Behind the scenes of product design and engineering at Kids2
Brad Rodgers, VP of Design Engineering, has a twinkle in his eye as he talks about a recent design review where he was on the floor of his vendor’s office tinkering with the designs as the team was brainstorming and troubleshooting. Brad is known to roll up his sleeves and get hands-on with models and prototypes as he and his team develop and prioritize our product vision from developing new products to enhancing existing products across the Kids2 portfolio. We sat down with Brad to learn more about him and his role at Kids2. What did I learn? He is our Kids2 MacGyver.
What made you interested in becoming an engineer?
I have always enjoyed tinkering with stuff, taking stuff apart, and play around to see what I can build. When I was a kid, I once turned a ballpoint pen into a drill.
We also did a lot of fishing in my family. On those trips, I was always tinkering with the fishing pole mechanisms. When I see something isn’t working, I am on a mission. I get the biggest buzz when I can fix something and make it better.
It didn’t surprise anyone when I took a career aptitude test in high school and tested strong in engineering and architecture.
What are some of your favorite or most innovative projects you worked on prior to joining Kids2?
When I was at Scientific Atlanta, we developed the first DVR products. I thought DVRs be would be a novelty, but they really took off. We went from making 100,000 to five million per quarter in no time. Scaling so fast brought many challenges from design issues to managing challenges at the factory, and suppliers. The experience taught me how to take a holistic approach to development and how to design a product to be reproduced and sustainable in the supply chain.
You came from a heavy tech background, what attracted you to Kids2 and baby products?
Yes, I designed computers, set-top boxes, home security devices, routers, and Alexa type devices. When you are in an industry to design things for people to sit on couches, it is not as fulfilling. Actually, my brother called me out. He said, “you like to tinker and play with things, why don’t to do something to help people?” Coming to Kids2, where you can design products that have a direct impact on babies and families, it is much more fulfilling.
What is your role and how long have you been at Kids2?
I have been with Kids2 for almost a year and a half. My team is doing the modularity program on the engineering side – developing systems and components that can be used across many products in unique and innovative ways.
The team includes four engineers in China and two engineers in the United States. Most nights, we are on WebEx calls or WeChat going through design reviews, open issues, and design challenges with our internal design team or third-party design houses.
What are some challenges?
In the past, our manufacturing partners controlled the CAD database and they would go in and manipulate the designs changing it to fit their manufacturing process. Now, we own the designs and control the database. We develop and provide spec packages to the manufacturers and we control changes to the design, so we always know what revision we are on and what materials we are using. This allows us the flexibility to change suppliers or leverage multiple suppliers, it also helps with quality control and design tolerances.
How does your work impact new parents?
Most importantly, we provide innovative and safe products that help parents and are liked by babies. By understanding and controlling the design and manufacturing process, we create quality products with reliable and a repeatable process. If there is an issue, we can go back and pinpoint any inconsistency in the development process and make improvements.
Tell me about a Tiny Win you have had solving a business problem here at Kids2:
We have had several. Getting our large format 3D printer was a big win. To get a sense of scale, the printer is large enough to print an entire highchair. Prior to getting our BIG REP 3D printer, development time took a month to complete the first rounds of CAD design and an additional three to four weeks working with a third party to get the design prototyped and shipped back to Atlanta for review. Now the prototyping process can be completed in one week, or less, and have a life-size version of the product.
Another win was the ability to bring on new talent and partners with key skillsets to help us scale. For example, we are working with Well Group, a facility with the ability to scale from simple to high-end manufacturing. Working with them saves resources and helps us deliver high-quality turnkey products.
What is your favorite fundamental and why? My favorite fundamental is collaboration. Through collaboration, we have a more holistic view of our business. By understanding the issues facing the person working next to us and appreciating how the design process affects team members downstream, we can create better solutions and gain efficiency.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I get so excited every time a prototype comes in! Taking a concept from sketch to CAD to prototype and final release is always awesome.
What are some of your favorite things about working at Kids2?
I like a lot about Kids2. I really enjoy the people at Kids2. Everyone is very welcoming. At Kids2 you have flexibility to wear a lot of different hats. You are invited to wrestle with the challenges.
People are open to new ideas and given opportunities to test and fail. In many cases, conversations about opportunities for change, directly lead to a change in how we do business.
What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work?
I love playing with my two kids. I also have a lifelong love of fishing. I grew up in Cincinnati, OH and we had ponds all through the area. My brother, dad, and I would go fishing down the hill, from my childhood home, using a safety pin, string, and can corn as bait. Our fishing eventually evolved into saltwater tackle trips in Aruba and The Caribbean. I also enjoy helping other people and participate in a charity network of engineers who help each other.
What was your favorite childhood toy?
I liked playing with Legos and Playdough because you can make anything from them. These toys allowed me to imagine any type of scenario or any type of scene and gave me the flexibility to create.
Now as a parent I am not so excited about playdough! My five-and six-year-olds are currently into Legos, Hot Wheels, and dolls.
If you weren’t in your current profession, what would you be doing?
I would be designing IoT devices, consumer electronics, and cutting-edge smart devices for cars. I am interested in automation and autonomous vehicles from the point of what are the new gadgets for that environment? This may include new flat screen tech, new games, new mobile devices for the future, chairs, and furniture in the car—the human factors.
Why join Kids2?
It’s a dynamic design environment that is full of challenges to tackle. Kids2 gives you the greatest opportunity for success in tackling those challenges, and there is never a dull moment.
Inside Kids2 is an ongoing series that spotlights our colleagues who are doing extraordinary work across the Kids2 network. To learn more about careers at Kids2 visit Kids2.com/careers.html.
Kids2 is a global company that designs solutions to help early-stage parents and families create tiny wins that build bright futures. The Kids2™ brand portfolio includes the leading infant, baby, and toddler brands Baby Einstein®, Bright Starts®, and Ingenuity®. Headquartered in Atlanta, Kids2 spans globally with 12 offices on four continents serving customers in more than 90 countries and has been inventing and reinventing baby products for 50 years. Led by CEO Ryan Gunnigle, it operates with an agile start-up approach, which fosters the company’s growing success.