July 2012 News
Leatherman Tool Group, Inc. Launches New Product Innovation Group, FreeRangePDX™
July 10, 2012, Portland, Ore. – Perhaps coming from a company that created, and even 30 years later, continues to lead their category, it wouldn't be a big surprise to learn they've launched another industry-first. What may be a surprise is that it has little if anything to do with their current market-leading products; in fact it may just be quite the opposite. On July 1, 2012 Leatherman Tool Group, Inc (LTG). launched their new product innovation group, FreeRangePDX™. The group is an offshoot of the company with a dedicated team, entirely new location and very specific charter: When it comes to ideas that improve people's lives…There are no boundaries.
The idea for FreeRangePDX, was born out of Leatherman's annual breakthrough planning—a process which identifies sustainable, "game changing" objectives strategies and then aggressively manages the pursuit of these goals over the following year. Having tackled LEAN manufacturing, the New Product Development (NPD) process and the acquisition of lighting company LED Lenser in years prior, finding that next breakthrough was no small task. As the company did a deeper dive, a new phase for product development continued to surface as a place with great potential.
"With the Tool Group companies, we've built an extremely strong NPD process for the multi-tool and lighting categories," says CEO and President Jake Nichol. "It has well-defined milestones for product ideation and a filtering process that ensures we're delivering fresh and relevant new designs, on-time, on-profit and at cost targets. Instead of trying to break apart this successful model we decided to create a whole new space—literally—where the focus was off specific products, or filtering for risk. A space where we didn't have to ask ourselves ‘Does that fit into one of our existing categories?'."
Thirty years ago Tool Group founder Tim Leatherman set out to create a company with a mission to "…make products that improve and add value to people's lives." FreeRangePDX is poised to expand on this as they generate and explore ideas beyond the company's current product types and marketplaces. Tim is giving his full support to the group and looking forward to seeing the company champion the ideas of true inventors everywhere.
The group will report to LTG's VP of Business Development and Principal Design Engineer, Ben Rivera, who has more than 20 years with the company in product development. When asked about his goals for the Group Rivera said, "Of course our primary goal is to launch amazing new products way beyond our traditional multi-tools and lights. But even before that, my hope is that we not only generate our own ideas internally, but that we become a magnet for ideas from innovators both here in Portland and even globally."
Rivera's goal may not be that far-fetched. Emerging from the shadows of its fellow West Coast cities, San Francisco and Seattle, Portland itself has become a destination for those looking to cultivate ideation. Groups like advertising giant Weiden and Kennedy's Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE) and Ziba Designs along with events like Ignite Nights from O'Reilly Media the people who publish Make magazine, are some of the larger public innovation initiatives around the city. But smaller grassroots groups continue to crop up and thrive across all different markets every week.
LTG's current Director of Product Management, Anna Martens, has transitioned into the role of Director of Innovation and will serve as the Group's team lead. Martens has been with LTG for eight years in both the sales and marketing departments and prior to that with consumer brands such as Black Diamond Equipment (NASDAQ: BDE) as a Category Director.
"We certainly didn't get here overnight, but it's hard to believe that a year ago, this was our ‘Blue Sky' idea," said Martens. "We've done so much great foundational work researching and interviewing people from local companies like Nike with their ‘design kitchen' and Tektronix, to Proctor Gamble's Connect + Develop group and Google and 3M's internal idea labs."
FreeRangePDX will be located off-site from LTG headquarters. The team made up of designers, engineers, makers and marketers will be responsible for all facets of new product exploration including ideation, designing, prototyping and test marketing. For more information, or to schedule an interview, please contact LTG Media Relations Manager Juli Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 503-253-7826.