Podcast: About Montie Design
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.
Podcast: Tips for Improving your RFQs
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.
Podcast: How To Organize Your Project
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.
How to Set Up a New Project – Costed BOMs – Part 3
After many years of setting up projects for our industrial designers and mechanical engineers, here are my thoughts on some basic best practices on how to structure your files and keep your project organized. This segment examines a very useful tool for the engineering and product team: the costed BOM.
Here is the transcript of the podcast:
Good morning. My name is Montie Roland. I’m with Montie Design in Morrisville, North Carolina.
And this morning, what’d I’d like to talk about is how to structure your project from a file standpoint, from an organizational standpoint.
Montie Design is a full-service design firm in Morrisville, North Carolina. We provide industrial design, mechanical engineering and prototyping capability on-demand to help you move your project from concept to ready-for-the-shipping-dock.
So, we’ve talked about our Current Design, Released [directories]. . . let’s go back to Released for a second and talk about reving Assemblies or not to rev assemblies. It’s going to be driven by several things. One is if your design changed dramatically and the assembly doesn’t look like the parts, you need to rev the assembly. Other times you may need to rev the assembly is if you have a vendor that has a PLM system that is tied to the assembly rev. It doesn’t have the flexibility to control it without . . . to make a change to their drawing set without a revised assembly. We’ve seen that. We have a project right now we’re working on; they don’t have that control. So if we make changes we have to revise the assembly just because we revised a part. And the problem is that if you have to do that there may be a lot of subassemblies in-between; so it’s definitely a lot of work to do that.
And so you’re kind of starting to see, as a manager now, why sometimes your engineers are reticent to . . . to do revisions, because there is some work to it.
So other directories that you’ll need – one is that I create a “Project Management” directory. Project Management directory has contracts; has any schedules; things that you need in managing the project, but maybe not necessarily need to execute the design.
So another thing we would do is that we want to create a Bill of Materials. The Bill of Materials is sooooo handy. As the project goes along, you’re Bill of Materials is going to become a costed Bill of Materials. So at the end of the project, what we want to see is we want to see a . . . a Bill of Materials that has a part number, description, a revision, and has the costing information. Now, dependent on the project there may be some projects where that’s completed handled by the client. For a MontieGear project, one of the last steps is to make sure that Bill of Materials is correct, has the costing information, and then . . . that is used by the person doing the pricing, which often is me for MontieGear. I will take that, and if that Bill of Materials is done correctly, what I can then do is add the cost of labor to do assembly; any shipping costs; and then I know how to price the product without going through and pulling up a bunch of drawings. And this is so important later on. It saves tremendous amount of time.
So, as you go through the project, other directories you’re going to want to have is “Quotes”. So, every time a quote comes in, scan it in; if it’s electronic, save it. Create a directory of Quotes from your vendors in one spot. So, that’s a subdirectory under your Project directory. You’ve got Quotes. So, we’ve done Current Design, Concepts, Quotes. Another one you’ll often have is something called “Files from Client”. And so those are files that the client has provided. These are documentation that where they’ve given you pre-project documentation; there may be initial version of a product specification. And so this is that repository of those documents. Then again, a lot of times we’ll save those file names by date; if it’s a quote we’ll save it by date and vendor name and then possibly, you know, what that is if it’s a single pat quote. So you can quickly scan down that directory and find the quote for the lower left beam, or what have you.
And you may have other directories as needed. Those will depend with projects. One of the other things we do is create an images directory. And then the Images directory, underneath it, we’ll have a description of generally what that image is about. So, it might be /images/first prototype or date-first prototype. Date . . . Proof of Concept; Date-Alpha Prototype; Date-Beta Prototype; Date-Installation. So, that way you can scroll through there and quickly find those images. It’s also a great place if you’re . . . if you’re a manufacturer to also put your . . . your product shots, or your products-in-use. Maybe they’re static images done in the light tent. But that way you’ve got a great way to . . . to go find that because it’s tied to the project.
So this Project directly, theoretically, if you were to just copy that to a flash drive, it would have everything you need to continue with that project. And that’s good because over time hard drives change, files get deleted, directories get changed. So if you encapsulate everything in that subdirectory, then that makes life a lot easier.
So, kind of to roll back through this, we’ve got parametric files and we’ve got non-parametric files. And then we’ve got files that are often edited. And so, the parametric files are Solid Works files that could be inventor; it could be Pro-E. But those are files that need to be kept together; need to be moved using a Pack and Go. And occasionally with your current design, one way to make sure you’ve got the correct files in there is to Pack and Go to a temporary directory; delete the files in Current Design; and then copy those back in. And that way you know you don’t have some superfluous files in there.
Other files that we’ll create and need to do something with are . . . are non-parametric files. So, these could be IGES, STEP, DXF, DWG. And these files, in the Release directory, it will have the parametric files, plus a PDF of each drawing and maybe a DXF or DWG, if that’s needed to do a cutting process, a 2-D cutting process, like water jet, or sometimes a machine shop if they’re working from a 2-D file.
Also have the 3-D non-parametric files, like STEP or IGES. And so that way, in that Release directory, you’ve got the CAD files, plus you’ve the file you’re going to send out to vendors, the non-parametric files. And probably this would be a good spot for your Bill of Materials for that Rev. And so, in this case, a lot of these files follow the same format. Its part number . . . for us, at least, its “part number – description_rev “ and then the two-digit revision code. So, 00 or 02. And so we do this to keep these file names consistent so they’re easy to read through quickly. And that way everything is . . . you get to . . . you can very quickly figure out what you’re looking for. If you don’t maintain control over file names, you end up with file names that mean something to one person today, but may mean nothing to someone later. And, six months’ from now, may not mean anything to the person who named it then. So, I think it’s very important to maintain that . . . that control; have a strict doctrine over that.
That Bill of Materials? It’s important for costing purposes if you’re a manufacturer, because that way you’re engineer is taking what they’ve learned when they went out for quotes, or the purchasing agents wouldn’t . . . so, whoever went out for those quotes enters that into your Bill of Material, so now you can do your pricing quickly without having to go look for a bunch of information which may be harder to find.
Also, storing those quotes is valuable because then that . . . because then you’ve got a way to address that quickly, there again, without having to go look through emails or . . . look wherever [other places on the server].
So, from a hundred thousand foot view, what we want to do is we want this project directly . . . directory to provide everything you need to pick up that project, modify that project, price that product, or deliver to a client. And if you can do that then that helps multiple phases of the organization; not just engineering or industrial design, but also purchasing; it’s great for a reference later, for sales and marketing, because they understand what’s driving the cost; and it’s just a win-win all the way around. And that . . . that’s important to main . . . there again, to maintain that discipline because it’s not only helping you in the engineering stage; like I said, you’ll reap benefits for . . . the life of the product, especially if you ever have to go back and make a change or you ever have to go back and re-price or pricing on components change. It’s a great tool. And having that in a standard format is . . . it just benefits you.
If you have any questions about this, please don’t hesitate to give me a call. I know it’s kind of a long section here and technical, but happy to entertain your calls, questions. It’s 1-800-722-7987. That’s Montie Roland. Email – montie (M-O-N-T-I-E)@montie(M-O-N-T-I-E).com. Or you can visit our website – www.montie.com. You can see the results of client work we’ve done at the montie.com website. Or you can see some of our projects that we’ve done for ourselves at montiegear (M-O-N-T-I-E-G-E-A-R).com.
I hope this has been beneficial. Montie Roland, signing out.