Like other businesses around the world DMOS Collective has been spurred by the pandemic to make some changes.
In the case of the homegrown Jackson company known for its lightweight but tough and packable shovels, that’s meant moving its headquarters to Alpine and bringing in-house some operations that had previously been farmed out.
Founder Susan Pieper ended an outsourcing partnership with Lit Workshop, a Portland, Oregon, company offering design, engineering and manufacturing services. Pieper used to travel about once a month to Portland, but COVID-19 disrupted that and health mandates made a face-to-face working relationship impossible.
“As COVID hit and their factory shut down, there were supply chain interruptions, “ she said. “We’ve been out of stock of our Delta shovel for half a year.
“We couldn’t meet and do planning or marketing and sales, or sit with the engineering team and look at prototypes and work on new products,” she said. “It was time for me to say, ‘All right, we’re going to bring the whole thing home.’”
But the definition of home had to change a bit. Essential supply chain, assembly and fulfillment functions are shifting to DMOS itself, along with research and development. DMOS has also acquired the tooling to do prototyping, assembly and some manufacturing.
Pieper needs access to skilled workers like experienced draftsmen and fabricators, people who can do machine work or assembly. That ruled out the town she’d lived in for eight years.
“I had to put a big X through Jackson,” Pieper said. “Jackson Hole has a workforce that is highly educated, more conducive to technical or remote work and less to the trades.”
With her son having graduated from high school, she was free to look afar, but she didn’t want to go too far.
She nixed Bozeman, Montana, and Denver, for example, because either move would have involved, in her words, “a complete restart.”
“My network is really here,” Pieper said. “It kind of kept bringing me back home. I have these roots here that now run really deep. And DMOS has roots that run really deep.”
When she looked in Alpine, she said, “the first place I saw is what is now DMOS headquarters.”
Star Valley not only has the workforce DMOS needs but is also close to some of its suppliers in Ogden and Logan, Utah, she said. DMOS is now close to the Alpine Airpark and not far from Aviat Aircraft in Afton and Boeing’s factories in the Salt Lake City area. All in all, Alpine feels like part of a manufacturing hub that suits DMOS.
“It’s an exciting part of the state,” Pieper said.
DMOS is operating out of a 1,950-square-foot shop and a 40-foot shipping container. With the new space and new tools DMOS will be able to take parts made by suppliers in Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Hawaii and put shovels and other products together. Whereas the previous factory wanted to produce complete units, Pieper has been itching for a more customized approach.
With the shovels, for example, “we are pairing a shaft with a grip with a blade,” she said. “We may be drilling something on. We may be screwing something on. … It’s truly just-in-time production, which is something I’ve been working on for five years.”
She credits her years working with Lit Workshop for training her for DMOS Collective’s new setup in Alpine.
“I’ve learned to manage the engineering function at DMOS by working with a really top factory,” she said.
Next up for DMOS is the introduction, probably this quarter, of rigid molle panel storage pieces for people to stash shovels, safety equipment, sports gear and other items in their cars and trucks in an organized fashion.
DMOS offers mounts for its shovels, but not everybody’s vehicle can accommodate one on the outside.
Molle stands for “modular lightweight load-carrying equipment,” a term Pieper said normally is associated with backpacks used in the armed forces.
“We’re applying that concept to civilian everyday adventurers near and far who need to keep things near at hand,” Pieper said. “We want to really innovate the livable solutions of storage in your vehicle.”
She ties that goal of “managing the chaos of living out of your car” with the DMOS name, which stands for “Do My Own S---.”
“It’s about empowerment,” she said.