Irritations that Lead to the Great American Innovations

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“The Story of Manufacturing” shoots continues… this time taking us to Townsend, Montana to visit PFM Manufacturing AKA the home of the Land Tamer!  The Land Tamer is the world’s coolest non-ATV.  It is an Amphibious Remote Access Vehicle (RAV) that can go anywhere.

Yes… anywhere. Snow banks, sand dunes, ponds, mountains.  You can’t stop this thing from getting you to the place you want to go.  The Land Tamer is maturing into many markets including the military.  Check out the well-named Minestalker that detects landmines, explosives and buried anomalies for our troops.  This is the most extreme remote access vehicle around.

Pat Miller (inventor, owner and president of PFM Manufacturing) spent a lot of time on the road in his sales job giving him plenty of time to contemplate life’s big questions.  The biggest question that took over his windshield journeys:

“Why isn’t there a vehicle that can take me from here to the top of that mountain?”

Good question, Pat.  You would have thought that there was a vehicle of some sort that could go over the river and through the woods to… well, to wherever you want to go.

So Pat built his RAV and it worked.  It worked so well that he sold a few units at local fairs and “took a sabbatical” to make them.  He then met MEP field engineer Todd Daniels (of the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center) and over the last 11 years, they’ve built PFM Manufacturing into busy production unit with 10 full-time employees shipping Land Tamers across the world.  Pat is still on his sabbatical and has yet to return to “work”.

Pat’s story reminded me of a recent snippet I read about Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.  Legend has it he got a $40 late-fee when he returned the movie Apollo 13 to a local video rental store.  He wondered why a late-fee cost more than the DVD itself and thus created Netflix.  (Turns out that particular video rental store is now home to a U.S. Post Office… fitting.)

Is there a question you keep asking?  Something that keeps bothering you every time you see it?  Perhaps the answer to that question is the next great American innovation.

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4 Comments

  1. Todd Daniels on

    Thank you to Jaclyn, Cory, Nikki, Kristen and Maureen for coming to Montana to highlight the work of Pat Miller and his crew! They braved snow storms in April to be there.

    PFM is a great example of an entrepreneurial dream come true and a real American manufacturing company. Made in the USA.

  2. Steve Holland on

    It was great meeting the “Story of Manufaturing” shooting crew! I’m looking forward to seeing the final result of this shoot… and the exciting telling of the Story!

  3. I have found that every irritation and frustration is an opportunity to innovate or invent. Many of our own products came about just this way. Many of our internal processes have been improved because something was bugging us. Innovation is the American Way!

    I’m going to have to look into the RAV. Might have to get one.

  4. Pingback: Is That a Land Tamer, Mr. President? | Manufacturing Innovation Blog

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