Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009 in the Rear View Mirror!

How quickly this year has vanished. We have had a great year (thanks to our great clients and employees) and have seen a lot of maturity to our product line and the systems internally. But so much more is to be done.

This next year we will be developing our retail lines, expanding our services for the OEM market, and engaging in LEAN throughout the company. From our wonderful client base we have learned what is needed and what can be improved, and in addition we have strategically driven our production capabilities outside the norm, adding our recent plastic fabrication disciplines and thermoforming functions. Look for more info on this soon!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ft. Hood

I can speak for all of us here that the events in Texas this week were a horrible tragedy, and an event none of us ever wish to have repeated. My sincere prayers and sympathy to those friends, families, and the men and women serving at Ft. Hood. God bless...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Down Economy, Up People!

Daily I am reminded of the adverse circumstances facing our nation - rising unemployment, the devalued dollar, debate over health care, etc. - yet I find myself optimistic and energized by the challenges we face. It is times like these that good companies survive, great companies dominate, and the weak ventures find every excuse why they can't succeed, and ultimately, die.

While all of outside influences effect us greatly, the inside is what I am working on because it is what we can control. I cannot control every act of congress (although I am told I am their boss), nor can I stimulate the global economy on my own. What I can do is look for the gaps during these times and work to fill them. Whether it be with our own product line we produce or supplying one of our many great clients with solutions they require, we are constantly looking to find the next opportunity in the market. Sometimes they present themselves, but more often, we turn over rocks to find them. Sometimes it is the first rock we turn over, but more likely it comes after a long and hard walk along the riverbed.

The ones that defy logic during hard times and press forward to claim their stake are who we employ. Locating, hiring, and developing those within our company only make us stronger, and during these times we are working to accelerate their growth both personally and professionally. As we crawl and scrape through a down economic time we are sure to come out of this stronger and better equipped to handle the demands around the corner.

If there is a beacon of light during a trying climate, it is that the human spirit cannot be broken. Keep your chin up, and your nose to the grindstone!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Losing a Planet

GM made a critical decision today, severing the underperforming Saturn brand after Penske could not find suitable long-term manufacturing to carry the brand forward. While I was disappointed to see the brand disappear, I understand the decision to move forward and leave the losses behind. This is never an easy decision, in fact, I doubt anyone at either Penske or GM wished this to be the outcome. What it does show is that our manufacturing base has been crippled in this country. With no factory or supply chain to turn to, Saturn fades away to a soon-to-be-forgotten entity few will write into the history books as anything other than a well intentioned but poorly executed experiment.

The business model Saturn started with was novel, efficient, and perhaps could have been a success given leadership being a bit more progressive in design and marketing. The product began with a cult following, strong sales, and customer loyalty before floundering with the American consumer and receiving an artificial lung from grandpa GM. The recent surge it experienced was a futile attempt at a comeback, and ultimately, too little too late.

We are evaluating similar models we have employed. With each of our lines of goods we have to make those same hard decisions - do we persevere or cut bait and move forward? Some of the lines have succeeded greatly, while others have found a hard start and even slower growth pattern than what any of us had envisioned. The important lesson here is that you learn from each of them and evaluate the next having a keener perspective and perhaps a bit more wisdom than before. I hope that GM learns from this, but I also hope the American public learns that stripping away the manufacturing base in this country is a short-sighted plan that could ultimately disable our ability to produce the durable goods we need to survive.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Staying Put

Thank you Daimler for staying put in PDX. I think we can all be thankful for a contract that maintains jobs and gives some of those employees a sense of security. I wish them well and a strong and positive future.

Monday, September 14, 2009

New Product Introduction

Recently we were contacted about a new product we might be interested in sharing with a larger audience. We decided to choose our newest pet product - A super lightweight combination food/water bowl for dogs (and humans if resourceful) that comes in under 4oz. in weight (for the backpacker types) and utilizes eco-safe fabrics void of PVC. In the past we had always relied on PVC coated materials for water proofing, however we found a less harmful alternative that comes from the waste of another job we are working on. This solution provides the necessary attributes to consider larger production at this time, and a cleaner consumer product for the take.

We are driving hard at finding these opportunities to use the waste of one job to build another. In addition to this last great pet product, we are about to introduce the 'The Sprout House', a new twist on the micro-greenhouse for the amateur botanist. Again, the waste of one job creates another product that eliminates the need for us to fill our trash. A unique micro-greenhouse structure perfect for starts and plant recovery, we designed The Sprout House to easily accommodate a wide variety of small plants just getting started in this crazy world. Look for this to grace store shelves this winter when seeds are sown for spring!

Making good use of waste is important, and necessary as the world becomes more crowded and resources are strained. We'll do all we can to continue building smart, innovative products that make sense in more ways than one.

Product ideas? Send 'em our way! We'd love to see what you are thinking about!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Developing a Future for Textiles in the U.S.

I read a study once a few years ago regarding the attrition of fabric mills across the US. The study suggested a closure rate of 2 mills per month at the time, which I would believe to have flat-lined by now probably somewhere around 1 per month or less. In addition, the rate of new talent entering the sewing trades has declined 70% in the last 3 decades, meaning less and less available talent for apparel and accessory markets. The contradiction is that retail fashion and accessories continue to grow. The obvious culprit is overseas labor, offering low cost alternatives without the employment restrictions and oversight that we are accustomed to here. This serves the consumer by offering lower cost items at comparably measured quality standards, while building the sales and marketing arms domestically. A transformation that has both good, and perhaps equally negative, attributes.

While globalization has bred this transformation in the market, we have a responsibility to maintain some reasonable vocational abilities here in the US . Given the right opportunity, and building value in domestic manufacture, we can continue to grow the US textile market through strategic planning and minor investment in vocational training. Small pockets in historically textile-friendly cities like Portland and San Francisco are tasking their local communities with reinvesting in sewn goods and labor to provide, however, is this a futile effort in the face of government trade imbalances - ie. fabric quotas, tariffs, etc. I cannot fault the efforts of local politicos and commercial ventures for attempting these reinvestment acts, however, I will challenge them to not ignore the larger issue that if we do not have any enforcement or initiatives towards balancing dominance of imported textile products, our efforts may be fleeting, however noble.

In the end we need to establish a base for manufacturing in the US again. Our continuing path towards a 'service-based' country fails to build value beyond the point of sale, and the reliance on foreign labor and raw materials disables our nation as an integral cog in the supply chain. I wish somewhere in Stimulus 2009 there might have been a reinvestment in some of our lost arts and abilities, rather than chasing the next flashy energy idea that is still an unknown. It will be up to small companies like ours to rebuild this textile industry - a noble cause, however fleeting it may seem...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Phew, made it!

As some of you may know, I had surgery last week to remove a ridiculously large tumor attempting to take over my cranium. Lab results were negative, no cancer, and I had multiple nasal complexities simplified for a future of easy breathing. I hope...

Fell back into the office, so to speak, today and found a mountain of things to attend to. I was happy to get started again, although the fog has not quite lifted from the surgery, and the parts affected have yet to return to normal.

During the hospital stay, I came up with about 5 product ideas that would sure make a patient's stay more comfortable. Now to get back into the office and see about making them happen...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blowing in the Wind! Case Study #1

Three years ago we began to receive inquiries from the wind industry for tool products. As it was, the technicians in wind towers were hauling loads of tooling, equipment, and gear up to the turbine via crane. The vehicle they used was a bag. The bag, after numerous uses, ripped and shredded itself over time and was replaced.

We offered to evaluate the product and look into solutions to extend the life of the bags they invested in. After some careful calculations and testing, we determined some basic design changes were in order and proceeded with testing. What transpired after that was amazing - After the modifications we found that we did not have to replace the bag every 3 months as was standard, rather we could draw life from a bag for 6 months, thus reducing their investment in half.

While this was a dramatic result and not always indicative of all reults, it is critical to our mission to continue to deliver positive-growth programs to our clients. Our challenge is meeting your challenges and overcoming them.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Creating Space, Preserving Light

Lots can be said for efficient management of space within a company, home, or other entity. Just recently we engaged in a redesign of our warehouse, balancing inventories, machinery, and the balance of goods we house and manage. In an effort to better keep an organized and utilitarian manner of management, we stumbled upon a gift we did not necessarily realize we would be given. That gift was light.

Our warehouse is not what I would call well-designed, in fact, it is a hodgepodge building with retrofits, additions, and generally poorly maintained utilities. As Greg, our superhero operations manager, picked his way through the project, the inventories began to find an ordered design and the pallet racks and clutter found an organized appearance. In addition, our poorly lit space began to come alive with natural light flooding the entire area. Now, rather than installing multiple new fluorescent fixtures or magnesium retina-burners, we are relying on good 'ol sunlight to assist us in our efforts. Not sure what winter will bring during the dark days, however, we are more than pleased with this simple solution and reducing our reliance from Bonneville. I guess the value we were looking for had a plan of its own, and delivered a result we were more than pleased with...

Sunday, July 12, 2009


The Last US Bag Co. recently became a distributor of Pelican, Storm, and Hardigg cases. In addition to our long history of providing soft case solutions we are now able to offer this additional protection for your valuable assets. It was always a desire of ours to offer this solution and now we are able to readily provide an attractive, customized hard case that meets your needs!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Last US Bag Company...

Well, we might as well join the rest of the world. A new web site, new blood, and new growth emerge from the thriving little company that could.

This week we are working on mutliple projects in the incubation stage, such as a cycling product, a new design for a triathlon product, and multiple tactical gear items for medical military. The varying markets we diverse ourselves in allow us the opportuntiy to experiment and share design and constructuon elements between projects, thus strengthening our ability to build a great product for our clients. This, of course, does not mean that each project is short of its challenges! Many a project require multiple prototypes, revisions, and material changes to determine the right outcome - a feat which is no easy task!

Some news to share:

- We will be exhibiting at SHOT Show this year for the first time. Our goal is to be able to see some of our clients, share some successes, and meet new organizations that might be able to assist us in our growth.

- A new location may be on the horizon. Stay tuned!

- New silk screen capabilities and RF welding in the works...

Make sure to check in once a week here for news and updates. You may also subscribe here for immediate updates...

Best, Will