Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Compete on Design: Musical Instruments Division

Recently a drummer contacted me about a certain material for the brushes drummers use for certain effect.  The to import them.  The perfect brush he found by taking apart a housewares item.  That housewares item was overstocked in a big chain.  Instead of importing for now, his best bet is buying up the overstock to rework into his ho-selling product.

Only a passionate professional drummer would have gone through that problem solution.

Now here is a problem solution story:
For decades, McMinn has supplied the guitar industry with wood grown from the Columbia River to Alaska. He runs Pacific Rim Tonewoods, a small sawmill in Washington’s North Cascades. It has become one of the biggest wood suppliers in the country for musical instruments. Each year, McMinn ships to America’s biggest guitar makers hundreds of thousands of soundboards (the top of the guitar body) made from Sitka spruce.
So he has a small sawmill and a niche market, that demands a certain design.  For example, here is one of his customers:

Guitar makers like Tom Bedell take their wood sourcing seriously.
“I personally get involved in the entire supply chain,” said Bedell, who runs a guitar company in Central Oregon. To ensure the legitimacy of his wood suppliers, Bedell travels around the world and visits their operations in person.
He recently launched a “homegrown” guitar series, generating one-third of his sales on guitars that use domestically-grown wood like Oregon's myrtlewood and oak.

So enough of the right wood is a problem...  and there are people in the field who work on a solution:

Another solution may be growing in McMinn’s backyard: the bigleaf maple tree. The hardwood grows prolifically in the damp forests of the Pacific Northwest, but very few develop the beautiful wavy grain that guitar makers want, known as “figure.”
“You find it very rarely in nature, and we don’t know what the cause is of this figure,” said Jim Mattsson, tree geneticist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.
Mattsson had a hunch. In Finland, scientists found that a similar defect in birch trees was genetic and could be cloned.
So last year, Mattsson and McMinn teamed up to study the genetics of figured maple trees. Mattson’s lab began taking cuttings and using them to grow new trees in baby food jars.
Next year, when the trees grow large enough, Mattsson and McMinn will transfer them to 50 acres of farmland in Western Washington’s Skagit Valley, where they hope to create a figured maple plantation.
“I hope in the long term, people around the world will come to the Pacific Northwest to buy figured maple,” McMinn said.
It could take at least 10 years before the trees reveal whether they’ve developed the wavy grain. But figured grain in maple trees may be triggered by environmental factors like bacteria or fungus, Mattsson said.

This reminds me of the ski manufacturer Vokl, which has its own forest to get the wood core perfect for their skis.

When I share theses stories, there are countless who respond, "Great trade lead! I am going to trade in "figure" maple!"

No, you are not.  Without passion, you'll never compete in guitar board trade.  With passion, you'll overcome every problem and stay in business.

Tje most important thing is business is the customer, but the hardest thing, indeed the only difficult thing, is getting the product right.  This is just one more of the countless stories about people putting their efforts where it matters, getting the product right.

Feel free to forward this by email to three of your friends.