As some of you may know, both Dizzy and I love our Blade-Tech products. Personally, I use a couple of Blade-Tech holsters and magazine pouches. I can attest to their functionality, aesthetic quality, and reliability.
Today I embarked on a trip across the border to the USA with my friend Eddie. One of the destinations we went to was Blade-Tech Industriesin Puyallup, WA, where we went on a factory tour led by Ryan Preece (Blade-Tech’s media relations guy).
Details about the tour are as follows:
I wasn’t allowed to take photographs, but I can write about the information that Ryan shared with me. Ryan himself was very professional when I explained that I come from an Airsoft background, as I both work in the industry and co-write an Airsoft blog in Canada. I mention Ryan’s professionalism as some of the USA real-steel (and accessories) companies are known to publicly dislike the Airsoft community and/or Canadians.
Ryan let me know that many of the employees at Blade-Tech do own Airsoft guns themselves, as it allows them to train with much cheaper ammo and they can practice in their backyards. He personally owns a KWA ATP, and told me that Blade-Tech and KWA USA actually have quite a good relationship – as a matter of fact, a KWA MK23 US SOCOM NS2 is used in their factory to QC the MK23 holsters that Blade-Tech produces.
Turns out that Blade-Tech has been doing some expanding since Ryan started there, as he explained that the number of sales and customer service Reps has grown by about 3-4x (I can’t remember exactly the numbers of staff Ryan quoted to me). The warehouse space in the back wasn’t even full as of yet, but from what I could see the few racks that were full of standard products were just absolutely filled to the brim. These products are what are Blade-Tech’s 80-20; 20% of their products that account for 80% of their sales. I mean, with their bins of various outside-waistband (OWB) holsters that I had a quick peek into, there must have been hundreds in each of the multitude of bins that these 80-20 products were stored in.
The production side of things was interesting to see. As a personal user of a number of Blade-Tech holsters and magazine pouches, I was quite interested to see how they were made. All the Kydex (a type of themoplastic) products are created in-house at Blade-Tech Industries. They are able to churn out a ton of holsters in a relatively short period of time, as they have standardized moulds that are created at a station on the assembly line to allow for the two Kydex halves of a holster in the making to be vacuum-moulded. This allows for very accurate holsters to be created in a shorter period of time, as compared to most smaller companies method of hand-forming the Kydex sheets into the shape of the item that needs a holster.
After the Kydex sheets are moulded correctly, they are cut to shape. Literally, there is a guy there who just does only this all day. Well, they do technically have two shifts of workers, so I guess that means that there are at least two people who do this job. Unfortunately some Kydex is wasted in this process – this is hard to get around, no matter how you manufacturer a Kydex holster, sheath or pouch – however, Blade-Tech has bins of Kydex bits that will be later recycled.
Next, the moulded and cut sheets of Kydex are assembled: tension screws, grommets, crush washers, etc. Mounts for attachment of holster to user are also attached: belt loops for IWB and OWB, Tek-Lok mounts, paddle mounts, thigh mounts, etc. Side note, the mounts are engineered in-house by Blade-Tech – currently they are injection moulded at an outsourced injection-moulding place just down the street from Blade-Tech Industries’ location. As a matter of fact, the entire injection-moulded line-up of Blade-Tech products is manufactured at this plant down the street – each injection-moulded holster has the Blade-Tech logo integrated into the mould (see below). And of course, the R&D department designs, creates prototypes and tests the new Blade-Tech designs before they start being made… all of this is done in the back corner of the Blade-Tech warehouse/factory.
The final stage of production of a Blade-Tech Kydex product is the QC. Each holster is tested around 20 times before it is packed up and sent out. In addition to the regular testing of holsters at the end of the line, there are random QC checks on the holsters, and if just one product fails, that entire batch is reproduced.
Blade-Tech cutlery is no longer produced within the walls of their facility – Ryan explained to me that since they were outsourcing so much of the cutlery production already, it just made more sense to outsource these products entirely.
Yeah, that about wrapped up our little factory tour at Blade-Tech Industries. Ryan asked a number of times if I had any questions – I felt kinda like a small fish in a big pond, so my mind was totally blank when he asked me then. In contemplating it later, I actually did have a few questions that I would have liked to ask but forgot about. That’s alright though, Ryan did give me his business card and invited me to get a hold of him if I have any other questions. Now, if only Blade-Tech would become a featured affiliate of Overhoppers Blog – Dizzy and I would have a field day with product samples!
Fun fact – Blade-Tech recently bought a nylon business and has moved that entire shop into their production line. It now operates autonomously and fulfills various contracts (mainly with firefighters). According to Ryan, Blade-Tech’s plans for this extended business is to being creating some tactical nylon products, including range bags and the like… who knows what we’ll see in the near future?