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

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

This is a podcast I originally created in 2012.

Cheers,
Montie
montie@montie.com

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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.

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

 

10  years ago, the push was to go paperless.  Is paperless too much of a good thing?

Data in your computer is passive.  Yes you can manipulate it, share, mine it but you have to go ask for it.  Why not make data active?

Lean Manufacturing techniques include tools to make your data active but getting it out in from of your employees and managers on daily basis.  Put that data in front of your team an understandable and actionable format where it does the most good, i.e. right in front of them.

Lets explore the various facets of active vs. passive data.  Comments and suggestions are welcome here or at montie@montie.com

Cheers,
Montie

Here is the transcription from the podcast………………………………………………..

Audio file: 2015 May 17 – Lean Thoughts 1 – Active vs. Passive Data.mp3
Time transcribed: 12:29 minutes

[Opening music]

Hi. My name is Montie Roland. I’m with Montie Gear in Apex, North Carolina.

What I wanted to do is to share some thoughts with you today and have at least a one-way dialogue – it could become two, if you email me – about the difference between passive and active information. So I’d like to spend a few minutes talking about that. And maybe define it and have some examples.

One of the things that’s happened over the past twenty years is that we’ve had this head-long rush to get everything on the computer. So, we assumed that getting it on the computer is more efficient; is more cost-effective; is safer because you can back it up. And so we’ve created database after database after database. And one of the joys and the beauties of – and potentially harm – of doing this is that everybody can have access to information, without having to go down the hallway and grab something from a file cabinet. Now, of course, the horror is that can be hacked. Someone can get into that from across the world. Whereas, a file cabinet, you’ve got to physically be there to get into it. Now, a file cabinet can be broken into as well, but someone on the other side of the globe isn’t going to be able to do that without visiting here. So, we’ve created this electronic database that contains what we do. And the beauty of it is that everyone in your company can sit down, and if they have the right software and they have the access, they can read that data. The problem is that they have to go read it; they have to go look for it. So I’m going to call that passive data. Now, active data is data that’s right up in your face. And for those of y’all that are family with lean, you’re going to start going “Oh-ho, this is exactly where he is headed” because with lean the goal is to use vertical surfaces as . . . well, I shouldn’t say the goal. Lean is going use boards, charts and effectively, use your vertical surfaces as a way that in an instant you can look at a chart, and have an idea of that particular part of your business and what’s happening in there. And so in lean, there’s a lot of different charts and you chart different areas. And so the idea being that in seconds you can know what’s going on. So, let’s throw out an example. So, one example would be if I have a database of a soccer game. And what I’ve done is, through the magic of the computer and a vision system, I’ve tracked where the ball is, where the people are, what their speeds are, how fast they’re moving, how fast the ball is moving, how . . . blah-blah-blah. So, I have this giant database of excruciating detail regarding the performance of every player on the field. And somewhere in there I have the fact there was a goal scored at this point – point-oh-oh . . . twenty-seven minutes, three seconds and two milliseconds, the ball entered the net. So, if I want to know what’s happening in the soccer game, now I’ve got to have a way to visualize all that data. So, I’ve got to go to the computer; I’ve got to use my visualization tool; I’ve got do all this stuff. But the beauty of it is if I want to know what that player’s performance is, or that team’s performance is, I can do that ad infinitum. Now, let’s make a contrasting example. So, I’ve got the computer database with all this wonderful information. And then the contrasting example is I go to the game. So at the game, there’s several key elements involved – there are players on the field; there’s a ball; from where I’m sitting, I can see the ball. There’s two goals, there’s two goalies (or a football, for our European listeners). And so, I’m in the stadium. I can see the scoreboard. The scoreboard gives me a few pieces of information – what’s the score, what’s the time remaining in the half, what’s the, you know, which half are we in. And so, those pieces of information are there. I can see the ball moving. I can see the ball going in the net. Well, maybe I’m not sure. Did it miss the net? Or did it go in the net? Oh, I look at the scoreboard – boom! So, by going to a soccer game, I can instantly know what’s going on from anywhere in the stadium. So the beauty of it is that I don’t have to have a visualization tool; I don’t have to bring out my computer – it’s all right there, between the scoreboard with an absolute minimum of information (but the right information) – and – watching it unfold on the field, I always know what’s going on just by a glance. Whereas if I monitor this on the computer with this huge amount of data, I have to go to the computer; I’d have to figure out to get what I want and so forth. Now, I think it is important to, you know, throw out there, that you can have a visual board on the computer. I’m going to make the argument that the difference between something you printed this morning and what’s on the computer, effectively if the data is current, it doesn’t matter. And the beauty of printing it on the wall is that someone can walk by and in an instant and see it. And you’ve got a lot more wall space than you have monitor space.

So, yes, there are lean set-ups where people put their display, their information, on monitors. Now, that means you’ve got to bring that information into that display. Maybe it’s automatically from other systems. But the idea is that active information is something that you can glance at and get an answer. You may be glancing at a giant monitor; you may be glancing at a color print-out or a black-and-white print-out that’s hanging on the wall when you walk in the building. But one of the things you see with lean – and lean being, you know, the popular name for the Toyota manufacturing system, is you see active information that’s organized and updated, and that active information lets you know what’s going on. And is a way of communicating what’s going on in an instant because you look at a chart, you know what to look for, you see the colors, you see the ways that everything’s laid out. So now, in an instant, you’ve been updated. Which is a great way to communicate.

So, the opposite of that is passive information, where you’ve got to go to the computer, sit down, look it up on a spreadsheet or look it up here, or do what have you. And so, I’m going to make the argument that where you can use active information, you’re in a much better position because someone doesn’t have to spend the time to go look it up; and also, someone can walk in, know what they have to do, have a constant reminder of where they are and what they’ve got to do; how things are going – because it’s right there and that information’s available. That helps everyone in your organization make better decisions because they’ve got the information they need, and it’s timely and they can make decisions that are timely. And every day every employee makes thousands of decisions. So if you leave them in the dark, they’re guessing at what’s best for the company. If you inform them, give them a structure, educate them, and, you know, lay this all out, now, all of a sudden, those thousands of decisions can be decisions that are the best, the ideal ones, that help get the product out the door quicker with high quality and conserving resources.

So, that’s why I think understanding the difference between active and passive information’s important. And then, also, putting that understanding to use in terms of getting that information to everyone. Now from a Montie Gear perspective. So one of the things that I’ve been thinking about as I’ve been taking my journey into lean is how to implement that in a small company. So, maybe that’s a discussion for another time. But I hope that this has been a good bit of information for you. Give you a little better understanding of that difference between active and passive information, and why it can be so valuable to give your employees the information they need to make those good decisions all day long, every day. Because they’ve got the information they need and then they can act on it.

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

[Closing music]