having some precision alignment of holes before you can put something in a pin, before you can, you know, use it; maybe you have to take it apart between uses and put it back together. Well, if it’s difficult to do in the dark, there again, you may have a product that just doesn’t fit that environment.

So, that . . . that goes to the issue of being robust. Robust products are easy to use, easy to assemble, and hard to damage. And give you . . . also, I will argue that a truly robust product gives you ways that you can use it in ways that the designer never intended. So, maybe there’s a “I intended to do ‘A’”; your customer does “B”. At that point, that’s a really valuable piece of feedback to know because that may open up a whole new market for you. Or, give you an idea of a new product you should design.

So, robust products are ones that they are just easy to use, hard to damage, and easy to assemble, easy to take down, and give you options. Sometimes you can do stuff twelve different ways. Sometimes it’s one, depending on the product.

So, the other thing is you want products that are rugged when you’re designing for the outdoors. Now, sometimes you have limits on that, how rugged they are. A great example is a tent pole. Tent poles, by nature, tend to be fragile to keep weight down, especially with backpacking tents. So there’s this implicating understood trade-off that when I lay out my tent poles from my backpacking tent on the ground, I don’t want anybody around because I don’t want anybody to step on it and bend it or break it. And so I understand that the trade-off of having a four-pound-ten-ounce tent is the fact that the poles are delicate until they’re assembled. Now, they’re easy to assemble with a shock-cord and so forth. But until they get into the tent, they . . . can be hard to . . . can be delicate. Now, once they’re on the tent, they need to be extremely robust. That fifty-mile-an-hour wind, or that six inches of snow, that tent needs to come through that, and that pole needs to do its job with no problems what so ever.

So, there are times when the rugged nature and the robust nature has to be within a specific pattern of use, or a specific part of a pattern of use. And I think the other thing that’s important when you’re camping is that you want a product that looks like it should be a product when you’re camping. Now, one of the things that has changed about this is that for a long time camping products were very functional. They looked like something that you’d buy at the Army Navy Store. A good example is Coleman stove. A white gas later gave way to propane. But, they’re great, they’re rugged; you can fix them with a . . . a knife and a screwdriver, some oil; and they’re just great products – they last forever. And I think long life is usually a by-product of having something that’s rugged and something that’s robust. So, a lot of these cots and other things just look like something the military would use. Now, what happened a few years ago is REI came on the scene, a great outdoor provisioning company. And all of a sudden, camping became more upscale. And so as these stores competed for dollars, one of the ways that they made themselves more distinctive was to provide very high quality, very robust products, and provide them at a higher cost, because higher quality robust, what have you . . . and that also gave the opportunity and the need for more industrial design. Where thinking through the customer experience, the customer experience behind the counter, or in front of the counter; customer experience in the field; what the customer sees on the website; reviews; what have you. So, the world kind of changed and now we have camping products that a lot of times are beautiful as well as tough.

And so, with a camping product, you got to also . . . you know, where does it fall? Is it an inexpensive product? And Coleman is an expert at providing relatively inexpensive, less frills, less performance products. Or, is it a product that is a higher quality product and a higher end product (something you might see at REI)? And then in the past few years, there’s also been a switch to what I’m going to call “Glamping” products. And I think glamping . . . which another way to look at it is called “glamorous camping”. It’s something we can thank the Europeans for. And we were headed there anyway. But, in Europe, you can go camping at a campground and camp in a two thousand square foot tent with flat screen TVs, satellite cable, Persian rugs, couches, that are really, basically, high-end homes made out of fabric. And so the option of doing glamping, I think, is starting to come to the U.S., and that’s going to impact some of the products that are designed for this market as well. So, just to keep that in mind, you’ve kind of got a low-to-midrange, which is the Coleman products; a lot of products that folks who own RVs buy; and then the mid-range . . . mid-low-or-high, which is REI – so you’ve got brands like Patagonia, you know; Merrill. And then you’ve got high end, the glamping products. And that kind of gives you, hopefully, gives you a framework of where to start when you have to look at how you’re going to structure this product. Where does it live? And, also, to evaluate whether or not you’ve got the right product designed. How effective it’ll be in the marketplace.

So, these are some criteria. Just to summarize. You want a product that’s rugged. You want a product that’s robust. You want a product that’s high quality. You want a product that fits the intended market segment, be it the lower end (the Coleman, a lot of the RV products), the mid-range (the REIs and Great Out Door Provision Company-type market); or the glamping market. You want a product that’s easy to use, easy to assemble. You want a product that’s easy to assemble when it’s almost dark and raining and cold. You know, can you assemble this product with gloves? Is this a product where once it’s . . . it’s hard to damage once it’s installed, but is easy to install. So, in camping, it’s a very tough market because it’s so functionally driven and so user experience driven. And then also, too, yeah, always keep in mind is that you’ve got different types of camping. You’ve got car camping. You’ve got glamping. And, of course, car camping being you drive your car to up to where you’re going to camp; you unload everything. So, weight and size isn’t so much of a penalty; comfort’s a high priority. Backpacking – weight is everything. Comfort – eh, not so much so. And ruggedness in backpacking is very important, but you have a more sophisticated user that understands that you don’t want to bend that tent pole when you’re twenty miles from anywhere.

So, keeping all those in mind, I hope you design some great outdoor products. If you have a product that you need . . . maybe you’ve got a concept and need us to design an product and then build a prototype and help you get it into manufacturing, or just some small part of that, give me a call, we’d love to help.

Montie Roland, Montie Design, 1-800-722-7987. Or montie (M-O-N-T-I-E)@montie(M-O-N-T-I-E).com. I hope you have a great day. I hope this podcast was beneficial for you. Montie Roland, signing off.

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.

Simple Products plus a Great Back Story = Success

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

Product from Timber Green Woods
Product from Timber Green Woods

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

What Do World-Class Design and Profitability Have in Common? (continued)

Who made the decision to concentrate so much engineering and design effort on the door?  Who made the decision to concentrate effort on the handle and the blade, not just tweaking a centuries-old design?  In smaller companies, many of these decisions are not addressed by marketing and end up being shrugged off onto engineering.  The problem is that engineers are usually better at meeting specifications than prioritizing softer issues (such as look, feel and usability).  In larger companies, the bridge between marketing and engineering often comes in the form of an industrial design group.  In smaller companies the industrial design portion of the development process is often neglected.  The result is often products that are specification-centric instead of user-centric.

As demonstrated by the Oxo knives, user-centric products aren’t limited to high-end luxury products.  User-centric products tend to build loyal customer bases and repeat sales.  The key element in developing a user-centric product is to insert the task of industrial design into your design and development process.  Industrial designers take into account the various issues of function, form, available technology, manufacturing cost and users to synthesize a design.  The external appearance is only a small part of the industrial design process.  This is also the part of the design process where the vast majority of the product innovation occurs.  By looking at the product wholistically, the design team gets a glimpse of the entire life cycle of the product.  This is a step in the design process that has a tremendous amount of impact on the economical manufacturability of the product and the success of the product in the marketplace.  A well-executed initial product concept leads to drastically improved manufacturability and usability.

Today’s reality is that products are becoming more sophisticated.  Sophistication can come in many forms, such as advanced technology.  Sophistication can also come in the form of a more usable or more visually attractive design.  So even a technologically unsophisticated product can benefit from a more robust design process.  Making your products better and more successful may be easier than you think.  Investing in world-class design to ensure product profitability is key in a cautious economy.

Montie W. Roland is the President of Montie Design, a product development and industrial design firm headquartered in Morrisville, North Carolina.  Montie can be reached at 1-800-722-7987, www.montie.com, or montie@montie.com.

What Do World-Class Design and Profitability Have in Common?

by Montie W. Roland,
President, Montie Design

In today’s uncertain economy many companies and consumers delay purchasing even high priority items.  With corporate expenditures at a low, just being competitive is not enough. If a new product is to succeed, it must be compelling.
In good economic times the perceived need for industrial design often decreases.  Instead, the emphasis shifts to issues that engineers place as priority, revolving around specifications and meeting legacy requirements.  If a product doesn’t meet the customer’s requirements it will not succeed in the marketplace.  However, if we don’t look at the product wholistically the purpose of the product – to serve the user – may get lost in the rush to get the product out the door.

“Good Enough” is a phrase that makes many engineers wince.  When we go to engineering school we are taught to do exact calculations. The engineer can then apply tolerance to a nominal value and see if the calculated value falls in the acceptable range. Unfortunately, many of the variables and issues inherent to product design are not easily quantifiable.  It is often a struggle to determine what is truly important to the user and to the marketplace.  When specifications are challenged, it is common to either find legacy specifications that are no longer relevant or specifications that greatly exceed the end user’s real needs.

Product managers must take a critical look at every line in a specification.  They must also be willing to expand their expectations and create wish lists.  Items on wish lists are often easy to incorporate into a product if they are known about at the beginning of the design cycle.  These are some of the reasons why the dialogue between the product manager and the members of the design group is so important.  Unfortunately, many design groups spend a large portion of their time and effort trying to meet irrelevant specifications, while never even attempting to include valuable features that could be inexpensively added if they had known about them up front.

An example is shutting a car door.  Anyone who commutes to work opens and closes their car door at least four times a day. If you multiply that by the number of days in the year and then by 60 years, you find out that you will probably open and close a car door more than eighty-seven thousand times in your life.

Now imagine going to the car dealer.  You get out of your Yugo and shut the door behind you.  You walk across the parking lot and open the door to a brand new Lexus.  Will you notice the difference in how the Lexus door opens and closes?  The answer is YES!  You may not stop to think about the differences such as the weight of the door, the silky motion and the smooth closing action of the door catch.  However, you will definitely notice the Lexus’ luxurious feel.

Both car doors meet the basic functional requirements.  They open and close with a single motion.  They keep the rain out and provide the user with a sense of isolation from the outside world.  Both doors have windows that raise and lower.  However, there are some significant design differences.  The Lexus’ door is much heavier and sits on more precise hinges.  The Lexus has electric window lifts.  The Lexus door is much thicker and has better sound insulation.  Even the door handle and door latch action on the Lexus are significantly smoother.  In a luxury car, great care is taken in how the door looks, feels and operates.  Those subtle differences are part of the reason why marketers of the Lexus are able to justify the cost difference between the Lexus and other vehicles.  Now imagine what it would mean to the sales of your product if you were able to differentiate your product as dramatically in its market space!

Another example is the Oxo Good Grips utility knife.  The knife was designed for Oxo International by an industrial design firm.  Since the introduction of the Good Grips knife, there has been a trend to more user-centric knives.  Why was this knife so successful in a very crowded and very mature market space?  Was it because of the fact that the handle of the knife was soft, easy-to-clean, ergonomically-designed and very comfortable-to-use when marketed against hard, wooden-handled knives which haven’t changed for hundreds of years?  The answer is a resounding no!  The knife combined all these wonderful traits with a state-of-the-art blade that was incredibly sharp.  Its success wasn’t just because of some really cool handle design, but because it does its job incredibly well.  It is easily useable by the widest possible range of people.   The industrial designers worked with the engineers to create a superb product from the ground up.  There were no racing stripes added at the last minute for market pizazz.  Just a product designed, from the beginning, to do its job superbly well.

Would a traditional, wooden-handled knife with the same blade technology as the Oxo knife have been as successful?  Would it have gained the same amount of market share in the same short period of time?  The combination of great engineering and great industrial design resulted in a knife that worked so well that it established an entirely new genre of knives in a crowded and very mature market.  The finished product gave consumers a compelling reason to purchase this knife.  The Oxo type of success is what we want you to achieve for your new product.

(continued)

Montie W. Roland is the President of Montie Design, a product development and industrial design firm headquartered in Morrisville, North Carolina.  Montie can be reached at 1-800-722-7987, www.montie.com, or montie@montie.com.

Joys of Unintended Use

Sometimes products can be used in ways you didn’t intend when you originally created them.  As an example, the Camping Shelf we design for Montie Gear was originally intended as a camp kitchen organizer / food prep area.

The realization came, as we were standing on top of the mountain, that this shelf would also work really, really well to hold up our camp shower.  Not only did it hold up the camp shower it also held up the wash clothes, soap and served as a hanger for the nozzle.  It also made it easy to pull the bucket down to add more hot water.  Here are some pictures of the final result.

To buy one of these wonderful shelves, please visit www.montiegear.com.

Product Win – Paintball Marker Rack

The variety of paintball markers seems endless. They come in many, many shapes and sizes so designing a “universal” rack looked like a daunting task at first. The secret to the success of this design was to look for areas of commonality between the different markers. We identified the areas that didn’t vary significantly from marker to marker. These included the thickness of the pistol grip, barrel outer diameters and the presence of finger guards that varied in location, but along a single vector.

The rack has to keep the marker upright to prevent balls from spilling out of the hopper. The rack also holds the marker upright for maintenance, hopper fills, and to protect the marker when not in use.

The rack quickly breaks down for transportation. The aggressive shape is designed to compliment the nature of the paintball sport. The racks are available on the Montie Gear site starting in March. Do you like the rack? Give us a call at 1-800-722-7987 and we’ll put our engineering and design skills to use on your product!

AnchorNeed Engineering or Design Help?
We can bring our know how and drive for success to your products and help you succeed. Call us today help with:- mechanical engineering
– industrial design
– prototypes
– project management and cost prediction

We help manufacturers engineer, develop and prototype new products. Whether you are a funded startup or a medium-size manufacturer, we can help!

Contact Montie Roland at 800-722-7987 x107 or montie@montie.com. Please visit our website at www.montie.com.

New Product Pics

Check out the pics of the Hunter’s Friend!

The Hunter’s Friend mounts onto a tree just above the hunter’s should while in the tree stand. The device keeps the bow in a position where it can be instantly and silently brought to the shooting position without any excess noise or motion that could frighten game away.

Podcast: Romance of Manufacturing Your Own Products

There is a great satisfaction that comes from design and manufacturing your own products.  Seems like that we lost that romance (as a nation) for a while, so its good to see it coming back.  The Made Local movement is an important one for the long term success of the United States.  Lets explore this for a few minutes.

Romance of Manufacturing Your Own Products

Thanks for listening.

Let me know if we can help with any of your design projects.  Call me at 800-722-7987 or email montie@montie.com today to get started!

Cheers,
Montie

Audio Transcript

Hi. My name is Montie Roland. And I’m with Montie Design. I’m going to spend a few minutes with you today talking about a subject that comes up a good bit. And that is do I license? Or do I manufacture it myself.

And we’ve kind of talked about this in some different ways over the past few months, and I think that there’s this thing that we’ve kind of lost as a culture. And that is the craftsmanship, the makers. And I get the fact that someone looks at developing a product and getting a patent and licensing it out as a way of earning some income. That is completely valid. And I’m not running that down at all. As a matter of fact, that’s a very healthy thing for our economy. It’s a winner all the way around. And that’s kind of a little bit different than what I want to focus on.

I’m driving down Highway 49 in North Carolina between Raleigh and Charlotte. As I’m driving, I’m seeing these places where there are these small manufacturers. Very small; we’ll call them micro-manufacturers. One is I drove by an old building where the faded sign said “Len’s Saddlery”. And I’m guessing – now, I could be wrong here – but I’m guessing, since it says saddlery, he might have been a reseller, but he might have made them, too. And if he made them, that’s kind of neat. You know? Somebody that makes horse saddles. I’ve seen other places as I’ve gone by where there were these small businesses that had other, similar niche products, and some of these businesses never grow beyond a guy and his helper in a shed. At the same time, there’s a lot of situations like that where there’s one or two or three or four people where everybody in that shed does very well. They have a great product. It has a market. It sells. They’re very busy. We have a company down . . . well, maybe forty-five minutes or an hour from the office, that makes safes. And they can only make so many safes a month. And right now with all the political turmoil regarding firearms, they have more orders than they can fill. And they have these really high-quality, kick-butt safes. And so they have a safe where their competitor’s safe is maybe made of 16-gauge metal; and their safe is made of quarter-inch thick metal. So, in this case, we’re talking, you know, four times as thick. So, their safes are more expensive. But, they kind of have this following that’s interesting that the owner of the company told me that they’d actually have offers to buy their company. First question he asked is, Where you going to make ‘em? And the guy got real quiet. Said, We’re going to produce them wherever’s the most cost effective way, or something like that. Which basically means they may not be made in North Carolina anymore; may not be made in the U.S. I’ve heard other business owners who had the same comment. We talked to a guy the other day that the company said I want to license your patent and take over your product. And he said, Where are you going to make it? And they said, Wherever’s cheapest. And so that probably means it’s going to go to the Far East. And there’s nothing wrong with making products in the Far East. I’m not railing against any way. We design products that get made in the Far East. Every year we have very successful clients who trade, and international trade is a good thing, despite whatever anybody tells you. As long as it’s on a fair basis, it’s a good thing. Without delving too deep, I think we have to be careful about trade imbalances, but . . .

So, these folks that I’m talking about have these . . . you know, from boutique to slightly bigger businesses. And, as I drive through the country I see these places where some of these older businesses have close. And, you know, I look and some of them were, you know, maybe more on the reseller’s side; and some of them were on the small manufacturer. But I look and there’s this . . . I imagine somebody that’s older that is an expert in making ABC. And he has some folks that are maybe younger working for him and they make ABC. And maybe they make the best ABC on the planet. Maybe it’s just good. Or maybe it just meets the needs. But, so I look at that and there’s kind of this romantic fascination that says, Hey, it’d be nice if we had more of those companies. And, we’re starting to see more. I think the ones you’re seeing now that are at least getting the press, or these companies that, like, for example, make cupcakes. I don’t know if you know it or not but you can buy a $20 cupcake now; $10, $20, $8, $7, $6. You can buy cupcakes that are gourmet cupcakes. And that’s awesome. I think that a lot of these older styles of doing business are coming back. In Durham, there’s a company that has a meat truck. And so, I think it’s healthy for the economy and vibrant. And it also gives people a kind of an outlet. Because they can look at it and go, I could do that. They’re not . . . you know, they can look at General Motors and go, Oh; wow, that’s beyond me. And it probably is beyond most people to start the next General Motors. But, to start the next business where you’ve got a storefront and maybe a helper and you make a few of these a month – whatever that is – or a bunch of these a month, that’s something I think a lot of people can get their arms around. And I think that’s a great thing because when they do, that drives the economy. You know, those goods require raw materials, they require other vendors. It’s just a winner. And one of the things that I’m happy to see is micro-brands.

Now, as a company, if you come and say we want you to design something that I’m going to turn around and license, we’re happy to do that. And I’m happy to see that, too. The micro-brand part has that, you know, that romantic fascination because somebody’s going to actually put it together and ship it. Somebody’s going to get it out of the box and . . . and I think that’s an awfully nice way to do business.

I think it’s important to help those businesses along. From Montie Design’s standpoint, I don’t know that it’s a government role. The best government role there is just less regulation, because regulation ultimately slows down the growth of the smaller companies and . . . slows down the growth of all companies but it really hurts the smaller companies the worst. So, you know, the government’s role, I think, is just to reduce regulation. From a Montie Design role, hey, I’m happy to do podcasts and teach some classes and maybe encourage some folks.

I do think this is a great time in some ways, because all of a sudden, there’s a lot of people rethinking what they can do for a living. And rethinking, you know, how we can manufacture in the U.S. and make that work. I’m excited about that. It’s definitely a difficult economic time all the way around. Economy’s slowing down. But, you know, when there’s change, there’s opportunity. And so, I hope if you’re thinking about, you know, making your own product or . . . or driving forward, you know, that micro-brand or maybe that big brand, I hope that you’ll make that happen.

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to give me a call. Shoot me an email. It’s Montie Roland at 1-800-722-7987. 1-800-722-7987. Or shoot me an email at montie (M-O-N-T-I-E)@montie(M-O-N-T-I-E).com. Or you can visit our website – www.montie.com. Say hi on the chat. We have a little chat app at the bottom right. Click on it and say hi and introduce yourself. And let me know if any of these podcasts are interesting or helpful, or if you have suggestions.

Thanks. Have a great day. Montie Roland, signing off.

END AUDIO

Podcast: When the Customer Is Not Right

Lets chat about times when the customer is not right.  This runs contrary to conventional wisdom, but is good advice.  Lets explore this topic together.

Don’t hesitate to call 800-722-7987 or email montie@montie.com to talk about we can help with your product or project.

When the Customer Is Not Right

Podcast: Listening

Lets spend a few minutes talking about how effective listening can affect the design of a product and client relationships for better or worse. Montie gives his thoughts and tips on this easily overlooked step.

Listening

Please don’t hesitate to send an email to montie@montie.com with any questions or comments.  To find out more about how Montie Design can help you get your products to market, please visit  www.montie.com.

Podcast: Interviews as Part of the Product Design Process

Interviews are an important part of the product design process.  Many times interviews are neglected or poorly executed.  Lets spend a few minutes and talk about the interview process.

Interviews as Part of the Product Design Process
We can help with the design of your next product! Call Montie today at 919-481-1845, visit www.montie.com or email montie@montie.com to set up an appointment or visit to find out more.