Is Your Shop Farming or Hunting?
Glen Mason, whose childhood memories include his dad using the kitchen stove to dry nylon he would subsequently mold in the garage, estimates that he made his first molded part at age 7. His dad would eventually found CF Plastics in Hillsboro, Ore., with Mason taking over in 1993. CF Plastics was acquired by DeMarino Sports in 1996, which itself was acquired by Wilson Sporting Goods in 2019.
Mason stayed on and his current role of advanced innovation and industrialization manager, paired with decades of injection molding experience, gives him a unique perspective on the tension that can exist between a company’s R&D efforts and its day-to-day production. A tension he describes with a vivid analogy.
“You need to separate the idea of hunting and farming,” Mason says, where “hunting” is R&D or new product development and “farming” is ongoing production of already established projects. “Both have same output: food. Farming is what people do in production. They want to control the inputs and the outputs and get good at scale. Hunting is R&D. You don’t know what you’re going to find.”
Where companies can get in trouble is when they try to apply a farming philosophy to hunting, or vice versa. “Some people try to use the farm system to develop new technology,” Mason says. “Farming is one thing, but with hunting, the skill set is so different. You’re not controlling the inputs; you’re waiting to be surprised; and you’re just doing things, hoping for good outcomes.”
Ultimately, and often regardless of those outcomes, Mason acknowledges that R&D tends to lose out to production: “hunters always get beat by farmers because the farmers are paying the bills.”
To boost his company’s “hunting” efforts, Mason has been investigating various rapid prototyping and manufacturing technologies, including work with Addifab’s Freeform Injection Molding (FIM) technology (read more about that soon). All of this to add end-to-end speed to his company’s R&D efforts.
“Speed is the most valuable thing I can develop,” Mason says. “If you look at industry, you see a lot of inertia, you see a lot of, ‘Let’s keep farming.’ I’m not sure that going to be as relevant as time goes on.”
Make your shop about hunting and farming.