Black Diamond restructuring and new staff part of larger plan

Black Diamond Equipment's recent spate of new hires and newly created positions underscore the company's commitment to succeed globally in the face of increasingly stiff competition and more demanding consumer expectations.
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Black Diamond Equipment's recent spate of new hires and newly created positions underscore the company's commitment to succeed globally in the face of increasingly stiff competition and more demanding consumer expectations.

"We are a company that has, to date, been able to succeed pretty much on the quality and excellence of product and let that speak for itself," Peter Metcalf, BD's CEO, told SNEWS®. "However, we realize that as the outdoor industry matures, the barriers to success become more significant."

Few will disagree, Metcalf believes, that there was a period of time in this industry where companies created products that were hugely successful simply because of serendipity. With most companies in the outdoor industry running essentially the same type of engine that is firing well on all eight cylinders now, it is now far more likely that only the company with the best-tuned engine is the one that makes the grade.

"We may have a brilliant product, but if the marketing does not match or the launch is delayed or the sales team is not on the same page, the chances of being successful with that product just became far more difficult," said Metcalf.

Believing that the bar is getting raised higher and higher for garnering consumer acceptance, Metcalf realized the company needed to step it up from an engineering standpoint.

"With an increasing number of generalists buying technical gear -- the kind of shopper that first buys with the heart and then rationalizes reasons for the purchase later -- products must be much more than just technically well engineered and functionally innovative," Metcalf said. "It must look cool, beautiful, sexy so they just want to grab it off the shelf and hold it."

To that end, Paul Terry has been hired to head up the newly created position of senior industrial designer. Terry's background includes work as senior designer at Porsche Styling and previously Nissan Design International, as well as design work with Amp Bicycles, Core Bicycle Components and Birdhouse Skateboards.

And while BD had solid engineers and skills in the various manufacturing and design departments of the company, Metcalf felt that to become really competitive and gain efficiencies, he needed to create a new area for the business that focused on introducing new projects, creating prototypes and adding automation to BD's manufacturing processes to gain increased production efficiency.

Enter Bill Reiman who has been promoted to the new post of director of project engineering. Two new engineers, James Grutta and Wendy Langan, will join Reiman and his colleagues. Grutta joins BD from Delphi where he optimized designs for the auto industry. Langan specialized in planning and process engineering for Hershey Chocolate. Both Grutta and Langan are backcountry skiers and moved to BD in order to work in an atmosphere that incorporates their passion.

Mark Vent has joined BD filling the new position of director of manufacturing operations. Vent joins BD after 25-plus years as a business consultant with lean manufacturing and implementing 6 Sigma. Joining Vent is Nick Rueff, who formerly worked at Toyota manufacturing. Rueff will assume the role as line engineer for sewn goods and the ice line.

Stepping into the newly created position of director of performance lightware is Anna Martens. Martens' previous experience includes work at Williams Controls Inc., where she was the international account manager of throttle controls for Volvo, Renault, Mack and DAF Trucks. Martens previously consulted with K2 Women's Telemark and developed markets beyond outdoor for Leatherman Tool Group.

Each hire and promotion, Metcalf told us, will ensure that BD can continue to grow globally, while still manufacturing domestically.

"We are committed to U.S.-based manufacturing and as such, efficiency in all phases of our business is necessary to ensure the business model is sustainable," Metcalf said. "If we chose to go overseas, we would only be serving to create our own competition. We are carefully integrating the right people into our already talented team to create a group that is responsible to figure out new ways to make new products with a synergy that could not be created if we simply rushed off to Asia."

Ultimately, Metcalf told us he is making the changes at BD to ensure retailers remain stoked about the company and its products.

"Twice a year, we want a big smile appearing on our retailers' faces that look at the three or four new products in our line that they can count on as being thoughtfully designed, beautiful, innovative, well-priced, and delivered on time," said Metcalf.

SNEWS® View: For some of the hires, the search process has been over a year and a half in the works. What is clear from looking at the backgrounds and history of those hired is that all have a passion for the outdoors, and are choosing to work at BD to find a balance of work inspiration and lifestyle aspiration. BD is very smart to be hiring folks that come from "outside" the industry, and we suspect the automotive experience will garner rewards for both the company and its retail base relatively quickly. Metcalf is absolutely correct when he surmises that every company in the industry is essentially playing on a level field, each running the same engine and turning out basically the same quality of product. Whose products get noticed and buy-in from consumers does, it increasingly appears, come down to a full package presentation that goes well beyond simply turning out a good widget.

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