What a crazy fall we're having - We're actually somewhat on time with this update, and we're actually still on time with shipments! Heck, if the Toronto Maple Leafs weren't starting to choke already, I'd start looking for flying pigs...
Another skid of ProtoCyclers, ready to head out the door!
We've currently shipped out 25 units and should have another 30 shipped out by the end of this week (we might only make 10, with the other 20 leaving start of next week - but we're trying to clear 50 unit by weeks end). FedEx has been quite sneaky about picking up the units without us noticing (unless there's a loud knock on the door, it can be hard to hear visitors over the machines!), but we did manage to finally catch them in the act and get a few shots of some units heading out the door:
David managed to catch FedEx trying to grab our boxes - they've been sneaky about it in the past!
Another cartload going onto the truck!
Loaded up and on their way :)
The rest of production is continuing to move along at a relatively steady pace and we aren't hitting any more delays, though we aren't quite at our goals for throughput yet. We are still looking for one more staff member to help us with production and do have a few more tools / machine hacks left to keep speeding things up but at this stage we've shifted towards making this run go as smoothly and quickly as possible...then we can re group, double down, and get the next one out even faster. This is a bit of a safer, more reliable approach than trying to improve our processes in "real time", as it ensure we'll get through the whole run before we start trying to fix things that aren't broken!
Machining and assembly happen in parallel now - so while units for this run get assembled, tested, and shipped...hot sections for the next run get bored, drilled, and tapped!
Last but not least, some housekeeping on our website, customer service, progress tracking, and updates. Up until this point, as you all know, we've been fighting to get production up and running steadily pretty much non stop...so things like forums, "normal" social media posts ("Look at this cool thing we printed!" , "Watch as we try and recycle water bottles!", "Check out what highschool X did with their ProtoCycler", etc), and of course customer communication and relations have all fallen by the wayside. With some extra staff helping us out, fully trained, and production now ticking away trouble free...it's time to start focusing more on these. The first step is our production tracker, which is nearly done. It's taken a lot longer than we thought because the logic behind it is actually quite complicated - with over 200 parts, all of different batch sizes and production schedules, lining everything up so that you can find out when your unit is ready is quite a challenge! That being said, our database is now complete, and we've only got one little logical snag left keeping us from rolling it out ("Batch size" vs. "Run size" - In other words if we decide to do runs of 200 instead of 100, then the first run will take twice as long to produce, but the last run will be sent out earlier, as we're eliminating half our setup time for the overall backlog). Long story short, that should go live next week! It will kick off a series of change through November where we'll switch over most of our social media away from production updates as the progress tracker takes over, and categorize our e-mail a little better so we can divide and conquer there as well (some people know we tried this in Sept/Oct to less than steller results - don't worry, we're doing something different this time!).
This is a brief look behind the scenes at our database for the progress tracker. The top sheet holds the relationship between all of the different parts, sub assemblies, and assemblies (for instance, roughly halfway down you can see that a UI panel requires a UI Idler, UI Light Guide, UI Puller, etc to complete). The bottom sheet holds information on each part - like how long it takes to make or setup, and the minimum / most you can make at once (to save setup time). Putting it all together will allow us to track upcoming runs based on run sizing, and the "yellow" columns get populated with exactly how much of each part we need, and how long that will take. We can then take that information, compile it together based on what units are in the queue, and then present an overall timeline for each run!
All of that means that by the end of November we should - almost exactly 3 years after we launched our campaign - be starting to operate more like a normal business. We're not there yet, but it's something we're incredibly excited for, and have been waiting on for quite a while...as have you. So while we're still going a little slower than hoped, this massive saga of getting units produced and shipping seems to be finally drawing to a close...and we can't wait to start the next chapter when things get really exciting!
-The ReDeTec team