RUNNUR

Main ImageRUNNUR’s products allow quick access to a tablet from a secured position.

By Mark Lawton, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Publishing

The marketing images used for carrying tablets in the field are quite different from the reality, says Andrew Hamra. “There is a very large disconnect between how computer and software companies’ market what mobility looks like in their ads and how it actually works in the field,” Hamra says. “This is the difficult part for me, to reeducate these consumers.”

In 2009, Hamra founded RUNNUR, an Austin, Texas-based company that manufactures belts and slings for tablet computers. RUNNUR’s products are useful to anyone who uses a tablet in the field but Hamra struggles against images used for marketing purposes.Runnur info box

“It’s the very same image used over and over: a guy on a worksite pointing at the tablet he is carrying in his hand and smiling,” Hamra says. “That’s what it looks like five percent of his day. The other 95 percent, he’s cursing the thing because he has to carry it, leave it in his car, put in a vest, hold it in his mouth or shove it into his pants.”

Hamra History

Andrew Hamra is originally from Dallas but moved to Austin more than 20 years ago. He sold water filtration systems for years, operated a sandal shop and on the side got into stone sculpting and playing drums. 

He also trained as a manual therapist. “It’s not so much massage as joint and deep tissue manipulation,” Hamra explains. “I studied body movements. Posture and efficiency of movement are key components of ergonomics: How the body moves mechanically translates into locomotive efficiency, which is very important when looking at workforce productivity. It’s really interesting stuff.”

First, he created the iBand Sling. Described as a hands-free carry-all, it is a cross body sling bag (similar to a bandolier) made of rip-proof polyester with pockets for ID, cellphone, camera, keys, glasses, snacks, water bottle and a hidden passport pocket.

“The idea for the iBand Sling was born after it became obvious that there were too many things I needed to carry with me throughout the day that just didn’t fit into my pockets anymore,” Hamra wrote on iBandsling.com. There were too few items to justify a messenger bag and Hamra didn’t really want to wear a fanny pack or “man purse.”

So Hamra developed a prototype and arranged to have it perfected and manufactured. In 2009, he started attending concerts, fairs and festivals to promote and sell the iBand. His first was at Bonnaroo, a music festival in Tennessee, where he sold out to the stage and production staff before the festival started. “Those are real gear guys who used it in a work environment,” Hamra says. “It was a market I didn’t even foresee.” 

Tablet Belts and Slings

Hamra then began attending trade shows, where people would see the iBand and ask if he could make it carry their iPads. “I started thinking about it,” he says. “Where would the iPad go – the front, back or side? Should it detach, and if so, how does the mechanism work? I was familiar with Chrome bags and they used a car buckle, so I gave that a try. Looking at it now it’s so simple, but it took time to put all these things together and make it work so seamlessly. There are a thousand different things you have to think through.”runnur animation

He designed a prototype that “was a car buckle screwed onto a piece of plastic with a foam case and some fabric around it,” Hamra says. He then took it to a designer who stepped it up a notch and created a beta version.

“Soon I realized it was going to be very difficult to make cases for all the different device sizes,” Hamra says. “I had to pivot one more time and find a way to mount the system to standard cases.”

After he figured out the mounting system he contacted OtterBox, a manufacturer of cases, and they became partners in 2016 when his patent was officially issued. RUNNUR worked directly with OtterBox’s design team on a new case system called uniVERSE, which allowed other hardware accessories like batteries, measuring devices, cameras, keyboards, and heat sensors to integrate directly into the case itself. The result is a state-of-the-art solution that brings together many of the best hardware companies into an ecosystem providing mobile accessory solutions for different needs in the field. 

Just a few years prior to the partnership with OtterBox he had moved to San Francisco to develop the idea and look for funding. “San Francisco was an amazing learning experience, but not great for fundraising. They just wanted to invest in technology,” Hamra says. “Hardware is just not in their wheelhouse out there.”

Instead, he did a deep dive into the startup ecosystem. “I went to every pitch contest, mobile networking event and even took Toastmasters to learn how to sell to a room.” More importantly, however, it was in San Francisco that he first learned about construction technology. Software companies like Procore, PlanGrid, and Field Wire which all served the construction vertical were receiving millions of dollars in funding for a market that was almost entirely dependent on people carrying tablets. “That was the biggest takeaway: technology was coming to the field, but nobody was thinking about how it was going to be carried,” Hamra says.

Hamra had done about $1 million in sales from the iBand, which demonstrated he was someone who could turn his idea into a successful product. He went to family and friends and raised about $750,000 to build a business that would sell tablet-carrying solutions. 

Hamra is heavily involved in the design and manufacturing of RUNNUR products, which takes place at several locations in and around Austin. “My favorite days are when I’m in the design room or on a shop floor,” Hamra says.

The metal parts are manufactured at Pi-Co Fabrication in Hutto, Texas, and the plastic parts are made and assembled at Maxwell Manufacturing in Maxwell, Texas. “I never wanted them to be made in China,” Hamra says. “I always wanted them to be built in the states. It was just luck that some of the best manufacturers for the products I needed were right outside of Austin.” 

To promote his tablet carrying gear, Hamra began to attend trade shows, in particular those for the construction industry like American General Contractors show. “The construction industry is definitely where it’s at,” Hamra says. “It’s really easy for me to get in front of people and put a hammer in my hand and say you don’t walk around on the construction site all day with a hammer in your hand, do you? You should not have to carry a tablet in your hand, either. All we’ve done is show them a way to carry a tablet like any other tool. They absolutely get it.”

The potential market is huge. “By 2020, there will be 70 million non-office professionals carrying a device and at least half of those will be tablets,” Hamra says. “My role is to educate these customers, and I ask the same question to start every conversation: Have you thought about how your teams are going to carry their tablets in the field? The answer is always the same: ‘No,’ they really haven’t thought about it.”

Advantages of Tablet Belts and Slings

The main advantage RUNNUR belts and slings is that they allow users to carry around tablet computers hands free. That’s particularly important on construction sites. “As far as OSHA goes, you have to have three points of contact if you climb a ladder and you can’t do that with a tablet in one hand,” Hamra says.

With RUNNUR belts, tablets are safely and securely attached to the user’s hip and are much less likely to be dropped and broken. 

They are also much quicker to access. “It only takes one second to access the device,” Hamra says. “You can use a backpack, but those are cumbersome and you have to take it on and off which really adds time since most people access their device 50 to 100 times a day. If you can’t access your device quickly, your use for that device goes down exponentially. With RUNNUR belts you are not fumbling and not taking your mind off what you are doing. You are able to continue in operation or production, which is the actual definition of ‘running’ a business and hints at the name of our company.”

Customers from Down Under

In 2016, Hamra began to sell the tablet belts and slings. Interestingly, one of RUNNUR’s earliest interested customers was the government of Australia. “Their industrial and hazardous material teams were wearing work suits but carrying iPads to do inspections,” Hamra says. “They needed something that was secure and accessible. Today lots of my business is international, to Europe and Australia.”

He has also sold RUNNUR belts and slings in Mexico, Argentina, Columbia and other countries. Clients include Caterpillar, Duke Energy, Ternium Steel and Liberty Mutual Insurance. Insurance adjustors, inspectors and HVAC workers all have use for RUNNUR belts or slings as well as “anyone carrying a tablet in the field,” Hamra says.

He’s had a few larger orders, once selling 400 belts to the Mexico City Airport and several hundred to an International steel manufacturer. He anticipates selling a similar number to a major U.S. airport in the near future as well as a large international manufacturer.

“Sales have been good enough that RUNNUR is straining to keep up with inventory,” Hamra says.

Testimonials

Brandon Lussier, owner of Pillar to Post Home Inspections in Portland, Maine, bought iPads for his employees. “We use the iPad pretty much through the whole inspection,” he says. “On the job, it’s mainly inputting data into the inspection software and taking photos.”

While the iPad is necessary, it can be difficult to carry. “It’s common that we have something in both hands so having [an iPad] hands-free, is important to us,” Lussier says. “[For example], if a customer orders an infrared scan, we have the infrared in one hand and a flashlight in the other hand.”

Lussier found the RUNNUR belt clips online and found it useful enough to buy them for himself and his three employees.

The RUNNUR belt clip makes it a lot easier, says Lussier, especially when squeezing into tight spaces. “With the RUNNUR, you can clip it to your belt and its tight against your leg,” Lussier says.

Rob Conley, a home inspector in Alpharetta, Ga., uses an iPad during about half of a typical inspection. “I use it to take collect information and take pictures of issues I find.”

Conley needs his hands free when climbing up to the roof or into crawl spaces and attics. So, he bought a RUNNUR belt clip. “It works great, actually,” Conley says. “I haven’t had any trouble with it.”

The Future

“The next phase is hiring people to go to trade shows and building out the supply chain,” Hamra says. In 2019, that will include trade shows in construction, facilities management, inspections, quality assurance and roofing. “That’s what the foreseeable future looks like. This is a huge market. My goal is to be a $5 to $10 million company in the next two to three years.”

SIDEBAR – Products

Universal Tablet Belt Clip

The Tablet Belt Clip allows users to lock and carry any standard tablet computer on the side of one’s hip and access it within one second when needed. The mounting and tether plate are both bonded to the case using VHB®. Next, the buckle attachment is inserted.

When ready to use, attach the hip pad onto your belt and clip on the safety cord – which prevents dropping – to the tether plate. A 60-second video of the process is on the RUNNUR website at www.mobiletechgear.com.

To access, just press the quick release button. When not in use, the buckle mechanism locks the tablet computer to the user’s hip. Larger and heavier devices will likely require a Heavy Duty Belt.

The clip is ideal for those who need quick access to a tablet during their workday but need to leave their hands free at other times. Users include builders, adjustors, inspectors, roofers, electricians, HVAC technicians, landscapers, architects, retails, field workers and medical professionals.

Universal Tablet SlingMount

The Universal SlingMount lets any standard tablet case be turned into an over-the-shoulder sling. The mounting plate needs to be bonded – using VHB peel and bond adhesive – to the back of the device case for the tablet. Then clip the ends of the sling to the device.

The SlingMount allows access to the tablet computer within one second, reduces the likelihood of loss or theft, eliminates fumbling in a back or knapsack and, of course, frees up the user’s hands when not using the tablet computer. It’s available in both mini (seven to nine inches) and regular (nine to 11 inch) sizes.

 

Current Issue

Check out our latest edition!

 

alan blog ct

Contact Us

Construction Today Magazine
150 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 900
Chicago, IL 60601

  312.676.1100
  312.676.1101

Click here for a full list of contacts.

Latest Edition

Spread The Love

Back To Top