Ever since my dad started Northern Toboggan & Sled in the 90s, I've admired the craftsmanship and care he continuously puts into each toboggan. With no automation, it is just a man, his hand tools, his skill and his patience.
When my brother and I took over the business end of the family business, we determined that we needed a word to describe both what my dad did and where we wanted to take the business as we evolved into Northern Toboggan Co. We eventually came up with the phrase... artisan manufacturing. It was the perfect term.
It describes the craft side of the business. We produce low volume, yet high craftsmanship. Craftsmanship takes time. We use some electric tooling, but the important parts of toboggan construction are intrinsically human.
It speaks to the art side of our business. We are storytellers. We have an amazing story that we enjoy telling every chance we get. With our toboggans, we want to help you create memories for your own family stories. (We love hearing your stories, too!)
Manufacturing is about the brass tacks of the business. This is the solid construction and efficiency that gets paired with craftsmanship. We use a production process characterized by minimal automation, little division of labor and a small number of highly skilled craftsmen.
Put it all together and you get a product that describes best what is made with loving skill, with an aesthetic beauty that harmonizes with the practicality and usefulness of our toboggans.
When I first shared the phrase artisan manufacturing, Jackson's eyes got big. It had captured that which we were trying to distill for some time. We were excited to have new definition around our essence! And then I googled it…
Turns out, I wasn’t the inventor of this phrase. Like so many of those brilliant ideas we have, someone had already merged the two concepts. However, it was exciting to learn that the phrase, by definition, coined exactly what we were trying to explain!
According to this Forbes article from 2013, already five years ago, “The term ‘artisanal manufacturing’ can be used to describe the production of quality products by skilled workers, prioritizing customer value over cheap prices. With this approach, it is impossible to produce goods without involving dedicated human hands in the process.”
“Not only are consumers who choose to buy artisanal goods rewarded by the product itself; by choosing to support local companies they also contribute to sustaining communities of talented workers who make great stuff, here in America. The quality of the output of workers directly impacts what lands in the hands of customers, and it remains true today that you get what you pay for.”
Even though I felt a little disappointed that I hadn’t been the first to coin the phrase artisan manufacturing, this expansion of my initial definition describes our work at Northern Toboggan Co even better.
The Forbes article goes on to highlight 5 principles that define this new value proposition:
- Quality Over Quantity
- Customers Over Capital
- Demand Scaling Over Supply Scaling
- Technology Can Deliver Customer Value, Not Just Cheap Products
- Labor Is Not Just an Expense
We are passionate about getting people outdoors with our toboggans, sleds and snowshoes. As both artisan manufacturers and storytellers, we plan to serve this need for a long time.
Enjoy the ride!