Innovation Factory is a small business headquartered in Havertown, PA. Since 2001, the firm has produced innovative hand tools to help its customers “prepare for whatever may come.” All of its products are made in the US by design, as Inventor-in-Chief Marvin Weinberger takes pride in supporting American manufacturing and bringing a high level of quality to his customers. Innovation Factory products come with a lifetime, no-hassle, replace or refund guarantee.
The firm designed a new tool called Survival Axe Elite for the Off Grid Tools brand. Originally, it was created to satisfy the needs of first responders. When working in remote locations, first responders often have to leave their vehicles behind and can’t physically carry all their heavy equipment—from axes to power tools—with them. They need a multipurpose, portable tool that can chop, saw through wood and metal, act as a wrench and screwdriver, and perform myriad other tasks. A Kickstarter campaign not only raised the initial funding for the tool, then known as “Lil Trucker,” but also created brand new markets among campers, sports enthusiasts and survivalists, among others.
Committed to its made-in-America dictum, Innovation Factory soon found that producing the initial prototype in the US would be cost-prohibitive. The firm set about a series of redesigns intended to enhance manufacturability at a lower cost without sacrificing quality. Ultimately, rather than making all the parts using cast steel, it decided to keep the core and tang steel but use die-cast aluminum and/or glass-filled nylon in the side panel. The tang is the projection of the blade of the tool that holds the blade firmly in the handle. Overall production requirements involve many processes, including investment casting, CNC machining, die casting, and injection molding (plastic and metal).
Weinberger had heard good things about MFG.com, a global online marketplace that puts buyers in touch with hundreds of US suppliers. “MFG.com was helpful at every stage,” he said. “They assigned someone to work with me who explained the best practices for creating an RFQ, how to specify US or international manufacturers, and much more. They walked me through every step of the process. It was great.”
Weinberger uploaded the design for the head onto the MFG.com platform and connected with more than 30 different companies able to do the casting.
After interviewing all of the responding firms, Weinberger identified a start-up shop in Parowan, UT—Bear Valley Precision Casting—owned by Jared Meibos. Bear Valley specializes in investment casting and has its own machine and tooling shops. Upon opening for business, Meibos kept himself and the shop’s two employees busy by making gun parts for a customer. Looking to expand the business, he subscribed to MFG.com in April 2016 and began looking for investment casting work and came upon Innovation Factory’s RFQ for the Survival Axe Elite.
“When I reviewed the RFQ, I thought it was a cool-looking tool and something that would fit within my portfolio well,” said Meibos. “I like the outdoors and could see how useful this tool would be to survivalists, campers and more. I was willing to help out in any way that I could in order to get Innovation Factory’s business. Beyond being good for my company, I wanted to keep the manufacturing in the USA. I, like Marvin, am a proponent of made-in-America.”
Weinberger said, “Jared Meibos is my personal hero. He made it possible to keep the Survival Axe Elite in the USA. He deserves all the kudos. His energy and creativity were just what I needed for this type of manufacturing. I thank MFG.com for bringing him to our attention. We never would have found him otherwise.’’
Together, Meibos and Weinberger worked out the final design of the Survival Axe Elite. “When we first started making the tool, Marvin wanted to add all of these component tools, so I helped him with the design,” Meibos said. “For example, he wanted a can opener feature and brought an initial design to me. I tested it, but found it lacked the leverage needed to work properly. We revised it to achieve the necessary leverage to open cans easily.
“The overall Survival Axe Elite was thick at the beginning, too, more than a quarter inch,” Meibos continued. “I felt it was too thick. I felt that if it were thinner it would cut through wood better. The initial blade had too steep of an angle and wouldn’t chop wood well. We extended the blade length to give it a better shape. The original hammer did not have claws. I felt buyers would want a good nail-pulling feature. The end result of our efforts was a more aesthetically pleasing tool with better functionality and more attachments.”
“I can’t say enough about MFG.com and how they have helped us,” said Weinberger. “The savings we were able to achieve using this platform have been enormous. Our final design offers many more features—at half the price—than the original specs. Consequently, our retail price is much more affordable, which, in turn, will grow demand for our Survival Axe Elite from a few thousands a year to tens of thousands per year. And, we’ll be able to keep production in the United States of America, which is the hardest part of all.”
The experience was beneficial for Bear Valley Precision Casting, too. Meibos has grown his shop to 12 employees to handle the work Innovation Factory has brought his way. He’s also added to his inventory of equipment, purchasing several new grinders and a black oxide processing line. Some of the growth is attributable to manufacturing the Survival Axe Elite but another part can be traced to additional new work Weinberger is sending his way.
“When I first started working with Innovation Factory, Marvin was trying to fund everything on his own,” Meibos said. “As you know, R&D and tooling can be expensive. He realized that he needed a partner to have the backing needed to go to market. He found a partner and now I am not only working on large orders for the Survival Axe Elite but also for another tool that is in development and other parts for Innovation Factory products. We are growing and getting bigger. I’m planning to add three to four employees so we’re at a level of 15–16 persons. And, Marvin is talking about more parts that he wants me to manufacture. If I get that work, I could be adding even more workers.”
Through a relationship forged on MFG.com, everyone is a winner. Bear Valley Precision Casting has quickly grown into a much larger business, and Innovation Factory’s novel tool has come to market so that customers are able to purchase a high-quality product made in America at an affordable price. Companion tools to the Survival Axe Elite are already in the pipeline as well.
For more information from MFG.com, go to www.mfg.com, or phone 888-404-9686.