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Our Story – 35 Years & Still Made In Montana

CEO Jim Markel mans the Red Oxx Booth at SCI Convention

Lean Manufacturing in American Industry

I get asked what is Lean Manufacturing and why does it matter to Red Oxx? In a nutshell, Lean Manufacturing is a process that reduces the cost of building material inventories. Based on Toyota’s efficient manufacturing procedures, utilizing Lean, along with the visual based Kan-Ban inventory tracking system, Red Oxx is able to build your gear in quantity and still maintain a focus on high quality.

Curious to know more about Lean? Alistair Stewart, Senior Business Advisor, Montana Manufacturing Extension Center explains "The term Lean was first coined by John Krafcik in his MIT master’s thesis on Toyota and the Toyota Production System (TPS), and then popularized by James Womack and Daniel Jones in the two books that would finally spread a wider knowledge of TPS: The Machine That Changed the World in 1990 co-written with Daniel Roos, and Lean Thinking" in 1996. Learn more about Lean Manufacturing here.

Remember when made in America used to stand for mass production and the Unions? As high-tech as we are with our computers, despite our up-to-date Internet sales experience, and Gold Standard driven customer service (or customer care as we prefer to call it), Red Oxx is still basically a hand-crafted Old World style shop.

Everything is overbuilt to military specifications (known as Mil Spec) for the civilian market. The questions to ask include: "Are you going to build stuff at the mass market level, sacrificing quality for quantity or are you going to build things that are built-to-last in line with classic old world craftsmanship?"

That’s where Red Oxx quality is perpetual. Lean manufacturing allows us to check off both those boxes.

Back in the 90’s I imagined a business model that included a website and a local brick and mortar retail store. Today we now see for example, a meat company, selling meats on the Internet. As the marketing situation evolves Red Oxx continues to lead in market awareness and ability to reinvent the wheel in ways not commonly seen.

Red Oxx Modern Lean Manufacturing
Red Oxx Uses Modern Lean Manufacturing

Take for example our Booty Boss, revising the idea behind the common fanny pack and developing a bag that can be carried multiple ways, yet still fulfill the functional idea of a simple EDC bag to haul your daily essentials, and look good doing so.

Or looking at the idea of the popular messenger bag and prototyping it for over a decade through numerous variations until the consensus was the design team got it just right with the C.C. Rider.

Another bag that was at the forefront in design is the Sky Train, a carry-on bag you can convert into a backpack. Launched in 2007, the Sky Train now has seen copy-cats from nearly every major bag company.

FACTORY #8 – STILL MADE IN BILLINGS, MONTANA

Recycled timber, vintage cement block warehouse, and natural lighting. Our most recent bag factory iteration is energy efficient, featuring modern technology like spray foam insulation and a unique custom designed steel staircase built from local recycled refinery materials.

Not only does it house our bag production floor and product materials, but also our photo studio, custom kitchen, and marketing offices. Built in 1953 as a ball-bearing warehouse, Factory #8 is now home to our hi-tech gear manufacturing operations.

2013 Red Oxx State of the Art Factory #8
2013 Red Oxx State-of-the-Art Factory #8

On Defining B2C: Since Red Oxx deals directly with the customer using the B2C model (Business to Consumer), if there’s any kind of problem with our bags we can change gears immediately and rectify the situation. Whereas when you’re dealing with huge sea container loads of goods in the global market place, our kind of personal touch doesn’t occur. The feedback time is too long. Companies are ordering from China or Vietnam a year in advance.

Red Oxx on the other hand, is building your bag one to one.

CLASSIC DESIGN THROUGH HERITAGE

Your bag will be used through out your lifetime because it’s a classic design. Like a pair of favorite Levis 501 jeans. By making 501 jeans the same for more than a century, there’s a sense of trust. You know they’ll fit every time and how long they’ll typically last. You can even wear them for almost any casual event.

Go Exploring with Red Oxx Rucksacks
Go Exploring with Red Oxx Rucksacks

In our case an example of classic design by heritage is our Tri-fold Rigger Wallet. I remember getting one as a kid. I still have one now. From the Market Tote Green Grocery Bag to your Rigger Wallet to a Carry-on Bag for a trip or a Backpack or Rucksack for yourself or your kid, Red Oxx hand-crafts the kinds of gear that are meant for use in every day carry and every day travel.

A NOBLE WARRANTY IS A "NO BULL " WARRANTY

"A noble warranty is the kind of warranty that I myself like to have for products I buy." I like to say. When you make an investment with Red Oxx Gear, you expect it to last. In the event that something does happen, you want to be able to get it repaired. We’re not here to ask you why it happened, just send it back to us and we’ll fix it.

If we can’t fix it we’ll ship you a new bag, it’s that simple. Our "No Bull" Lifetime Warranty is a safe bet because our bags are built to last. As President Perry says, "Once it’s out the door, I don’t want to see it again.". Think of it as worry-free peace of mind.

URBAN RENEWAL, OUR GOALS FOR BILLINGS’ NORTH-SIDE COMMERCIAL DISTRICT

Your contributions and trust in our brand are bringing jobs downtown, good paying jobs, not just service jobs, manufacturing jobs. Red Oxx is focused on improving all the physical properties located here and build big. This covers about half a block of redevelopment that has occurred over the past decade.

Red Oxx Event Lawn Design
Red Oxx Event Lawn Design Stage

This development has brought, and will continue to bring, small companies to move-in adjacent to our properties.

In the past decade, Red Oxx has developed a corner gravel parking lot into a beautiful grass covered privately fenced Event Lawn where people can gather and be entertained. An ugly old abandoned house was torn down and another was renovated into an Art Gallery. Then last fall we built an out-door wood fired pizza oven on the lot.

The City of Billings pitched in on local improvements and added sidewalks and night lighting, providing safety and security updates for the neighborhood. Other businesses in the district have been inspired to renovate and also add trees and greenery to a formerly blighted run-down looking "grey" area.

Red Oxx Event Lawn Fencing
Red Oxx Event Lawn Custom Fencing

Another local project that Red Oxx was involved in was called Rescue the Rims. The team from Rescue the Rims picked up a couple tons worth of garbage, including having some tow-trucks pull abandoned vehicles from the bottom of the rims.

Despite thwarting and enduring economic downturns Red Oxx continues to thrive with your dedication and inspiration. Celebrating 35 years since Dad knocked out a few weight lifting straps in 1986, naming his company Red Oxx (the blue one was taken), as our gear is "strong as an ox" we look to grow and supply the world with the best bags on the planet. For that, I thank you,

Cheers, Jim Markel CEO

Red Oxx 35th Anniversary 1986-2021
Red Oxx 35th Anniversary 1986-2021