Can you get so Lean (Lean Manufacturing) that you get lost in the process? You bet you can.
Lets talk about the Kano model. The Kano model helps you to organize your product development and management efforts between basic expectations, performance enhancements and delightful additions to your product. Understanding the difference and applying this model to your product management and design management ultimately serves as a reminder to not forget the joy of creating delightful products that please your customers is great ways. Don’t end up getting lost in the process and forget to delight your customers.
Comments and suggestions are always welcome: email@example.com.
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.
Join me and talk about the first steps in considering how Montie Gear could go Lean.
Normally, when you think about Lean Manufacturing it is in the context of a large manufacturer. Can a micro manufacturer go Lean? Six Sigma? Lets talk about it.
Comments welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the transcription from the podcast……………………………………………..
Audio file: 2015 May 17 – Lean Thoughts 2 – Lean at Montie Gear – Can it be done.mp3
Time transcribed: 17:58 minutes
Hi. My name is Montie Roland. I’m with Montie Gear in Apex, North Carolina.
I want to spend a few minutes having a chat and a little bit of dialogue, and talk about the first steps towards implementing lean at Montie Gear.
So, I’ve been on this journey of learning lean. And, what does it mean? You know, what does it really mean? Not just, you know, overarching concept, but how do you make it work? You know, and how does combine work? How does, you know, work site visits work? How do MDI boards work? So, there’s all these things, these tools that lean uses to monitor your process and communicate to everyone.
So, now the trick is how to implement that in a very, very, small, micro-manufacturing environment. I’m going to make the argument that a lot of the tools in lean are going to apply even to a micro-manufacturer. And, at first, you sit there and say, “Well, yeah, if I want to tell John something, I’m going to lean across the table and tell him. I mean, there’s only three of us” – blah-blah-blah. Okay, so, I still think that there’s a place for lean within the organization because it helps you monitor your process. And in a small company, monitoring the process often doesn’t happen, because you assume it’s not worth it; you don’t have the manpower; you’re too busy putting out today’s fire; or just barely getting stuff out the door; keeping things resourced efficient. But, I think there’s more to it than that. So, one of the things that we want to do with lean is we want to optimize for flow first, and optimize for resource efficiency second. So, optimizing for flow means we want to get stuff out the door; optimizing as quickly as possible to the customer. So we want to add that value as quickly as possible. Whereas optimizing for resources means we want to do it as cost-effectively as possible. Well, the problem with putting too much of an emphasis on optimizing for resources is that it’s easy to create silos where people are thinking, Wow, I’m doing a great job. I’m cost efficient. But, then, what they’re doing isn’t necessarily getting the product out the door to the customer as quickly as possible, which interferes with cash flow. Because the quicker it gets to the customer, the quicker the cash flow happens, and the happier the customer, or more satisfied.
So, one of the things that we were already doing (and I didn’t realize how it already really fit into lean until after we started learning all this) is that . . . two things. One is that we were already doing single piece flow. So, in lean, lean’s going to most likely push you to single piece flow. So, single piece flow means that you build your products in a continuous manner down the line. So, in the past, you might have had facilities where someone with, let’s say, building a rifle – they’d make two-hundred-and-fifty barrels. And then everybody would go and they’d make two-hundred-and-fifty triggers. Then they’d go and make two-hundred-and-fifty stocks. So, what happens is that you’re putting all this in inventory while you’re finishing. This is kind of an extreme example. But with single piece flow, once we start the process of making a product, then it goes all the way through the process as quickly as possible. So, instead of having ten people making one part, we’re going to have ten people doing ten steps to make that part. So, now the advantage is that we have less inventory, and once we start making a product it goes through the line fairly quickly. So, if we were making all the pieces in a batch mode, then it takes a while when there’s a customer order for you to fill that order. Now, so, really quickly, there’s two ways that pull works. One is that you build to a certain level of inventory based upon your expected sales over a given period, and you maintain that inventory. So when that inventory is depleted, then there is a call to make more inventory, there’s an authorization to make more inventory, and that authorization results in the manufacturing floor making those parts to bring that level back up to that inventory level. The other way to do that would be you made-to-order, so you got an order for fifty, so now you make fifty. So, what we want to do is get that order through and out the door as quick as we can.
So, when we think about a slingshot and put it in that prism, a slingshot is a combination of batch and single piece flow manufacturing. For example, we’re not at a quantity level, where we make enough parts so that we paint every day. So as a result, we will make, for example, a bunch of slingshot frames, and then those will get cut at a vendor’s location. And they want to cut a minimum. You know, there’s work in setting it up, running it. And so they want to sell us a minimum of slingshots in a batch, otherwise it’s not cost effective to make them. So, there’s a batch of slingshots that’s cut on the waterjet, and then they go to paint as a batch. Now, and currently, we have two different processes that now I need to start rethinking now that I’m learning more about lean. One is that we’ll get the slingshots back; they go to the machine shop. Now, one of the things we haven’t invested in is specialized equipment to just drill the slingshot holes. So, they go to the machine shop in a batch and the holes get drilled in the slingshot frame. They come back to us and then we put the heli-coils in, and then they go out to be wrapped. So, so far, we’re not doing single piece flow; we’re doing small batches. But that’s driven by the fact we have to do it out-of-house, and it’s just not economical to do that as single piece flow – yet (the painting and the cutting). So, then what we do is those slingshots go to two places. Part of them go to the mountains, because we have capabilities there, and we anticipate inventory, we build to inventory, so probably two-thirds of them go to the mountains, get wrapped there. A third of them stay here. And the reason why we keep those here is to accommodate for anywhere that someone has a custom paracord color we want (because we wrap the handles with paracord), and it’s easy to do a color change. Or, we missed on our projections. So now this is a little bit of a challenge because now I end up, when they come back from the mountains after they get wrapped, so maybe two-thirds of my slingshots have already been wrapped in specific. And so those colors, it may be a third woodland camo, a third desert camo, a third black. So, now what I’ve got is I have frames that have paracord on them with heli-coils in them, and they’re ready for final assembly. So, generally, what we do is at this point we switch over and go to single piece flow. So, what I want to do is kind of put a bookmark here in our conversation, so we’re going to come back to this point.
So this is happening; our website, you know, our main customer contact point. And so folks are visiting the website and placing orders. So if you visit the Montie Gear website and you place an order, that order gets recorded on our website. And then, usually three times a week – Monday evening, Wednesday evening and Saturday, I’ll go and I’ll download new orders. So, when I download the orders, so I download it into a piece of middle-ware called T-HUB. T-HUB brings up a visual dashboard that shows me what has been paid for, what hasn’t been paid for, what has been shipped, what hasn’t been shipped, and what has been transferred to QuickBooks. And so I take this and I use T-HUB to print out a sales receipt. So I take those sales receipts and then we have a table. And so each sales receipt sits on that table and becomes the routing sheet for the order. What I didn’t realize in doing all this was I was already taking somewhat of a step towards a combine by how we set this up. So those sheets sit on the table. When Lars comes in, he instantly has a visual indicator of what needs to be built. Now, he can also go back to T-HUB and look it up. A lot of times, though, he doesn’t need to because I have already printed them out so he can take a look at it, and instantly know what he needs to build. So, this is a great way we’re communicating; so everybody knows how many orders we have that are unfulfilled. Now, kind of a next step on that would be to track days until shipment. So this is kind of one of the things that we need to do, is to track how long it’s been since the shipment.
Now another thing we need to do is automate the receipt of orders coming from Amazon. Right now, we don’t (and from eBay); right now we process those manually; so that’s a step. Once we get all that going through T-HUB, then we’ll have that computer visualization of, you know, what’s shipped and what hasn’t and what’s been paid for. And then we’ll also the table with a slip and a space for every order. So, as the order gets fulfilled, it gets passed to the next step. So Lars does single piece flow on the assembly – for example, the slingshot. Some products we build to inventory. Does single piece flow on the slingshot, puts it in a box, sets it for on the next table, where, when I come in then I take that box and ship it. Now, the beauty of it here is that we’re using this dashboard and we’re using the presence of this sheet of paper to show us, you know, so in an instant I know how packages I generally have to ship, because its sitting right there. So it’s very quick. Now, then what happens, I take that . . . after its shipped, I take that sales receipt and it goes into the “shipped sales receipt” or “done” pile. And then that gets filed away. And then, of course, the process of shipping it also means that T-HUB records it as being shipped. So, in this way, that’s a nice streamlined way of doing that. What we need to do to be more lean is to track, for example, number of days until shipment; you know, what was the reason why we didn’t ship on a day. So if Lars comes in, I need to track failures; you know, what we were missing, and then track how long it took to rectify that, who’s responsible. So maybe we don’t have a part or are missing some screws. So if we track that and find out that, Wow, we had seventy-seven times we were out of screws, and that held us up from shipping, then we need to keep more screws on hand; or we need to have a better way of monitoring that. So, at some point, what we need to do is actually to track our inventory so that there’s a card, so we can visualize, you know, what’s our safety inventory, what’s our normal consumption, so that when someone goes into the supermarket – which is where we store our parts that are ready to either for final assembly or to ship – when they go in that supermarket, then there’s an easy way to see what we’re low on. So that’s another aspect of lean that’s very common, is that you monitor that visually.
So, at this point, one of the things I’m starting to go after is to say, Okay, how do we monitor our process in a way that I can maintain (or everybody can help maintain), that’s not painfully expensive to monitor, but also lets everybody know where we are, how we’re doing, and gives us information for continuous improvement. So, that’s kind of the next step is to think that through; you know, is it a board? How do we track these things? And so, I’m open to suggestions. Anybody that wants to come by, make some suggestions on how to track this. You know, between X-Cart and T-HUB and QuickBooks, you know, what can we use to have a continuous monitoring of our process so that we can improve that; use our resources more wisely; and, you know, maximize our through-put flow-wise.
So, I hope this gives you a little insight into where we are now and kind of thinking and the process. It’s definitely a big challenge. A lot of these things, you’ve got to change at a very root level of how you do business and how you spend your day. It’s not just a matter of adding on a piece of software. A lot of times it’s a matter of just physically changing how you conduct your business. And that’s one of the tough things about lean, is that it’s a culture change. It’s not just something you throw over the top that adds a burden. If you do that, if all you do is just bolt it onto the top, you never really get a lot of benefit. You’ll never follow it. With lean, you’ve got to dig in and make a real in-depth change.
So, I hope this was a good talk for everybody. I appreciate you listening. Please don’t hesitate to send me an email. Come by the shop and you can see where we are in our lean transformation. And have a great day. Bye-bye.
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 email@example.com
Here is the transcription from the podcast………………………………………………..
Audio file: 2015 May 17 – Lean Thoughts 1 – Active vs. Passive Data.mp3
Time transcribed: 12:29 minutes
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.
Join me as I chronicle my journey into lean manufacturing! This is part 1 of the series. Comments and suggestions are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is the transcript from the podcast……………………………………
Audio file: 2015 May 17 – Lean Thoughts 0.mp3
Time transcribed: 15:50 minutes
Hello. My name is Montie Roland. And I’m with Montie Gear in Apex, North Carolina. Today, I’d like to spend a few minutes and talk about my journey into Lean, and what I’ve learned in the past few months.
So, let’s back up and let’s talk about, you know, what is lean? Lean is a popular name for the Toyota manufacturing system. Toyota has spent a lot of effort and time and intellectual capital in developing a state-of-the-art way to make cars. The Toyota manufacturing system is the model for the rest of the world. When you hear someone in business talk about that their company is lean, or they’re going lean or what have you, it’s about putting into practice that basically leaner, a version of the Toyota manufacturing system.
Toyota has a really, really, really well-thought-out way of making cars. And this applies to other segments of their business as well, not just manufacturing. It applies to their . . . to their dealerships; it applies to other areas that are ancillary to their manufacturing of their cars. They’ve got to sell them; they’ve got to service them. And so, as I understand it, the principals of lean and the application of lean has been put in place by Toyota throughout their entire system (as far as I know). I know that dealerships put it in place. They definitely put it in place on the manufacturing. And so, it’s important to have an understanding of what “lean” is.
So one of the guidelines behind lean is that you want to optimize your process. Now, a lot of times when you’re talking to someone about lean, first thing they say is, “Well, lean is about reducing waste.” And so, when someone says that and looks at you, you should say, “No! It’s not. It’s a by-product of lean, is reducing waste.” And you get a . . . sometime they’ll maybe tilt their head, look at you, and go, “Well, no. This is . . . in lean, we reduce waste.” So, I want to make the argument that in lean you’ve got two directions that you can do optimization; two main directions – you can always optimize, you know, a lot of different ways. But, there are two main directions that you can optimize for. One is that you can optimize for resources. So that means that you can try to keep everybody busy; you can try to make the best use of space; make the best use of materials; make the best use of personnel; keep your per-unit cost low. And that’s a good thing. However, the challenge with that is that you end up inevitably, by optimizing for resources, you end up developing silos. And by a silo, what I’m talking about is that if you’re, let’s say, the person that assemblies widgets; then, your pay and your bonuses may be directly driven by how many widgets you build. Well, and that’s fine until the point where the person who takes your widgets and ships them can’t keep up. At that point, you may be making widgets, but they don’t have the capacity to ship; or maybe the capacity to sell. So at this point, you’ve got an incentive to continue making widgets because if you’re not making widgets, well, you’re efficiency goes down. And when that efficiency goes down, your incentive goes down. So, now we have a problem because you can imagine that even if it’s not this severe of an example, every group is going to be evaluated based on that group’s performance. Well, when you do that, that’s great; what you’ve got to watch out for, though, is does that group’s performance help the company as a whole. And so they may be amazingly efficient – but – something they’re doing is the part of being so efficient may make someone else inefficient. At that point – mmm, maybe you’re not doing the right thing.
So, this is a natural outcome of building silos and optimizing for resources. So in lean you’ve got to do more than just optimize for resources. What you’ve got to do is you’ve got to optimize for flow. So when you optimize for flow, you have to establish communication between groups. Now, you may have a corporate culture that is absolutely wonderful, where people, you know, talk; they communicate. And everything is wonderful. But a lot of times you have a lot of communication within your group (whatever that group is – manufacturing, shipping) but a lot of times you don’t have communications, let’s say, with accounting. So, if want to optimize for flow, you’ve got to communicate. And that’s the first challenge. And that’s one of the things that lean really tries to address is that communication.
So, let’s talk about optimizing for flow. And what does that mean? Well, when I optimize for flow, I want to optimize for the speed at which I’m adding customer value. What that means is that when I get an order, I want to get that order in this customer’s hands as quickly as possible. Because when I get it in their hands as quickly as possible, then the customer is happier; more delighted or more satisfied. And also, I get paid quicker. So, I don’t have money sitting around in inventory or work-in-progress or what have you. So, lean is all about a customer pull. So, you know, the customer’s making an order – or – we’re filling to maintain an inventory – either one – but we’re going to refill that inventory after its depleted, so you want to refill it as quickly as possible. Or we want to ship as quickly as possible, depending on how the expectations of your customer are and how your industry works.
So what we want to do is we want to get that product made as quick as we can, get it out the door, get it to a customer, and, of course, that being a high-quality product that we made in somewhat an efficient way. So, now you can see what’s at odds is that the most efficient way when it comes to resources may not be the quickest. Now, I want to point out an example. Let’s say that we have four people making slingshots. And let’s say each slingshot takes a month to make (for one person). But let’s say that four people can make a slingshot in five-point-two days. So in this case, if I have four people working on a slingshot at once, there’s some inefficiency because four people have to work together, shared resources, what have you. But, I’ve got the capability to make one slingshot at a time, instead of four at once. And so, the trade-off is that if I look at the folks that make those slingshots and I say “You get paid by how many slingshots you make a month”, then they’re going to say “Well, I’ll make slightly more if we work on them separately”. But then, the trade-off is that it takes a month for one person to make a slingshot. Now, let’s say that I have four people making slingshots and it takes one-point . . . one week and an extra four days, or one month and four extra days to make four slingshots, but I do them sequentially. So, now I’m kicking out a slingshot at just over a week; so a little bit over every week I’m getting a slingshot out the door. Little less efficient – but – now all of a sudden I’m getting it to my customer quicker; I’m getting paid faster. So when you think about, you know, work-in-progress and inventory, that works out well. But it’s not quite as efficient. So if I organize for efficiency, then everybody’s going to want to make one slingshot per person. Or, excuse me, for resource efficiency, everybody’s going to want to make one slingshot per person. If I say I want to get these out as quick as I can, then I’m going to have all four people working on that slingshot, kick that slingshot out; now, I’m shipping a slingshot in a little over a week. So every week, almost, I’m kicking a slingshot out the door. And so this is one of the conflicts that built into lean. So, we want to be efficient and lean has a lot of tools to do that, but lean recognizes right off the bat that you can never be one hundred percent efficient because you also want to optimize for flow. If we’re a hundred percent efficient then the delivery time goes up because of multitasking, because waiting . . . it gets, you know, your deliver time goes up exponentially, not linearly, as you work on multiple things at once. A good example with our slingshots, is that let’s say that it takes a week to ship four slingshots. So now I’ve had four people working on slingshots for a month, and I’ve had . . . or I’ve had one person . . . or excuse, four people working on one slingshot at a time – well, now all of a sudden, if I had limited shipping capacity, then it’s important to not overburden that shipping capacity by forcing them to ship all four slingshots at once. Whereas, if I could spread that out, it may be that I have to have a fourth less people in shipping to ship slingshots, because I’m shipping one at a time, not four at a time.
This is definitely a very arbitrary example, but you kind of get the idea of this . . . dichotomy between optimizing for resources and optimizing for flow. And I think it’s a really important because if you consider lean just purely making your company more efficient then you really aren’t doing lean. You’re not. Lean is about monitoring your process. So, when we go to the next step here is that how do we optimize these things. Well, lean is not as much about the outcome as it is monitoring the process, and improving the process by everybody constantly improving. And so, when you think continuous improvement, you know, well, okay, that means people learn how to make widgets faster. No. Because at some point, a person’s going to sand a corner down only so fast; there’s no . . . that is going to peak, in a way. So instead what we want to do is monitor those processes so we know what’s happening. And so lean is all about monitoring the process, and by monitoring the process and educating the workforce and getting the workforce involved in monitoring, then all of a sudden, as a by-product, everybody’s making better decisions that improve productivity. So, I think that’s a really, really important part of that.
Well let me leave you with this for now. And I know I’ve kind of talked a little bit about lean, but it’s kind of a really neat way to run your business. It’s not a simple thing; it’s an all-encompassing thing. It’s not a couple of charts on the wall. It really is a way to run your business from stem to stern. Lean is not a partial change. It’s a culture change. Without the culture change, then the effectiveness of the lean efforts are dramatically reduced.
Well, Montie Roland, signing out. Have a great day. Bye-bye.
—- Transcript ———————-
Audio File: 2014 Feb 12 – Cooling Electronic Enclosures.mp3
Audio Length: 14:12 minutes
Hello. My name is Montie Roland. I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina.
And today, I’d like to spend a few minutes talking about how to develop a strategy for cooling your electronics enclosure.
One of the products that we do a lot of design for is the electronics industry, but in a bunch of different facets. Because when you say electronic enclosure, that could be anything from a computer or related; it could personal electronics; it could be lab equipment; it could even be machinery or process. So, there’s electronic enclosures that go in a variety of locations, from factories to vehicles to aircraft to your pocket. And so it’s important to consider how you’re going to keep that device cool.
Over the past twenty years, we’ve grown to expect more and more from our boxes filled with electronics. And part of that’s because of our capacity to do more with those boxes has gone up dramatically. A good example would be, you know, in the nineties, phones were just that. Cell phones were phones. Before that, they were car phones, because they were physically mounted in your car. If you were born after 1980, you’ve probably never seen a car phone. Back then, car phones were expensive; they were expensive per minute; and they were boxes mounted in your car. Think it more as a radio with an operator. And then what happened was is we got bag phones. And bag phones were . . . well, they were about the size of a laptop, but about double the thickness or triple the thickness. So, you opened the bag, you pull the handset out, you dial. Those were big; they were clunky; all analog. And pretty soon we had handsets that didn’t need a bag. And then pretty soon we had smartphones. My wife will be the first one to tell you that I probably pay way too much attention to my smartphone and keep way on track of things. And the guys who’ve gone camping with me; I had a threat that my nice, new iPhone might meet a horrible death on Troublesome Gap if I didn’t put it in the truck and lock the truck.
So, having said that, we rely on these boxes to do a lot of stuff for us. But, as we rely on them to do more and more, we’re packaging more and more electronics in there and we’re getting them hotter and hotter. So, one of the things that’s a common application for Montie Design, as we design products for clients, is to come up with a strategy for cooling that box. Now, we see a variety of cooling needs. There are some enclosures that we just need to do some very basic things and manage the thermal load in a simple way. You know, we tie PCBs to the outer enclosure; use thermal materials. Then we have other enclosures where we have to vent those somehow. And then we have other ones where either it takes a lot of airflow to cool; or, it takes a lot of analysis to make sure that we can cool the box within whatever limitations we have. Maybe it’s a handheld device but there’s a lot of power coming out of it. So we’ve got to get that power out to the atmosphere, or that thermal energy out; keep the box cool but we also don’t want to burn somebody’s hand, or make it uncomfortable to use.
So, we’ve had a lot of cases like that, so we’ve had a good bit of experience in how to meet these thermal requirements and how to keep the electronics cool so they function efficiently – and function. And there’s a couple ways to go after that. One thing you can do is once we have a computer model, we can do what’s called CFD analysis – Computational Fluid Dynamics. And with that, we actually model the heat transfer in conduction; so, from one part to another, or through a part, that, across a joint – either, maybe its bolted; maybe there’s a thermal material like a gap pad or a cell pad; or, from the part to the air via convection; or forced convection where there’s a fan or some other driver that’s causing airflow across that face. So, CFD is great because we can actually tell you down to the chip level how hot or what the temperature is of every component in there. Now, we can also look at what are the effects of airflow; run analysis to figure out how much airflow we need; you know, model the effect of the fan; model the other effects; and give you really, really great results. The downside of CFD is that where . . . of course, we have to have a computer model to start with, but they’re fairly simple for CFD. So you can do that very early on in the design process. The downside is it’s an expensive process to set up. Now, if you’re designing a product that going to be mass-produced or a very high value product, or just a high value product, the cost of the CFD may be very palatable. If you’re designing a product that is lower volume or has extremely tight financial constraints, then that may or may not fit in there. It just depends. We can take a look at that and give you an estimate. And there’s some things that are easier to predict than others. Like, for example, we use CFD very effectively to model LED lights. In that case, you’ve got a small amount of elements; often, you’ve got a heat sink; not a lot of modeling we have to do between the chip and heat sink; usually it’s a short path. Not a lot of components and that helps. And so then we’ve managed to very cost effectively do it for that type of application. So it really depends on your application if it’s cost effective.
Now, the other option is to build your product, and then after you’ve built it, instrument it and see what the results are. For some projects, that’s a good idea. If you have a product where there’s not a lot of thermal energy – you’re not trying to dump a lot of heat into the environment – then, maybe it’s okay just to go ahead and build it. Especially if you have historical data and you’re not making a huge change from the previous product. So, in that case, it may be good to build it and then make some tweaks afterwards to the design to solve the problem. There are cases where you’re not sure. You think you may be okay, but you’re not sure. In that case we can run a CFD, or we can build a mock-up. And there’s cases where you know you have thermal problems. So, in that case, a lot of times we’ll end up doing a CFD and a mock-up. When you think about a mock-up, first thing to remember is that when it comes to thermal management, there are a lot of things that aren’t as critical for the thermal performance as they are for functional or esthetic reasons. And this applies to building a CAD model to do a CFD analysis on or a thermal analysis on, or it applies to your mock-up. So, there’s an appropriate level of detail in your mock-up so that you’re keeping the mock-up simple but you’re getting relevant data on what you’re thermal performance is. You know, how hot everything is getting. And so, generally, the rule of thumb is that you want to have much less detail in your mock-up than you have in your final product. And this is good because if you’re building a mock-up just for thermal testing, you want to keep the cost low, and a lot of times the best way to keep the cost low is to pull out features that you don’t need. So, you’ve dumbed down your prototype. Now, obviously, if you have production parts already then you should go ahead and use those. But if you don’t, a lot of times we’ll build a box, maybe out of Lexan™ or wood (and I’ll get back to the Lexan™ for a second when it’s important). And then you got this clear box. And now we can put fans or we can put chips; we can put heat sources in there, and then turn around and start measuring the performance of this, both from a thermal standpoint and from an airflow standpoint. For a lot of products nowadays, the airflow has become very important because you can’t cool it from natural convection alone. And this is one of the reasons that a lot of these enclosures end up being Lexan™ or some other Plexiglas or some other clear plastic. Because then we can introduce smoke and visually see what the airflow patterns are. This is especially helpful if you’ve done a CFD analysis, and you can compare the predicted airflow from the CFD analysis on the computer to what you’re actually seeing with your eyes based on the mock-up. Then you can correlate that to the computer analysis. And the beauty there is that now if we make a change to our computer model, we can rerun the analysis and see what the impact is without having to build another prototype; especially where you’re making an incremental change. And after we’ve taken and confirmed that our model’s correct, then you’ve got a lot of confidence that your CFD model matches the reality. Then it’s very . . . well, I won’t say very quick, but it’s very possible to start making changes in the computer model, rerun the analysis, and see what the result is.
I know I’m kind of hitting a lot at once here. But these two different tools – one is your physical mock-up; and the other is your computer model using CFD tools – are a great way to determine how your product’s going to perform. The challenge is to right-size your effort based on the need. And sometimes there’s an experience factor. Sometimes there’s a historical data factor that can be brought into effect. There again, if you’ve built similar products, you know what the thermal performance is, hopefully. We can use that data to determine how exhaustive an analysis we need to do. Sometimes we need to do a very exhaustive analysis; and other times, let’s put a fan and a heater in a box and see how warm it gets. And that’s a matter of just right-sizing. That’s something we can definitely help you with or happy to help you with. We offer that as part of our project services to do that analysis.
I hope this has been helpful today, talking about the different ways you can plan for your thermal analysis as part of your design project. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give me a call – Montie Roland. 1-919-481-1845, or 1-800-722-7987. 800-722-7987. Email me – Montie (M-O-N-T-I-E ) @ Montie(M-O-N-T-I-E ) dot com. Or, visit the website – www.montie.com. Your comments, suggestions or questions or project opportunities for us are always welcome. We’d love to help you out with your next project. Or, maybe it’s just a lunchtime discussion on one of these topics. Have a great day. Montie Roland, president of Montie Designs, signing off.
Audio File: 2014 Feb 24 – Organic Growth vs Marketing.mp3
Audio Length: 15:19 minutes
Hello, my name is Montie Roland. I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina.
I wanted to see if we could spend a few minutes chatting about the role of organic growth in the growth-year product versus the role of marketing.
At Montie Design, we develop products for a variety of clients from electronics packaging of electronics and applications like high reliability rack mount applications, such as a data center, all the way down to wearable electronics. So we get to see a lot of different products go through.
We also have a mix of products in our portfolio which some are B-to-B (or business to business) products and the others are B-to-C (or business to consumer) products. The B-to-C portion of our portfolio has grown. And so that’s a something that originally didn’t push for. That’s kind of just the way that portfolio has changed over time as the opportunity mix changed. But, so, we also have a lot of products that we design and manufacture ourselves. And they’re called Montie Gear. So, the Montie Gear products are consumer products that we sell directly to outdoorsmen. And they may relate to slingshots; they may relate to camping equipment; shooting; or archery.
We have an approach to our marketing in Montie Gear that has changed over time. For the first four years, we relied almost exclusively on organic growth, and fueled that growth by using a test-and-evaluation program where we identified writers and bloggers and folks and we got products in their hands so they could write about it; make videos about it on YouTube, what have you.
So now what we’ve tried to do is to supplement that program with marketing and advertising. So, it’s very, very important to remember that, as far as it goes, bang for the buck, sending out a press release with some images and getting a magazine to write about that – there is no better bang for the buck, period. It’s just . . . it just works. Advertising is a long term commitment. You’ve got to stick with it. And you’ve got to tweak it. So not only are you paying for those ads, you’re also trying to develop some sort of metrics to gauge the response so that you can actually have those ads pay for themselves and give you a return on investment.
And by selecting good venues that apply to your product, you can definitely find that return on investment. But it takes a good bit of work.
There’s a failure on the part of a lot of organizations, especially small, to rely too heavily on the concept of “I’ve the greatest products in the world and people will beat down my door to it”. Even if you have the greatest product in the world, and people are beating on the door, you’re probably going to still have to put a lot into commercializing that product – getting it out in the market; getting it in a format the market will accept. If you have the greatest product in the world, you may have this very broad patent, but now in order to get someone to write you a check, you still need to have that product in a format or commercialized so that the customer will say I want X-number of units. And that takes a lot of work. There’s a common misconception in smaller companies that once we get it to a point, someone will just buy us and go on. And that does happen. It happens a good bit. You get your product to a point and at some point a company buys you and maybe you can go retire.
Now, the value of your concept and later product and later manufacturing goes up almost exponentially as you get farther along in the process. So the value of a concept is pretty close to zero. The value of a concept with a prototype and a patent goes up dramatically. And then the value of a concept plus a patent, plus manufacturing, plus sales – and brisk sales, growing sales – then all of a sudden, that takes another leap in value. So, what you want to do is figure out where you want to be on that curve. And it may be that you want to be in it for the long term and you want to manufacture and you want to go work and have trucks show up at the shipping dock and ship product; and that may be very gratifying; have some number of employees and even with the headaches – if you have good employees you have less headaches, by the way – you end up with, you know, something you can do for the rest of your life. On the large company side of it all, large companies traditionally have really not pushed organic growth; they’ve pushed marketing-based growth, because they need results quickly. So if you’re Chevrolet, and you have a new car, they’re going to do a mixture. They’re going to provide press releases and pictures and press days. And then they’re going to advertise the daylights out of it. So for a small organization, you spend, maybe, seventy percent towards organic growth, and thirty percent towards traditional marketing and sales (and I’m kind of pulling these numbers out of thin air); and then your counterpart, who’s a larger company, may spend five percent on organic growth and ninety-five percent on marketing.
The problem with organic growth is that you can’t control it. You can push it a little bit by getting product out there for people to write about. You can have events and other things. But it’s still . . . you got to have the right products at the right time in front of the right people, as far as to write about it, to talk about it, to grow. Whereas with marketing, if you do a good job with sales and marketing, then you can drive that growth in way that you couldn’t with just organic. So that is an important distinction because it relates back to what your goals are. If you need to be selling two million cars a year, and you need to be up at that rate in three months, then you need to do everything you can to get the word out about that car. You need to have an organic component. You need to have press days. You need to have a valuation unit out for press and editors and drivers and everybody to test. And you need to be spending a whole lot of money on advertising. If you got time to let it grow more organically and wait on these things, then maybe you spend less on advertising. And maybe you’re happy with a much lower growth and a lower return on your investment.
And this is especially true if you’re a small shop; you have a lower capital investment. And your cash requirements are, you know, small, then maybe that’s perfectly the way to go. And there’s probably something in-between for everybody’s company. You know, where do you fall? We’re not, obviously . . . very few companies the size of General Motors. So, you know, they’ve got a mixture that works for selling cars. But a smaller company’s going to have a slightly different mixture. But I think it’s important to understand that you’ve got to push out in multiple directions.
Now, when you think about marketing, there’s large scale marketing and then there’s guerilla marketing. Guerilla marketing is something that has been pushed by a guy by the name of Jay Levinson. So, there’s a book called Guerilla Marketing. And one of his concepts is that one out of three times an ad passes your face, you actually see it, at some level. And then it takes seven times of that ad passing your face before you make a buying decision. So, what that means is that you’ve got to see that ad twenty-one times, or have it pass your face, before you’re to the point that the average person is ready to make that buying decision. So, depending on the venue of the ad, then that may mean months, or even years. Now, if you’re buying commercials on Hulu or NBC and they are flashing past your face the same commercial ten times during a program – okay; then you watch it for two-and-a-half weeks and if you’re going to buy, you’re going to buy. But, for the most part, most advertising is much slower paced than that. So, you know, magazine ads come out; other things. So, even your organic growth push, just because someone sees something once in a magazine that’s got a glowing review, it still may take twenty-one times before someone sees a review about your product before they actually go buy. So, I think there’s a similar approach. I think now I do think that it’s slightly less if it’s a trusted source. So, if an author they trust greatly says you should have one of these, then maybe that number’s significantly less than twenty-one. And of course it’s graded on a curse, so . . . you know, there’s some number of people that are going to go, “Yeah, oh, I like what this guy’s saying about this; love the product. Let me call and order it first time.” But I think the bulk of your sales still is going to come from that similar curve where someone sees it twenty-one times before they buy.
And at that point, it’s twenty-one times before they start researching to buy, maybe. Because one of the trends that has happened over the past few years is there’s much, much more of an emphasis placed by consumers on checking reviews before buying.
So I hope this has kind of explained some of these differences between an organic model and an advertising-based model, you know, where you’re looking at marketing as something you spend money to do, or directly spend money. Because if you give out samples of product you’re still spending money because you’re losing the ability to sell that and you’re giving away that product – the cost to manufacture it, the cost to ship it, the cost . . . figure out who to place it with; the cost of developing that relationship with that writer or editor. So, either way you’re spending money. The question is it’s just the magnitude and how you go about it. And I think it takes a good mix. I think smaller organizations tend to push way too hard on the organic portion and then larger organizations look a lot harder to find the mix between sales (which is actually someone going out and selling that product), marketing (which is exposing that product to the world), and then organic marketing (which is relying on others to expose it for you). So, it’s definitely a mix. You want to consider that mix. If you totally abandon part of that mix, then you may be not getting the best bang for your buck. And that’s the same thing, too. If you have an idea that you’re turning into a prototype and a patent; and then you want to get that idea to where you can sell it, a lot of time you need a reference design. And a reference design is where you’ve got a product that’s buildable, that you can give someone as a template for them building their own product based on your technology. And so at that point what you’re doing is you’re marketing your technology, and even if you’re going to license it, having that reference design is a big help. Because you’re giving the person’s licensing the ability to go out quicker, or more quickly, and promote that product, because they’re got something that they’re going to . . . it’s more of a product and less of just some piece of intellectual property. So the farther you can get along that curve of concept, prototype, patent, manufacturing, sales – then, the easier it is to license or sell that concept or that product, or that patent.
So, I hope this has been beneficial. Hope y’all have a great day. Montie Roland, signing off.
———– Transcript —————————
Audio File: 2014 Feb 12 – Giving The Go Ahead To A New Product.mp3
Audio Length: 10:10 minutes
Hello, my name is Montie Roland with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina. We’re a product development firm with core competencies in mechanical engineering and industrial design.
One of the interesting things that happens working with clients from bigger companies or medium-sized companies – or even smaller ones that are, you know, are growing – is that we’ll design a . . . whatever. And so we’ve designed this project, we’ve gotten to know our contact at that client, and one day after a design review that client looks across the table and says, “You know . . . I’ve got some stuff I’ve been working on in my basement”. It’s interesting that it’s very likely for a client that’s in charge of – or enabling; in charge of, also – product development for his company often will have something that they do on the side. And it’s interesting; so they may enjoy their job and they work very hard at it; at the same time, when they talk about the thing they’re making in their garage, there’s usually this big smile. And so, then what happens is they look at us and say, “That’s why I respect what you did so much with Montie Gear; because I know how tough it is”. And Montie Gear’s our product line that we created four years ago of our own products. We manufacture them; we sell them; we distribute them; we maintain the website . . . well, Daniel helps us. But, so it’s our own products, though. And it’s become kind of this company fascination. But, we’ll have clients that have this emotional connection to our Montie Gear products. Maybe it has nothing to do with the products; it’s just the fact that they really like coming up with new stuff. And so they see us doing it and having a good time and it’s a common situation that we’re both having a good time doing new products.
And so, there’s a couple of thoughts I want to throw at you. And we’ll talk about it from the perspective of an entrepreneur, but this also can apply from the perspective of a big company. Because, if you look at a big company as an organism, some of the same thought processes, many of the same thought processes, apply. They’re modified in some ways but, at the basic level they’re pretty similar.
So, one of the first thought processes is to go after the whole enchilada. It’s go big or go home. Well, the good side about that is that if you go big and you win big, then you profit big. And so, that’s a good thing. So if you go for a product where you’ve stretched what you can do or what your company can do, and it’s a product that can change the market or can take over a market or can grab market share, then Woo Hoo! That can be a big winner because the upside to that is that you can have some big profits. The downside is that you’ve invested a lot in it and you’ve also not invested in other products. Now, form an entrepreneur standpoint, we’ve had one single owner, single employee companies where the owner of the company said, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to go big. I’m going to injection mold this. I’m going to sell these all over the country” and, you know, “Either help me or get out of my way”. And so, the one I’m thinking about at this moment had the funds to back it up. He had the money in the bank to do what he needed to do, and so, he wrote checks. We helped him out. He did other stuff and now he’s got a product that’s starting to take off like crazy. So the upside is going to be huge for him, I think. Good product. Great salesman. Good attitude. Thinking about the business. And thinking about, you know, how he’s going to make all this happen on a big scale and, hey, let’s . . . we helped him push.
And so, we have other clients – and like I said, this can apply to an entrepreneur or to a company – where they’re not in a position yet, for whatever reason, to go for the big score. And so for them the medium-sized score or the smaller score is a much better option. Maybe because of cash flow; maybe because of other resources. Maybe because of time resources. Maybe they’re very business doing something else. So if they go after this major product, then it may take years to get there because they got so much on their plate. Well, the other possibility is to go after a bunch of smaller products, or smaller, I should say, lower effort products. And, then that gets them into that new market. That gets them experience in that market. And one nice thing about that is if you’re tightly resource-constrained, then that experience can help you make wise use of that money by having a less feature-rich product; a simpler product. Maybe instead of having this medium-scope project, you say, “I’m going to do something that we can do in the next eight weeks.” Get that out there; start selling it; see what happens; get some experience. And that’s a call you’ve got to make. You know, we have clients that are going to go for the big score; and that’s what they need to be doing. They’ve got their resources; they’ve got the people; they’ve got the time; they’ve got the talent; and they’ve got the motivation. And we just help them do that. And we have other clients that are much, much better off coming at it from much more of a cottage industry approach. And so, in this case, they’re going to put less capital out and they’re going to sell less. And you know the upside – and maybe two orders of magnitude smaller – but at the same time, they’re not risking other things to do it.
And so that’s kind of where you have to decide is that, you know, what are you going to do? You just got to man up and go. And, I think the trick there is there’s some things to consider. And this is kind of the podcast from a little while back. Where, you know, do you have the funds to do it? Do you have the time? Do you have the energy? Do you have the motivation? Do you have the people? And do you have the people that are in the right spot? And so, there again, this is why all products live or die by the management team. Because that’s where you can make good decisions or bad decisions that, you know . . . if you’re not careful, you’ll make a decision that means you have a product that requires so much effort, it takes you so long to get there, that then there’s a risk you’ll never get there. I would say that with product development, generally, the longer it spreads out, the less likely it is you’ll ever get there. Now, there are exceptions to that, but for the most part that’s true.
So, I hope that you can take something away from this. And, look at it from the standpoint of right-sizing that product for your capabilities, your resources. And there’s nothing to say that if you do a simple product, you can’t come back with a complex product. So, just kind of decide. Think it through.
We’re happy to help you all the way through. Big. Small. Little. Massive. Disruptive. Incremental. We’re the engine that helps you push. And we get in, we help you push and we help you take it from that concept to the shipping dock. And we fill in the holes that you need along the way to get you there. Sometimes they’re small gaps; sometimes they’re big gaps. But, our job is to get in there and push.
I hope this helps out. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give me a call, shoot me an email, visit our website. It’s 1-800-722-7987 – or – 919-481-1845. montie (M-O-N-T-I-E)@montie(M-O-N-T-I-E) .com is my email. Or just visit our website – www. montie.com. Thanks. Hope you have a great day. Bye-bye.
Audio File: 2014 Feb 25 – Design Process Steps Funnel.mp3
Audio Length: 12:01 minutes
Good Morning. My name is Montie Roland with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina. I’m also with Montie Gear in Morrisville, North Carolina, as well.
Montie Design is a full-service product development firm. We provide everything from taking your concept all the way to a fully designed, fully engineered, ready-to-manufacture product, and helping you get that on the shipping dock. We can provide a value from the engineering side, from the industrial design side, to the project management aspect, and also from product validation, all the way to introducing you to contract manufacturers, and as-needed service liaison between your organization and the contract manufacture to make sure that it’s a win-win for everybody.
The design process has several steps. Those steps are intended to create a funnel. That funnel helps you to minimize the cost of the design process by starting out with a lot of ideas and a lot of concepts and boiling them down to the concept that is going to be the winner in the marketplace.
So, the next question becomes, well, how do you do that? So, if you use the funnel metaphor, with the funnel you’ve got a wide top. Let’s say you’re putting oil in your car. So you’ve got oil coming out of a jug, which is similar to the thought of ideas coming out of your staff, your constituents, your customers, and your stakeholders. And so, you pour that oil into that funnel, and the idea behind the funnel is you’ve got a big target. So all the oil you pour in starts running down the funnel. Well, the same thing; what we want to do is capture those great ideas, capture those concepts – written, verbal, unstated – capture those rules, because you know the design of your product has a lot of rules. And that’s because you’re in a market space where you have experience. So, as you put that experience to use, those rules have value because you don’t want to repeat any missteps in the past and you want to build on successes in the past.
So, what we do is the first step is to do research. There again, the research is akin to putting a second jug of oil in there. So we want to do research, understand what the market’s about. And then also make sure that we’re completely oriented to your market, and hopefully do a lot of the nuances of your market – some of that we have to rely on you; others, we can look at trends and research. So, that design research is the first step. And then the second step is to start pulling out concepts, thoughts, what we call “space shuttle ideas”, and do some ideation. And the initial ideation gets kind of everybody thinking, but I don’t want to pin any super solid concepts down yet; just get everybody thinking. And then what we want to do is do some brainstorming. So, now we’ve done some research, made a few sketches, enough to throw some stuff up on the wall and chew on it. And then we use brainstorming. And brainstorming is where there’s no such thing as a bad idea. Most people use a brainstorming session as a planning session; and it’s not. It’s a good way to ruin your brainstorming. Because some of the crazy ideas don’t work exactly as stated, but may lead to some really solid innovations. So, we brainstorm. Take that brainstorming results and then start doing ideation. Now, one of the steps that I just blew right by here as I was talking is we also want to create a style board. And we do want to do that in the beginning. That’s so that we can understand what you’re thinking. And a style board is to get your thoughts. With a style board, you bring us images, pictures, magazine clippings, polaroids; what have you. And show us things that you like. And, also, concepts that may be difficult for everybody to convey that doesn’t do this for a living, or just may be difficult to convey or it’s just a lot quicker with a photograph. For example, you may see a device on a piece of machinery. Take a picture, bring it to us, and say, I like how this device works; this could work great in our application. Or, I like the color; I like the shape; it could be the rear end of the Audi TT. Wow, these proportions are nice. So, we take that style board and we use that in our ideation. And we’ll also probably create one of our own. So, the brainstorming and the style board are very valuable tools.
Now, for some products, we need to do a personalities and personas session, where, kind of like a style board, we want to dig out a vision. So, with personalities and personas, we’ll design a product for an individual customer, and then we’ll go on to do this for a suite of customers that are very different – demographically, what they’re looking for, what they earn, who they are. You know, in some cases with some products we’ll throw in race and religion because there may be a cultural influence that we want to capture in our product development. And, yes, it’s important that you don’t design products for vanilla people, because vanilla people just don’t exist. So, what we have to do is look at the culture where our product’s going to be sold. If it’s a worldwide product, then we have to look at multiple cultures. What we don’t want to do is to create a product that won’t sell well in a given country because we’ve violated some cultural norm, and that’s really important.
So, then, we’re making sketches. We take those sketches and we review them. And it’s important to spend a lot of time looking and thinking about those initial sketches, because this is the inexpensive part of the project, relatively. Sketches are quick. So then we take those; we narrow a whole wall full of sketches down to a few concepts; work on those concepts. And the whole time we’ve been creating this design buffet. So what we want to do is create all of these concepts and all of these pieces, and then we can pick and choose from those pieces and some of those may integrate well together in the final product. So, there again, we’re starting out with a lot of ideas and then we’re narrowing it down as we go. So now we’ve got sketches of a bunch of ideas; we’ve narrowed that down to, say, one, two or three; and then we take those and refine those. And then we do a review again. Then narrow that down. So, the whole time, everybody’s getting a chance to provide input. If possible, we want to create a massing model. A massing model is a simple prototype that just reflects size and shape – simple, inexpensive, quick, you know, blue foam type prototype. Not something you show to the CEO unless he’s really hands-on. But something you can pass around between the product manager and the engineers and just in a, kind of, a closed circle of review.
And then we take that and narrow it down to one concept. Take that one concept and refine that concept. Get it signed-off. So, everybody needs to sign off, all the stakeholders, that this is the concept we want to move forward with. We take that concept and we go to the engineering stage. In the engineering stage we work out the nuts, the bolts, where everything goes. It’s important during the engineering stage to maintain the vision so that the engineers don’t lose track of what’s the aesthetic vision, what are the values, the, you know, it’s not just a collection of specs and bolts and nuts; it’s a product for a living, breathing people.
Somewhere in that stage we want to build a prototype. We want to build prototypes as soon as possible and as often as possible. So, once we have an industrial design concept and we’re starting to commit this to a solid model, a lot of times its good to build a cruder prototype, but one that’s actual size that may have some of the functionality as we’re going through the engineering process. At the end of the engineering process we want to build a functional prototype; maybe even an alpha unit. We’ve made drawings; we’ve gone out for quotes, created a bill of materials. As early in the process we want to start our bill of materials so that we’re starting to get an idea of what this is going to cost in production. From there, we transition to manufacturing. Make those introductions – Who’s going to make your product? Are you going to assemble it yourself? Is it going to come in a box, ready to go, from a contract manufacturer? We got to think about packaging. We may need to design you some packaging. Got to think about – Is it shipped over the Internet? Or is this a point-of-sale type product, where we need to have point-of-sale packaging?
And so we work through these issues and these challenges and opportunities, and create for you this product. And those are, in a nutshell, the basic steps. If you’re a Fortune 100 company, or an entrepreneur that’s selling your second product, you’re going to follow the same steps – maybe not as formally, but in general – you’re going to follow those same steps. As you can imagine, a change on a sketch early on is inexpensive; a change after you’ve fully engineered the product gets more expensive; and a change after you’ve started producing it is painful. So, what we want to do is pull out that vision; we want to get the stakeholders to weigh in, make sure that important parts of the product and those aspects are fully realized; and we don’t trip over something. Like, for example, an unknown requirement. So, by going through these steps, we minimize the risk of that unknown requirement popping up. And that’s one of the reasons you want to prototype early because usually when you lay something on the table, some of those unstated, understated or just not known products requirements start coming out.
So I hope this has been helpful. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give me a call – 1-800-722-7987. It’s Montie Roland. Or, montie (M-O-N-T-I-E)@montie(M-O-N-T-I-E).com. Or www.montie (M-O-N-T-I-E) .com is our website.
I hope you have a great day. I hope this is beneficial. Montie Roland, signing off.
Montie Design was founded in 2006 by Montie Roland (pdf resume, word, html), a practicing engineer looking for an outlet for his desire to design and engineer great products. Montie Design moved to Morrisville, NC in 2007 to add additional space and locate closer to customers in the Research Triangle area.
As Montie Design has grown, we have been fortunate to work on a variety of awesome projects in diverse markets from electronics to sporting goods. One quarter we’re designing rackmount equipment to go in data center. Another project, we find ourselves designing an environmental test chamber for Aberdeen Proving Grounds to test equipment before it goes out to the warfighter. We’ve created consumer products like the Invisi-ball and the Fog Thief. This type of variety is great because no two projects are ever the same.
Look to us for help with:
- Mechanical Engineering / Product Engineering / Product Development
- Industrial Design
- Electrical Engineering / Firmware / PCB Layout
- Consultation on Product Viability
- Project Management
- Product / Brand Management
Our President has this crazy passion for designing equipment to make life in the outdoors more fun and more comfortable. This passion was put in motion in 2009 when we started the Montie Gear product line. This was originally started as our own skunkworks for fun. In 3-1/2 years it went from a few concepts to a six figure a year operation. Today Montie Gear is a separate company and has over 30 unique products. While we are very passionate about designing products for camping, shooting and the great outdoors, we stand ready to put that same enthusiasm and knowledge to work designing and engineering great products for you. If you are looking for a shooting rest or slingshot, please www.montiegear.com.
There are several areas where we really stand out with the services that we provide.
Designing and Engineer Low-to-Medium Volume Products
Montie Design excels in the difficult area of designing low and medium volume products. We are experts at balancing capital / tooling expenses with product costs. With decades of experience in product engineering, we are ready to deploy our process and move your product from concept to market.
Electronics Enclosures and CFD / Thermal Analysis
The design phase is critical to keep electronics cool, avoid EMI / EMC issues, and predict thermal issues. We perform thermal analysis in-house using state of the art CFD (computation fluid dynamics) tools for accurate and reliable results.
We enjoy building rugged equipment for outdoor sporting and downrange applications with experience in shooting sports such as firearm accessories and slingshots. Camping, hiking, shooting and backpacking are passions of ours. We pour that passion into your product! This includes designing accessories for firearms, military, tactical and slingshots.
Gathering Social Reviews for Clients
We connect your new product to active bloggers, writers, and lead users to allow those experts to lend their credibility to your product. This is vital, because most customers now check internet reviews before purchasing. We can assist you in creating this base of reviews that are so critical for customers.
Strong Vendor Network
Take the risk out of receiving your prototype on time! Our great vendors, that we have successfully worked with for years, allow us to extend great service. Our responsive vendors provide a range of services that include waterjet cutting, rapid machining, rapid sheetmetal, paint, powder coat, rapid prototyping, rapid tooling and CNC machining. If we can’t do in-house, we generally have a local vendor that can respond quickly and help us make your prototype, or limited production run, a reality.
Sustainability Analysis Tools
Our easy-to-understand report shows your customers exactly where you stand when it comes to sustainability. There are no difficult to understand metrics. Our common sense approach will update your customers on the success of your product sustainability.
Read more at https://montie.com/#U6K8ukfuzCG59KDV.99
Audio File: 2014 Feb 17 – About Montie Design.mp3
Audio Length: 11:08 minutes
Hello, my name is Montie Roland. I’m the president of Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina. I wanted to take a few minutes to introduce you to Montie Design.
Montie Design is what we call a full-service design firm. We provide mechanical engineering, industrial design, and we also build prototypes. There are also requirements that we need to fulfill for electrical engineering and software development and firmware development. And so we can help with that as well.
Our core competency is those first three – mechanical engineering, industrial design and prototyping. What we do is fill in gaps. We take your project and we go from an estimate to a completed job. Usually a kind of a workflow, when it comes to a project, goes through several stages. The first stage is the information gathering and understanding. Well, what we want to do is understand what you need us to accomplish so that we can put together a proposal. And that proposal is usually an estimate with stages to it. Sometimes we work against an estimate on a time-of-materials basis, and other times we work as a firm fixed price.
Projects go from, you know, creating that estimate to . . . the next stage is usually the industrial design stage. The industrial design stage is where we sit down, work with you to understand your vision. And then take that vision and commit it to concepts on paper. Sometimes those are hand drawn sketches; sometimes those are computer generated assets. But what we want to do is take your vision and pluck that vision out and then get it down on paper so we understand it. Then we also want to take our understanding of other industries and see where we can bring other techniques, other technologies and other approaches to bear. So what we’re trying to do there is to make sure that your product has the benefit of the knowledge that we’ve gained over the years doing projects for other people.
And that way you’ve got a broad perspective on your next product. We want to look and see what, you know, what are people doing in your industry and what are people doing across other industries. Bring that into the product development process so that your product is robust, fits the market, and also, you know, we’ve looked to see where we can bring value to your product and to your customer by bringing in other technologies and other approaches and other thoughts.
So, we take that; generate sketches and additional assets, depending on the project. And then we may build what’s called a “massing model”. And a massing model’s a prototype where it’s really only meant to show size and shape and just general, is it the right size. So, you can hold it. It’s usually not functional, but it gives you a feeling; you can actually put it in your hands, turn it, show it to people. A lot of times what that also does between that and the sketches and the renderings, compare that to your spec or, if need be, we can develop that spec for you. And once you put something down on the table, that’s also when the unwritten requirements come out. Because that’s when someone says, “Hey, Montie. We need to do this” or “No, this can’t be more than two inches tall” or twelve inches or one-six pounds or it needs to do that. And those undocumented requirements are understated requirements then have this opportunity to flow out; we can capture those early on because finding out that the product didn’t perform as advertised at the end of the project is not good. So, we want to capture that in the beginning so we build in success from the front.
We go from there to an engineering phase. As soon as we can we want to build a prototype. In the engineering phase we take our mechanical engineers, start making solid works, solid models. Testing those models with computer-aided tools like finite element analysis or computational fluid dynamics (or CFD) for airflow and thermal analysis. We use that to, I guess, prototype digitally and then pretty quickly we want to build a mock-up. And depending on the project and the scope, some mock-ups may be to test a particular thing; for example, airflow. We might build a mock-up that’s aimed completely at testing airflow to verify and validate our CFD results.
So, then we go through there and build models in the computer (SolidWorks). And then build a prototype. And as we go forward our prototypes, you know, the cost of these prototypes increases. Obviously, if you’ve got a block of foam that someone worked on for an hour its much less expensive than if you have, you know, a fully functional, fully developed engineering-grade prototype that tests out functionality, aesthetics, manufacturing concepts. So we want to match the prototype to your needs, or the needs at that point. There again, so we want to make sure that we’re containing costs where we need to. And make sure that we’re providing you with high value for the money you’re spending.
So, build a prototype. Test that prototype. Make any adjustments to the design based on that testing. And then go out for quotes. So we go out for quotes and come back with a costed bill of material. So you now know what it’s going to cost to build your product and production.
So, we’ve added some tremendous value in several areas here. One is that we’re helping you to leverage our relationship with vendors and component manufactures, contract manufacturers. So we’re taking our relationships, introducing you to the people you need to be introduced to. And then also working with them to generate this costed bill of materials that tells you what it’s really going to cost to manufacture your product at the quantities you want to sell it at. And that’s something we’re good at. That’s something we bring a tremendous amount of value to the table with. Because of those relationships, because of our understanding of how to make this happen, and also, too, to help save you money because you’ve got folks that are on your side (us) and helping you work through questions with vendors and contractors. And so we’re putting our experience to use. And also, you may have all this experience in-house. At the same time, it may be what we’re simply doing is providing a relief for your staff, so they can be doing other potentially higher-value activities, or things that they’re better at, and then we can work on the things we’re good at and get those through your pipeline quicker, and to where they’re on the shipping dock and you’re selling them and you’re adding to your bottom line.
So, at the end of the day, our job is to help you drive towards improving your bottom line. We want to have products that are robust and that are profitable and that are manufacturable. That’s Montie Design. We take you through that process. Our job is to serve you and help you turn that next product concept into that next product winner.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give me a call – it’s Montie Roland, 1-800-722-7987. Visit us on the web – www. montie.com. Or shoot me an email – montie (M-O-N-T-I-E)@montie(M-O-N-T-I-E) .com. And my staff, as I say, we’re here to serve you; do a good job for you, and add a tremendous amount of value to your product development and engineering process. Please give me a call and let’s talk about that project that’s on your desk, or the one that’s going to be on your desk soon, and let’s make your life a little easier and your company more profitable. Montie Roland, signing off.
Developing a successful new product requires funding and resources. Lets spend a few minutes talking about how all those fit together with the product development process.
Developing A Product
Audio File: 2014 Feb 12 – Developing A Product.mp3
Audio Length: 8:07 minutes
Hello. My name is Montie Roland. I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina.
Whenever you undertake the development of a new product, there’s a series of decisions that go into that product at a very early stage. One of the things that’s very, very important to do is to validate that you should build the product. Because if you build a product that won’t sell, then you’ve tied up resources in something that will never generate a return on investment. So one of the things that I think is very, very important is to develop a skill set of saying, Okay, here’s why I think this product will sell; being able to work through a process of helping you get to that validation. And then being able to take the results of that validation and make a go or no-go decision. This really applies to all practitioners, be it corporate in a monster company, a medium-sized company, or an entrepreneur or inventor.
So, let’s start out with a case of being an inventor. Or, actually, I take that back. Let’s look at it from a hundred thousand foot view. So, some of the things that have to happen before you can sell your product – one is that you’ve got to have the money to develop it; you’ve got to have the money to manufacture the first run; and then you’ve got to have the money to market it. Many times – individuals especially; entrepreneurs or what have you – will say I’ll find the money; let me develop the product first. Well, in a way they’re getting the cart before the horse for a couple of reasons. One is that you want to make sure that your development of products that someone will help you fund (if you’re looking for that kind of thing; you’re looking for external funding), and then the other is that you want to make sure that you’ve thought through these first stages. So, things that need to be considered, or issues that need to be considered: One is what’s the development cost? And can you afford the development cost? Two, what does it cost to manufacture the products? Can you afford that first run of products? Three, what does it cost to market the product? And do you have everything in place that you need to do this? Now, in a big corporation this is broken down into segments, generally. So, there’s a group within the corporation that handles marketing. There’s a group that handles sales. A lot of product specifications are determined by the sales group, because they see a hole in the market, or they have requests from clients that want Product A. So, in a larger corporation you’ll have a multi-service team that will look at this from two directions – look at it from an accounting standpoint or a financial standpoint, a business standpoint, an engineering standpoint. And so go through those motions before the product is actually kicked off, just to make sure it’s the right product and they’ve got a way to pay for it.
Other organizations that are smaller may skip parts of this process. Entrepreneurs are notorious for doing this, because the fun part is designing the product; the fun part is usually not figuring out how to pay for it. So a lot of times entrepreneurs will put a lot of work into a product because they think it will succeed based on not a lot of research, and then they’ll get to the end of the product development cycle and either have developed the wrong product (which won’t sell), or they’ve just developed a product that won’t sell; or, because they’re out of resources, now all of a sudden, they can’t go any farther. We see a lot of the latter. That’s pretty common. So there’s a lot of great products that sit on the shelf and die.
So before you undertake that project, I would say consider – Do you have the money for each step of the way? And really you need to have the money for enough to keep you going through the ramp up of the adoption curve. And the adoption curve is how quickly people pick up a product or buy a product after its released; how long does it take the market to respond to that product. And that adoption curve is definitely there. It’s exponential, so it’s flat at the bottom when you’re first starting out; and then at some point we all hope it goes exponential vertically.
And then the next question is do you have the resources to pull it off – Do you have the engineering resources? Can you afford to buy them if you don’t? Do you have the management resources? Do you have the facilities resources? Most companies fail because of the management, not because of the product. Most product given companies do.
So I think its important to lay these things out, make a decision about them, whether or not you have them; make a decision about, you know, is it the right product; is it the right market; is this a difficult market. And that way you’ve made these decisions upfront before you’ve committed a lot of time and money to something that you may realize later on wasn’t such a good idea. So by doing this you’ll actually save yourself effort in the long run; you’ll be better prepared to design your product; and there’ll be less risk as part of the process.
If you have any thoughts or comments about my comments or thoughts, please don’t hesitate to give me a call – 1-800-722-7987. Shoot me an email – Montie (M-O-N-T-I-E ) @ Montie dot com. Or, visit us – www.montie.com. Thanks and have a great day.
Understanding Injection Molding Quotes
Audio File: 2014 Mar 14 – Understanding Injection Molding Quotes.mp3
Audio Length: 20:19 minutes
Hi, my name is Montie Roland. And I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina. We’re a full-service product development firm providing engineering services, industrial design services, and prototyping. So, we can help you design it; help you think through the concept; and then build you a prototype and provide the assistance you need to make the connections you need to manufacture your product, domestically or abroad.
This morning I’d like to talk about understanding an injection mold quote. And really, this . . . when you look at it and break it down, this also applies to most other manufacturing processes, the way that it’s structured.
So, if we’re going to create an injection-molded part, we need two things upfront. One thing is we need a completed design – and that needs to be in 3-D CAD – and then we also need to know what the material . . . materials used in the product are, which is really part of the design, but let’s break it out for the purposes of this discussion. That completed design is going to include 3-D geometry that you’re going to release to the molder as a .STEP file or a .IGES file. And it’s also going to include a drawing. That drawing will include any critical dimensions, any critical to function, any inspection dimensions. Also, secondary operations – if you’ve got a drill a hole in the part; or if you’ve got to put a threaded insert in.
So the drawing is no longer what we call “fully descriptive”. Fifteen years ago, drawings had to describe everything that you wanted to control about that part. If you wanted to control the size of a radius, you needed to create a section view and show that radius. Which, you can imagine, for an injection molded part, was an onerous task, because there’s a lot of details in a part like that. So, now what’s happened is we have parts that are defined in 3-D on the CAD – it’s in SolidWorks or ProEngineer; Catia; Unigraphics; what have you. And so those parts give a tremendous amount of information to the mold maker. So, no longer is the mold maker having to interpret a drawing. A lot of their tool pass and a lot of their mold design comes from your model directly, which makes for quicker tool builds because they don’t have to model the part. And also more accurate because they’re not interpreting from a 2-D drawing.
So, .STEP file; drawing, probably in a PDF format; and then your material choice. With plastics there’s a whole bewildering array of materials. A lot of times, though, parts end up being made out of common materials, such as ABS or nylon. These materials can also be filled. You can use a mineral fill, like a talc; you can have a foaming agent if you want to have a part that is a foam part. You can also fill it with fibers – long or short. And those fibers can give materials like nylon really, really great stiffness. And so you select that material. If you have questions about that, you know, the best thing to do is ask someone who has a good background in plastics injection molding. Also, you can work with your material provider. Depending on how exotic the material is, you may have to make a choice between . . . you may have to choose a provider like RTP that provides smaller quantities if you want something that’s more of a custom material. You remember, a lot of plastics are sold by the train car load, so if you make a few thousand parts, obviously, you use a lot less than a train car load. So, a custom material means you go to someone who deals in custom materials like RTP – which drives the cost per pound up dramatically. But if you have an application where you need some exotic properties, you can get them.
So when you go out for a quote – we had another podcast for our covered . . . you know, the mechanics of that – when that quote comes back, it’s going to have several items on it. And even if those items are buried in the price, they’re still there. The first item is the cost of your tool, your capital cost. You’ve got to build a tool to make an injection molded part. That tooling price, we have seen prices fluctuate dramatically and all over the board. But, really, there’s several main options. One option is what we’ll call is a temporary tool for very low-volume manufacturing. A good example of this is Protomold. Twenty-five hundred to thirty-five hundred bucks; they can have you a tool. The parts are probably three . . . four . . . five-X; maybe eight or nine . . . ten-X what it would cost a traditional molder; however, if you only need a hundred injection molded parts, there’s no point in building a fifteen thousand dollar tool and making five thousand as a test run if you only need a hundred. So, I oftentimes . . . companies like Protomold are very good at that. And the traditional molders, they may be abroad or they may be domestic. And so, any of these folks are going to give you a quote for the tooling. And that cost will vary, depending on if it’s a temporary aluminum tool, if it’s a aluminum tool, or if it’s a steel tool. An aluminum tool may make tens of thousands to a few hundred thousand parts. A steel tool may make millions of parts. So, the choice of your tool is dependent upon the process you need . . . or, excuse me, the number of parts you need that tool to last. Often, aluminum tools are adequate until you get to a real high volume.
The other thing that happens with injection molded parts is that often your toolmaker’s going to use what’s called a mud base, rather than make a full-up tool. What that means is that they have a standard tool skeleton, let’s call it. A skeleton has a giant hole in the middle, and what they do is they build a what’s called a mud base; it’s an insert that goes in that hole in the middle and connects up to the tool. That way you don’t have to pay for the entire tool; you just pay for a small part of it, which helps keep the cost down. And that’s totally fine.
If you’re going to make a tool abroad and you want to bring it home for domestic production, you need to make sure that the molder is involved in this process so that you end up with a tool that they can actually use. It’s common for . . . issues like fittings that are commonly available in China but aren’t available here to cause problems or, you know, some configuration that your molder can’t support. So often, if you go abroad for your tools, a good choice is to let your molder source that tool for you.
So, we’ve got a capital expense of the tool. The next thing is we have an expense of setting up the molder. So, this is a . . . in [inaudible 0:08:11.8] non-recurring engineering cost where they take the tool to the machine; they pull the tool that’s in the machine out (previous job); they put yours in. Some of these tools can get big and heavy so it’s an involved process to switch them out. Then what they do is they switch out the material in the hoppers and the screws, and put the material you want in there; dial in the temperature – temperature, pressure and timing are all very important for injection molding. And so they set that up; do a few test farts. This may only take a couple of hours; however, the thing to consider is that the molder has lost use of the machine. Not only are they doing work to get your mold in place, and it’s probably . . . set up guys an expensive employee-per-hour, but they’re also losing the use of that machine. So, you’re paying for machine time (where you’re not making parts), and you’re paying for a service, which is getting your tool up and running. And so, at first you say, well, that should come out of the profit. Well, by understanding and breaking these costs down, you can make better decisions, because a lot of times what will happen is you’re right – it will get hidden in the cost of the part. But – that drives the cost of the part up. So there’s a better way to do this as far as calculating what your run’s going to cost you. So, if we know the set-up cost, and then we get a part, a cost-per-part. Now, one of the things that everybody says is, Well, if I make a hundred thousand or ten thousand, I should get a much reduced cost per part. Well, the reason why you’re cost per part goes down is that you’ve amortized the set-up costs across a number of parts. So what this means is that let’s say your set up cost is five hundred dollars. And you make five hundred parts. Then that cost gets amortized over that run, and so that’s a dollar a part you’ve added to the cost of your parts. If you make five thousand parts, then you’ve added ten cents a part to the cost of your part. If you make fifty thousand, then you’ve added one cent to the cost of your part. And if you make a hundred thousand, you’ve added half a cent to the cost of your part.
So this is important to keep in mind because if you know the cost per part, which really doesn’t change because it’s a function of machine time; machine costs you this much to rent, costs you this much in plastic per part (your part weighs so many ounces), and it takes this long. Cycle time is a HUGH issue in production. Even a small amount of reduction in cycle time can help reduce the cost of your part over time. I guess really . . . let me restate that. A small reduction in cycle time is something that can impact a lot of dollars in profit; it can have a big impact on your profit over time, because that cycle time is never going to change. The design of that part, until you make a change to it, is going to stay the same; and the cycle time is going to stay the same, as long as the design and the tools stay the same. Cycle time is a function of how long the part takes to cool. The thicker the wall, the longer the cooling time. So you can’t remove the part from the tool, from the injection molding machine, until it’s reached a minimum temperature. So that temperature comes from that plastic cooling, the outside cooling first and the inside cooling slower. If you pull it out too soon, you can imagine you can do all kind of . . . create all kind of problems with the part because it’s soft. So that change in your design to keep the walls thin helps reduce your costs, now and in the future, by reducing the cycle time, which reduces the cost per part. The cost of each part, after the machine is set up, is driven by the cycle time, the material cost (which is generally done per pound), the secondary operations that have to be performed, and then the cost of any items needed to perform those operations. So, for example, if you’re snapping a lens in, you’ve got a couple of costs: you’ve got the cost of the lens, and you’ve got the cost of the time for someone to manually snap that in.
You can mold around items in the tool. The challenge there is that you’ve got to take the time to place that item while the tool is open. So often, secondary operations are performed after the part has finished molding, because that way you’ve got an operator there anyway; they can perform that operation and you’re making use of idle time, rather than keeping the tool open while you load something in the tool. A good example’s a threaded insert. Generally, threaded inserts are added after the part’s molded, because if you add them before the part’s molded, what you have to do is keep the tool open long enough for the individual or the robot to place that threaded insert. So, instead of opening the tool, dropping out the top part, and then closing the tool immediately and start making the next part, you can create a situation where you’re loading, I don’t know, let’s say six threaded inserts and it takes two seconds, or five seconds; so, that robot’s reaching in, loading that threaded insert, but that tool is not making parts at that point. So, most of the time, you’ll . . . the molder will insert that threaded insert after the part’s out of the tool so that the injection molding machine can go ahead and start making parts.
And that’s an important consideration that your molder will help you with. But that all rolls into the cost of that. If you have to program a robot to do a secondary, you may save some money in a very long production run, but the cost of the programming the robot and setting it up still has to be amortized across that number of parts. So, there again, set up cost and then actual production part cost for that part.
Same thing holds true for other operations. So, for example, C&C; you got to set up the C&C machine. You’ve got to fixture the parts, set up that fixture. You’ve got to program the machine or transfer the program into the machine. You’ve got to do a run off. So, that situation is very comparable. You’ve got a set up cost and you’ve got a piece cost. Piece cost really doesn’t change all that much, but the set up cost just gets amortized across that piece cost. So, that’s important to keep that in mind. And, sure, if you go to a company and say, I’m going to give you an order for ten million of these – can I get a break? Okay, gotcha; they’ll give you a break. But that’s going to be a small break and that’s . . . you’re not going to see the hard cost going half or something; you may see a few percent off, just as a way to close that deal. Because, at the end of the day, it costs them time on that machine and they’re going to charge you for that time and those materials, and amortize your set up across the number of parts in that run. And, if they give you one number that says this batch of parts, this quantity, will cost you this much, then really is what they’re doing is they’re just bundling that all together. They’re putting the set up cost in, the part cost in and they’re giving you one number. In my mind, you’re much better off to break it out and have a fixed price per part, and have a fixed set up cost. And then what you can do, as the manufacturer, is to decide how many parts you want to make. If you want to make one part, you can do that. But you know what the set up cost is, you know what the piece cost is, and make one part. Now, a lot of molders probably won’t set up for one part because it’s not profitable, but you get the idea there. But that way if you want to make a hundred, you want to make five hundred, you can set up your spreadsheet and do your math. You can conserve capital where you need to and you can take advantage of that economy of scale where you need to.
So, that’s, hopefully, given you an understanding of how to price or how to work with the prices you get from the molder, and turn around and price your products. It’s really not a complicated set up. A lot of molders have switched over to giving you a set up cost plus a piece cost. And it works much better in my mind because you actually know how that price is derived, and you can pick an intermediate quantity. Say you have a price of five hundred and a price for two thousand; well, now if I need seven hundred and fifty, I can calculate out what that price would be, and do it exactly. Because I have the formula here.
So, hopefully this has been beneficial. Just one little tech tip here and as you’re working through your new product. If you like what you heard and need some of this experience and skills we have, give us a call. We will be happy to help with your next project; we’re happy to do your next project, start to finish. Our job is to be ready when you are.
This is Montie Roland, signing off.
Status: You have drawings and 3D CAD files and need a prototype
Next Step: Interacting with vendors to promptly get quotes
How do you do this? What is the best way to put you and your vendors in a win-win situation. Join me for the next few minutes while we talk about this.
Audio File: 2014 Mar 14 – Requesting A Quote.mp3
Audio Length: 21:19 minutes
Hello. My name is Montie Roland. And I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina.
And what I’d like to do is spend a few minutes talking about a very simple topic, and that’s how to go after a quote. And maybe throw out some of my thoughts on what are good ways to manage the process and have a consistent process so you get consistent results.
Montie Design is a full-service product development firm with concentrations in mechanical engineering and industrial design and prototyping. We can take your product and go from concept to engineered design to something on the shipping dock, ready for you to ship.
When it comes time in the process of your engineering work to request a quote, it’s important to have a good process that consistently gets you accurate quotes in a timely manner. And that’s really what you want. You want to get those quotes back quickly, and you want to have them accurate and you want vendors that understand what you want. So part of that accuracy is putting together a technical data package that matches what you expect. If your documentation is sloppy, then your quote runs the risk of being off. Because some vendor may think that they’re providing what you want, when really they’re providing something else because the data you gave them wasn’t clear.
So there’s several steps to this process. One step is to select your vendors. I would encourage you to select vendors as early as possible so that you can have them involved in the design process. Now, in order to do that, you’re probably going to need to have a limited number of vendors – maybe even one or two – so that they have a shot at getting the business. Because if you get them involved in the design process, they have a lot of feedback for you, help you improve your product, and then never giving them that business over time, then they’ll lose their enthusiasm for helping you. Now, I don’t know that they have to get the business every time. I think, though, that, you know, over the course of two or three of these opportunities they need to see some business coming their way to really keep them incentivized, to participate as fully as you’d like. This is a little different than a lot of approaches because so many times people want the absolute lowest cost. But the thing you trade is that you may have vendors are less interested in providing you feedback by going with a low cost vendor all the time. So the vendor who’s the lowest cost may also be a low value vendor. They may not give you the product you want back or give you quality that’s unacceptable. And it’s especially bad if either the quality isn’t there – or – somehow they’ve built a product that just isn’t what you want; maybe there’s some differences and they didn’t ask the questions that they should have, because maybe they’re pretty tightly cost constrained. So that’s why, when you think about that, you want to have vendors that you can trust and that you can go to time and time again, and get repeatable, reliable, quality work from them.
So once you’ve selected vendors you want to send out RFQs to; then what you want to do is to understand client’s motivation or your constituent’s motivation. If there is already a vendor that’s preferred, and that vendor’s pretty much going to get it no matter what, then if you have a relationship with the second and third vendors that you’re going out for quotes for, you may want to consider letting them know – “Hey, this is probably going to be a second or third quote, and it looks like we may have this vendor.” And if they know you, then they’re going to understand that, obviously, unless you use this vendor all the time and will never go anywhere else, if there’s some specific reason that you’re going only to one vendor, then other vendors you know, if you tell them that, then they’re not going to need to put as much time in that quote. A lot of them will still give you a quote because they want to help you there, and part of that helping is staying on the RFQ list for the next one – but, so, they’re not going to feel like they’ve got to do as much pencil sharpening and have as tight of a quote, which requires more work. So that way you save them time; you’ve let them really know what’s going on; you’ve double-checked (at least in a rough way) that your primary vendor is giving you a reasonable price. And that’s a good way to communicate with those vendors. Now, if you don’t know the vendor and you’re telling him that, they may or may not send you a quote.
So that also brings of the thought of its good to know your vendors. Take your vendors to lunch. Don’t make them take you to lunch; you take them to lunch. Get to know them. Barbecue. You know, go to the rifle range. Go mountain biking. You know, those relationship opportunities help mean that when that vendor has a question, that vendor will ask you. One of the last things you want is unanswered questions, because that question may mean the difference between having a container full of junk, and having a container full of the product you really want. And so that relationship makes them feel comfortable giving you a phone call and saying, What do you think? Or maybe making a suggestion. We have one vendor that’s absolutely spectacular – ADR – and they’ve actually come back several times and said, We think you ought to do it this way. Once or twice they made some prototypes, and so, What do you think? That’s the kind of vendor that goes out of their way to give you quality product and keep your business. I mean, those guys, like said, they’ve done that. They have brought me a part they made and says, Here’s how we think it should be done. Not being proactive and not waiting on us to do something, but, hey, they’ve got AutoCAD; they made a change, they cut it and brought it over.
So, when you have that kind of vendor . . . those vendors are gold. You keep those vendors. You hold onto those vendors. You protect those vendors. And I think it’s important, too, and I want to digress a little bit here, is that if there’s issues in a project, then you want to make sure that your vendor is protected in appropriate ways. So if a vendor totally drops the ball and made a horrendous error somewhere, then most of the time they’re going to fix it. So, and they know that; they know there was an error. So, letting all the crap hit them, politically, doesn’t . . . isn’t always the best thing because it’s going to leave a bad taste in their mouth, even if it was their fault. So I think one of the things I encourage my folks to do is that if you communicate clearly if there’s a vendor with a vendor; but, we need to be the ones to man up with the clients and say, Hey, we goofed up. Because ultimately we’re the ones that selected that vendor. We’re the ones that had control over that vendor. And if there’s a mistake, the buck should stop with us, not with the vendor. And we’ve had times when a vendor did drop the ball and, you know, simple things sometimes cause problems, like a part that’s almost done and somebody sits it back on the machine upside-down and now the hole’s in the wrong place. Got it. But at the same time, you know, they recut those parts; there’s no point in beating on them or letting our customer beat on them. Because, you know, they’re serving us and we’re going to have that vendor relationship, I hope, long after that client’s doing something else. And that’s the thing, too. Clients are important. I’m not downplaying the value of the client relationship at all. With clients, though, we’ll see a client and we won’t see them for two or three years. And then we’ll have another interaction, or maybe a year. With vendors, we see them every month. And so this vendor is helping us with multiple . . . pick a vendor; he’s usually helping us with multiple clients, not just one. They’re helping with client after client after client. So that makes that relationship with that vendor, in my mind, just golden. So that’s why I think you want to take care of those vendors. You know, somehow, you can pay that vendor early; some companies don’t care. You know, bigger company, nobody may even know that. A smaller company, if they get a check ahead of time, or maybe they get a check at the dock, you can bet that if you’re ever the one in a jam, you’re more likely for them to stay late or come in early, or reshuffle things around to help you out, because you did something for them. Holding onto a check for a few more days, if you’ve got the cash to make, you know, I don’t know, 0.07% return on, it’s nowhere near as big a return as that vendor really wants your business. That’s the big return. And so doing things like, if you can, paying them early; taking care of them; these are things that help spur that relationship in the long run.
So, we’ve selected a vendor. Now the next thing is to get together our technical data package. What should that package have? That package, in general, should have non-parametric files (non-parametric files being PDFs, DXFs, DWGs, STEP files, IGES files); these are files that aren’t parametric from your CAD system. And by that, what I mean is that if I have a file that’s in SolidWorks, that SolidWorks file (say a part file) can be linked to a drawing file and assembly. And so, someone who’s not careful in how they deal with those files, when they bring that file up, if it can’t find the correct file that it’s wanting to reference – and it happens to grab a different file – then you can have a mistake appear in a drawing; even though it was saved in another way, all of a sudden, now, you can have a mistake show up in a drawing or in a CAD file because of these linkages. And I don’t want to get too far off on that subject; just to say that, in general, we try to give out fixed, non-parametric files (BAC/SiS, STEP, IGES, PDF) because those aren’t easily editable and those aren’t parametric. So they are what you give. We have some clients that want SolidWorks files. We can provide that. We always try to be careful, though, to provide an entire archive and make sure that everybody is well-communicated to about what the contents are, revisions levels, and so forth. The other thing you want to do is make sure your drawings are appropriate for the purpose. A lot of parts are made now from the CAD file, from an IGES or STEP file. And what that means is that fully dimensioning a drawing does not need to happen anymore, which saves you time and effort; saves your client money. And, the drawings now a lot of times will focus on things like GD&T or linear tolerancing or other things like call-outs, for material, finish, tapped holes. You know, you can machine a block of aluminum from a CAD file; the only thing that’s hard to do is to figure out is that . . . that quarter inch hole, is that tapped quarter-twenty; or is that a through hole. So, you show that on the drawings; you know, show where pins go, what pins are inserted there and so forth. And so your assembly drawings, your part drawings, your drawings of inseparable assemblies – those should go in your technical data file. Any 3-D geometry, if it’s going to be a part that’s going to be cut in 2-D, for example, water jet or some machine shops may want to program some parts as a two-and-a-half axis job; in that case you’ll need to include DXF – DWG. And I’ve got a white paper you can get off Montie.com that shows you how to understand what tolerances you can actually hole with the CNC process. That may be something to check out and gives you kind of an idea of, you know, where’s a starting point for what you can expect.
If you’re going to send a drawing to an unknown vendor, then you’re going to spend more time documenting. You want to make sure that drawing has more information. If you don’t know how that vendor’s going to make the part, whether it’s from an IGES file or STEP file or if they’re going to make it from the drawing, then you may end up needing a full set of drawings. In a lot of cases, full drawings aren’t used anymore. For example, tooling. You know, its . . . it’s just too many details to spend that much time drawing it when tools are made, early injection mold tools and die cast are not made from 2-D drawings anymore. They’re made from 3-D geometry.
So now what we do is grab a bill of materials and include that if it has multiple parts or assemblies. Put that together in an archive, send it out; make sure that you’re clear about any deviations from the drawing that you want on the quote. For example, if you want to get the parts back without finish, then put that on your RFQ. Make that its clear, you know, what comprises a set, or do you want piece parts; do you want assembly; do you want a test assembly to occur before you get it. You know, these process things that may not be obvious on a drawing, but you need to include on your RFQ. Send that RFQ out. Let your vendors know when you need it back. I mean, it sounds simple, but a lot of people don’t. And so if you need a RFQ back in four weeks, let your vendor know that they’ve got four weeks. They’re probably not going to take that long but that way they can prioritize. There again, you’re helping them make your life easier by making their easier. And if, also, too, if all you ever do is say “I need quotes back tomorrow”, then eventually, your vendors aren’t going to take you seriously when you say that. So I would much rather tell a vendor “Hey, can I get something back in two weeks” if that’s really what I need. That way, when I show up on their doorstep and I say to them “I need a quote, NOW”, they realize that I really need a quote now. And so, that whole concept of, I guess, political capital, if you want to put it that way; you know, you’ve got so much and if you burn it unnecessarily, then your vendor’s not going to take those priority requests seriously if it always happens. Same thing on lead time. If you have a part that’s going to take, you know, six weeks, and you need it in five, you need to let the vendor know. But don’t tell him two just because. So you want to make sure you work with your vendors and clearly communicate when the deliveries are, so that that way, they can prioritize their production. There again, you’re helping make their life easier, so they appreciate that. And that keeps those channels of communication open.
So, now you get an RFQ back; that goes back into your cost of building materials. That’s the best time in my mind to do it, is to put it back in that cost of building materials. Develop any amortizations or items like that for tooling. And then, now, you’re well on the way to using that quote for whatever you need. And the other thing too, I would suggest, is make sure you keep careful of where you put files. We have one vendor that faxes us back quotes. No problem. So I get it in my email (it comes to our fax but it gets sent to my email); and they’ve sent it me. I file it on the hard disk, and I save it in Outlook. But, what I put on the network, under that project I’ve got a directory called “Quotes” for that project. Then that way if I ever need to go find it, then I can, because I know where it is; it’s in that directory for that project. Because what’ll happen is a year from now I may need that quote again, and if its buried in some Outlook archive, good luck. So, instead, if I can go right to it and give it a final name that means something; save it on the network drive and I can go back and find those. And that becomes more important as you get a lot of projects going at once. Another thing, too, is sometimes you may not need that quote for a year. So you want to make sure that you’ve got that on hand; you know, the project gets delayed or you need to make more of them or what have you.
So, as you receive this documentation back, make sure that you’re putting that documentation in a safe place, you know, you’re storing that in your project directories. And the same thing, too – every time that we send out files, then that file is at a fixed rev level. So, if we make changes to that file, then the next time we send it out we send out a revised file that includes a change to the revision. If you don’t do that, it will bite you. It’s not fair to a vendor to say “Oh, this is the new version; don’t use the old one”. Go ahead, change the revision number, go through those steps; hand that to the vendor, show that on the P.O. That way, you’re less likely to get an old part or an old version of your design back. And that’s a really important thing to keep in mind.
I hope this has been helpful. This is one of those things that you want to have a consistent method of doing this so you can teach it to your staff, interns, what have you. And that’ll help you, too, as you have a good solid documentation process. It’ll help you over time as you need to go back and find those numbers, for whatever reason. And you will. Especially in a manufacturing environment. So, the more organized that is, the better off everybody is.
I hope this has been beneficial. It’s great to spend time together. And I hope that you have a great week. Montie Roland. Montie@montie.com is my email ((M-O-N-T-I-E at M-O-N-T-I-E dot com) You can give me a call – 1-800-722-7987 – or visit our website – www.montie.com. I hope you have a great week. Montie Roland, signing off.
One thing you can do that will help your team immensely is to organize your design files and related documentation. This one thing will help reduce your stress level immensely, especially when you have to go back and look at those files after you haven’t worked on the project for a while. Thanks for letting me share my experiences and thoughts with you.
———– Transcript —————————————
Audio File: 2014 Feb 26 – How to Organize Your Project.mp3
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. 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. And I’ll be the first to admit that as we’ve grown . . . 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 of different levels of capabilities. You have to keep retraining. 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 got somebody that’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, in 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. The current design . . . well, back up. So, we’ve got a project directory, and let’s say our project is Zigzis (spell that one). And so I’ve created a directory, in this case; maybe for the client of Zigzis. And then I have to make 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 that not now. So maybe what I’ll do is that 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 its 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 who isn’t the person that 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, Ahh, 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. But while the project’s 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” 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 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 who controls what goes in Current Design. So, he may have ten people providing files to him, and then he turns around and puts them 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 release 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, a release at 12, a release at 99; don’t care. 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 could do a major release is A; a minor release is numerical. So, it could be A.01, or A01. Or we just think it’s easier just to – 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, then maybe it’s not Rev’d at that point. So, for example, if you add a coma 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; 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 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’s needs, there’s a possibility that we may Rev the top level assembly to match that revision in the directory. It kind of depends on where we are in 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 had a corrupted set of files, or something along those lines, you could. We also create “Concept” directories. And the Concept directories will have sub-directories underneath 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 is we’ll do “2014 Feb 24 – [and then the name of the concept] – so “2014 Feb 24 – Rounded Fascia Concept.PDF” or what have you.
The Concept directory is 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 file that’s directly editable. So, when it comes to CAD 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 SolidWorks, 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 – easily in the case of a DXF or DWG; less easily in the case of a PDF – and so these files, though, are generally not going to change . . . well, just because you change something somewhere else in the SolidWorks model. However, the SolidWorks file from SolidWorks 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 the drawing, and you get basically a blank screen in the middle of 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 that I am working on (in SolidWorks) and I go to McMaster Carr 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 Carr screw was saved to my download directory on my local machine. So, if I don’t consciously save that to my Current Design directory 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 Released, 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 SolidWorks, so it doesn’t know to go grab that. SolidWorks 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 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. SolidWorks will go look for those files, make a list of them, let’s 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 SolidWorks will sync, 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 bit; 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 can 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 could 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 and move it to Rev 08; you miss 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 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 here and a 07 here, and which one’s the correct one? If you do Pack and Go, you avoid soooo much of that trouble. 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 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 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 will 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, when you’re working in any of the Adobe products. 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’s going to manage a lot of what we’re talking about. So, I’m not sure; I think it’s beyond the scope of this podcast to go in-depth on the PLM systems. And they’re great; they’re awesome. They help manage some of this. 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.
So, we’ve talked about our Current Design, Released. 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, and doesn’t have the flexibility 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 do revisions, because there is some work to it.
So other directories that you’ll need, one is 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 soooo handy. As the project goes along, your 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 Bill of Materials that has a part number, a description, a revision, and has costing information. Now, depending on the project, there may be some projects where that’s completely 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, anytime a quote comes in, scan it in. If its electronic, save it. Create a directory of your 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. There 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 part 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; underneath it we’ll have a description of general 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 very quickly find those images. It’s also a great place if you’re a manufacturer to also put your product shots, or your products in use; maybe they’re static images done is the light tent. But that way you’ve got a great way to go find that, because its 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. But 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 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 SolidWorks files that could be Inventor or 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 have 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 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 as 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 got the files you’re going to send out to vendors (the non-parametric files). Then 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 (for us, at least): it’s part number, space, dash, space, description, underscore, Rev (R-E-V-), space, 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 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 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 your engineer is taking what they’ve learned when they went out for quotes (or the purchasing agent), 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 hard to find. Also, storing those quotes is valuable because then you’ve got a way to address that quickly, there again, without having to go look through emails or look wherever.
So, from a hundred-thousand foot view, what we want to do is we want this project 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’s important, there again, to maintain that discipline because it’s not only helping 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. It’s a great tool. And having that in a standard format, it just benefits you.
If you have any questions about this, please don’t hesitate to give me a call. I know it was kind of a long section here and technical, but happy to entertain your calls, questions. It’s 1-800-722-7987. It’s Montie Roland. Email – email@example.com (M-O-N-T-I-E at M-O-N-T-I-E dot 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 project that we’ve done for ourselves at MontieGear – M-O-N-T-I-E-G-E-A-R dot com). I hope this has been beneficial. Montie Roland, signing out.