Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Finding Out One of My Designs Is Doing Well

As some of you may know, I am a mechanical engineer with an emphasis in design.  For the first third of my career I did mostly machine design which is a side that the consuming public rarely sees. I would design the machines that made the product that the public saw. Then due to a tech bubble that collapsed followed closely by 9/11, I found myself out of work and looking into a new line of work. I was fortunate and was able to hook up with a company that specialized in custom product engineering for anyone who walked in our doors with money and an idea. My first project there was to design an entire plant that made concrete culverts for a client in southwest United States. It was huge in scope and kept me busy for over a year and a half. Afterwards, I took on a number of smaller projects and clients that ranged from a RV manufacturer, forestry equipment manufacturer and right at the end of my time at that company, a entrepreneur who had a great idea (I thought anyway) for a product that he wanted to market to the likes of Walmart. I worked with the guy over several months turning his napkin sketches into an actual design, tweaking it here and there until he was satisfied. I sourced manufacturers for his various components and did a costing analysis for his design but just couldn't get the unit price down to where he felt it needed to be to sell at places like Walmart. I never got to see a fully functional model outside of a computer monitor. We gave him all our data and he went on his merry way. I assumed that it would never see the light of day due to the costs involved.

I hadn't thought about him until a few days ago when a co-worker was talking about a design he did for someone that never panned out and this design came back to me. I mentioned it to my co-worker and he thought it sounded like a good idea too and wondered why it never flew. So on a whim, I Googled the idea that the guy had and found several different manufacturers of similar things. Then one caught my eye. It was exactly like the one I had designed eight years ago. Even better, the name of the company and the president were the same as the one I had dealt with so I knew without a doubt that it was my design. It is way cool to see a creation of yours out in the world and someone making money off of it.

I decided to dig a little deeper and eventually turned up an article about his company (which he started with this idea back in 2002) and his idea which made no mention of myself or the company I worked for but I guess I'm not surprised. We were paid to do a job, not take part in the glory and evidently we did our job well enough where in 2008 he expanded his business into a barn and in 2009 he already had five full time employees. Still, it is exciting to learn that someone is doing well off with one of my designs and even if I'm the only one who knows about it besides you my readers. Perhaps one day I will have a good idea of my own that I can turn into a business like this one.

10 comments:

Three Score and Ten or more said...

Cool. I am of an age where I no longer need such gizmos, but I have bought several over the years. This should find a pretty good market since the other (usually accordion) types are notoriously short lived.

warren said...

That is cool...too bad you couldn't make a few more bucks on it now, but I know what you mean...you got your paycheck for the work you did. Anyhow, keep thinking...

R. Sherman said...

The intellectual property issues in things like this can be daunting. I'm glad you're finding out about a success.

Cheers.

Ed said...

3 Score - I took a different approach in teaching my daughter at a very early age how to go up and down stairs.

Warren - Designing is what keeps me out of trouble!

R. Sherman - Back when I worked for that company, I had to sign a contract stating I couldn't work for any clients after I left the company for two years. Several called me after my two years were up though I chose to continue working where I am now. Although I didn't sign anything, I'm sure our company signed something stating all intellectual rights to this guys concept remained his. I sincerely hope he makes millions off it. Nothing would make me happier.

geri said...

I can imagine how good, satisfying that must've made you felt when you saw your design working and making money - even if it wasn't for you.

I had several ideas for baby and children products when I had my son, whenever I have one the saying "necessity is the mother of invention" always pops into my head. In fact I have a wonderful idea for a product (educational material) now but I am limited because it involves sophisticated computer programming skills (I think) which I hesitate to consult computer guys I know for fear of stealing my idea lol

edifice rex said...

That's great Ed! well, great you had such a good design, not so great you didn't get more credit for it but, like you said, you got paid for your work.

Vince said...

Way ta go man.

I get a kick looking at garden designs I've done in goo-earth.

Ed said...

Geri - I have a similar problem with my boat idea that part of my idea requires expertise that I don't have. I simply asked around until I found someone with it and asked if they would be interested in doing some work on a project of mine. When the time comes, they said they would. The guy who owns the right to the baby gate, did the very same thing.

Edifice Rex - The idea was his, not mine, so he rightfully deserves all the credit. I just made it happen and was well paid for my time.

Vince - I love designing things and someday when I have the space for a garden, I'm sure I'll enjoy designing the layout of it too.

Bone said...

Very cool, Ed. I was afraid you were gonna say someone else had stolen the guy's idea. Glad to hear that wasn't the case.

TC said...

I think it's kinda crappy he didn't give you credit though...