OSE Product Development Helps Angle Oar Bring Innovative Kayaking Products to Market
Angle Oar is a startup company with a mission to make kayaking more accessible to people of all ages, abilities and skill levels. The founder, Meg McCall, had a patented product idea that she believed would revolutionize the way people with strength and mobility limitations experience the great outdoors. Developed with her father, a retired mechanical engineer, her innovative paddling systems are designed to mount directly to the kayak and incorporate adjustable features that allow nearly anyone to kayak independently.
With this adaptive equipment, people with paralysis, amputations and other significant disabilities are be able to kayak on their own.
While Meg’s father was familiar with the patent application process, and Meg herself had a career in business marketing, she needed help transitioning the initial prototype into a fully manufactured product. That's where OSE Product Development came in.
The Challenge: Finding the Right Manufacturer
When Meg first approached OSE Product Development, she was looking for an engineer to translate her father’s hand drawn renderings into engineering design files, as well as a manufacturer to create a marketable product. She had some engineering background but was not familiar with which materials would work best or the engineering design process. She had initially reached out to a few local engineers and machine shops in her community to create prototypes from stainless steel, hoping to avoid the tooling costs associated with injection molding. However, after a few false starts, she realized the materials were all wrong and that what she needed was expert guidance.
One of the challenges Meg faced was finding a manufacturer for her product. Manufacturing costs were high due to the many pieces that make up the product. Some parts required injection molding, others required new tooling, and some had to be hand-assembled. After researching the costs of manufacturing in the US versus abroad, Meg decided to go with a China-based manufacturer. OSE Product Development had a team based in China that could help with the sourcing and manufacturing, making the process seamless from start to finish. Because of this relationship, she was able to save on brokerage fees that are often added on when dealing with manufacturers in Asia.
The Design Process: Key Considerations and Prototyping
Eric Anders, the owner of OSE Product Development, assisted Meg in the design process. He helped her understand the importance of choosing the right materials and manufacturing methods, which influenced the overall aesthetic of the finished product. Key design considerations for Meg's product included safety features, design flexibility, and user experience. The device that supported the paddle had to have safety features so that it would open easily in the event of a capsize and would not entrap the paddler. The design had to fit the widest variety and styles of kayaks. Additionally, the product had to be easy to use and install, providing a good experience for the customer.
Because her dad had access to a machine shop, Meg had already gone through many prototyping phases before bringing the project to OSE Product Development. By the time they had the drawings
ready to go, only one final prototype was required. OSE helped Meg create that final prototype, ensuring that it met all of the key design considerations and was ready for manufacturing.
During this phase, Meg and OSE had multiple phone calls, video meetings and email exchanges. Eric would present her with different methods for accomplishing each design objective. One of the most challenging decisions was finding a way to attach the mount system around the kayak cockpit so that it would fit a wide range of kayaks. Ultimately, the two agreed to use a combination of newly designed pieces and a few “off the shelf” products from other paddle sports manufacturers, including RAM Mounts and YakAttack. As Meg learned, this was known as working with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM).
Remarkably, after testing the final prototype in real world conditions (i.e., having people use it with a kayak), very few changes were required. The next step was taking the prototype and mass producing it.
The Result: Iterative Enhancements and New Products
Throughout the design process and prototype development, OSE worked with their team in China to source both materials and finished products to manufacture Meg’s rather complex product. OSE presented her with a detailed estimate about how much each part cost at various quantities, as well as tooling and mold costs.
Due to budget considerations and the fact that Meg wanted to ensure her new product would be embraced by the marketplace before amping up quantities, the first production run was relatively modest. Before she signed off on the final production, she received what are called “first articles” from the factory. This allowed her to do another quality check and confirm that everything looked and functioned as expected. It’s the last check to make sure there aren’t any unanticipated variances in fit tolerance or other manufacturing problems.
It took Meg several years to sell her initial run of inventory, in part, because she was only selling directly to consumers through her website. She had wanted to wait until the second production run to begin a more aggressive retail distribution strategy, after she had made her mark in the paddle sports industry. During those years, Meg kept track of iterative improvements she wanted to make to the product, such as using a different adhesives and having less “moving parts” overall. She also had OSE design and prototype a new mount that she subsequently manufactured in the interim.
In 2021 and 2022, Meg worked with Eric to make design enhancements to her current products and to develop two new mounts that would fit even more kayaks. This was a collaborative effort that involved lots of brainstorming, testing, prototyping and going back to the drawing board. The new products launched for the 2023 North American paddling season.
A Growing Success
Angle Oar and OSE Product Development have shown how collaboration and expertise can bring a new product to market successfully. With OSE's assistance, Angle Oar was able to overcome the challenges of finding the right manufacturer, designing a product that met key considerations, and creating a prototype that was ready for manufacturing. The result was a line of patented kayak products that have received rave reviews from customers and made kayaking more accessible and enjoyable for people of all ages and abilities.