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November/ December Update

Dear Backers,

Hope things are going well on your side. We’re delighted to inform you that your Orendas have been made, and are on their way to you.

We want to start this update by apologizing for the lack of communication over the past month. We have been truly all hands on deck with the goal of getting through the mass production phase as smoothly as possible.

Here’s a sneak peek of our assembly floor moments before packaging and sending the units off: 

Fam, please meet ORENDA AND FRIENDS

We have been waiting for so long for this day to come. While we did account for the time it would take for a product to ship by sea (approx. 30 days), we didn't expect the holiday season to derail our shipping queue by such a large amount of time. It took a while to iron out all the little details in our supply chain and shipment together but we did it in the end! We thank you for all your support and patience throughout the entire process.

As most of you may know, the most reasonable way to ship such a delicate yet ‘heavy’ product is via ocean freight. Some of the shipments have left, and the majority will start leaving next week and arrive in early February. We’ll be sending you a shipment notification email along with your unique tracking number, once your shipment has arrived at our warehouse for final shipment. Our entire team will be working throughout Christmas and New Years to make sure this entire phase goes as smoothly as possible. We’re so close. Let’s finish this strong! :)

Getting a hardware product off the ground has been tough with new surprises and challenges every step of the way. Seeing how Orenda helps bring great coffee to coffee lovers- definitely makes this journey worth it. Below is a quick video of our early testers' feedback on the product. Words cannot describe how excited we are to get this into your hands.

Thank you for joining us on this journey and for making this happen! If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at support@auromabrewing.com

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays :) 

The Auroma Team

September Update

Dear Backers,

Hope everyone is enjoying the first few days of Autumn. A lot has happened this past month, and we can’t wait to share it with you. 

FIRST 40 UNITS

BUILD, TEST, CHECK

Our focus on quality has been unwavering from the very start. With many hands involved, the wise thing to do would be to expect mistakes to be made somewhere.

The first batch of 40 units was, therefore, a great opportunity for us to build and test our assembly and quality control processes to catch problems and solve them - ensuring that everything coming out of the factory was consistent, reliable and met our quality standards. These processes were indeed the thing that made all the products possible.

To keep the factory accountable and make sure any ‘fires’ get put out immediately, we packed our bags and moved the entire team to live at the factory (we’re still here as this update is written).

ASSEMBLY PROCESS AND TRAINING – PART 1  

As we learned together in our previous update, the complexity of the assembly could pose a big problem to the quality of the end-product. Although we had built extra parts to help streamline the assembly, more systems could be put in place to make sure that each part would be assembled with great care and precision.

Thanks to their experience at Toshiba and Apple, Jun and SP are no strangers to bringing simplicity to a complex product. Instead of letting the factories ‘just figure things out,’ we organized training sessions for every member that would be involved in the assembly process. We wanted everyone involved to be equipped with the required knowledge to produce their best work. As a side note: this was actually the first time our factory (who has 20+ years working on kitchen appliances) had a core team be so hands-on - they were pleasantly surprised :)

Our core team trained each engineering department’s head (thanks to one of our backers for the reminder on this – you know who you are) to hand-assemble every part of the device themselves. Then, together with the factory’s engineer department’s head, we train each team leaders so that they could train each of their assembly team.

We demanded that everyone on the team be able to assemble every part of the device, and pass our final quality test- with no exceptions. This ensured that each person was familiar with the device and knew which details to pay extra attention to. Every day, the entire team would be up at 6 am and wrap up each day at 11 pm. We don’t take quality lightly and believe that everyone that has a hand in making this product needs to share that mentality. Here’s a quick video of our day-to-day:

 

BUILDING QUALITY CONTROL SYSTEM – PART 1

To build a product that we would be proud to send to your home, we’ve built a comprehensive quality system, starting with a station to check the quality of every incoming component as the initial filter. These will then be assembled and get passed through our various testing stations. As a final step, our core team would then perform additional quality checks on each individual unit.

We put that system to the test with our 40 units, and we’re very happy to inform you that 39 out of 40 units went through without a hitch. This was a successful run in that it confirmed that our process was thorough enough to catch errors in the process, allowing us to fix them in a timely manner instead of letting it pass to our customers. The resulting units have been completed to team’s utmost satisfaction. It was a surreal feeling seeing units coming out of the assembly floor ready to be shipped. The remaining 1 unit needs re-work on one minor part but that’s on us :)

In other words, to build high-quality products, we needed to build even better processes. And that’s exactly what we’ve built. This success gave us tremendous confidence to proceed to the next phase – scaling up for early shipment.

Early units looking ready to take on the world

Early units looking ready to take on the world

EARLY SHIPMENT UNITS

ASSEMBLY PROCESS AND TRAINING – PART 2

Without slowing down, the next phase for us was to scale our production to fulfill Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and early website orders. The longest lead-time was training the assembly team. This is the same team (with even more people) that would be working with us during this first batch as well as other production batches in the future. The training took about 2 weeks, with final production assembly taking only 2-3 days. An additional 2-3 days would be used for quality control and final quality check.

Because each team leader was assigned to train a dedicated assembly team, there was a built-in system for keeping each member of the team accountable and having a dedicated person they could go to for any questions or problems that arose. Our core team was also present at the assembly line throughout the entire process until the last training unit was completed.

At this point, it’s also worth noting how stable and beautiful the metal parts have become, especially the outer shells. We were very worried about the finishes on the metals while scaling up because they were one of the most complex parts of our machines. It brought us great joy to have the metal parts be so delightful to look at – as we intended for you and the people in your lives :)

Before & After:  fingerprint marks (on the left device)

Before & After: fingerprint marks (on the left device)

 

 

Top metal part before final coating

Top metal part before final coating

Bottom metal part before final coating

Bottom metal part before final coating

Final coating completed- Quality check

Final coating completed- Quality check

Other metal parts

Other metal parts

BUILDING QUALITY CONTROL SYSTEM – PART 2

As for quality control, the number of test stations grew to almost 50 stations– with the intention to put each individual subsystem of the device through rigorous checking while maintaining rapid flow through the assembly line. Like the first 40 units, every part from every device would have to pass every single test station. Anything discovered to be problematic would get reverted back for rework until passing. Creating more test stations was the only way to extend our reach as we scaled up.

 

Having successfully tested the process with the first 40 units, we were incredibly excited to move forward with a bigger batch. Just when we thought we were done, we found one test station to have a consistent failure rate for all units. Having had a good run, we thought mistakes were made while making the extra test stations.

After a thorough investigation, we found out that our valve supplier had changed the internal build without informing us – blatantly going against what was originally agreed upon in the contract. Although the exterior was identical, the internal function of the valves did not meet our previously agreed specification – compromising on our key functions of accurately controlling the brewing process.

We had put in so much of our time and hard work in testing this valve and pinpointing the exact detailed specifications before clearly communicating to them our requirements. It was absolutely unacceptable for them to sneak up behind our back in such a big batch despite fully knowing the full specs and timeline we had agreed upon.

Although they admitted to their mistake and agreed to re-make the valves at no additional cost, we were extremely unhappy about the delay their mistakes caused to our production schedule. We had worked day and night to make sure everything came together for us to ship the units to you guys. The last thing we needed was a disheartening display of carelessness from one of the suppliers that we had already checked up on previously.

Almost with no sense of urgency, they proposed a timeline of having the new valves ready by late November. This was appallingly unacceptable to us and we would not simply let them get away with it. With the help from our OEM, we’ve successfully negotiated with them to prioritize our shipment to cut the lead-time by working through the Chinese National Holiday (as much as legally feasible) so that production could go back smoothly on track.

We had waited until the first day of the Chinese Holiday (Sunday) to confirm that the factory kept up their end of the contract. In fact, we just got back from checking in on them again today. With them holding up their end of the agreement, we can now confidently confirm the timeline below. Once the final correct part comes in, we’ll be able to move forward full steam ahead.

Originally, the new valves were expected to arrive and complete assembly by the week of November 20th. Due to the fact that we’re making them work during the holidays, there’s a high chance that all this would be ready for shipment in the week of October 29th for all Kickstarter, Indiegogo and some website units. The remaining website units will be shipped out in the week of November 12th. We’ll continue to do everything on your behalf to further speed up the valve supplier. (By this we mean, checking on them every 1-2 days).

In the meantime, the shipping process is fully prepared and ready on standby. Our packaging has gone through durability testing, our pallets have already been picked up, our freights booked, and our warehouse team in California have undergone training, and are eagerly waiting for the product to arrive.

Since some of you have asked us about the glass and the packaging, here’s the video of how we tested to make sure our packaging safely protects delicate glass parts. The final design was actually even stronger than the one shown in the video so rest assured :)

We’ve come so far and we’re now so close to the finish line. The 40 units are out and they look great. Our early users are currently doing beta testing on the onboarding experience of the app, so that we can make sure the onboarding process is an absolute joy and a seamless process for everyone - more details to follow soon in the next update. So please stay tuned!

Along with this update, you will also be receiving a shipping survey to confirm your final shipping destination. :) So close!

Thank you for being so supportive throughout the journey and helping us make this happen in the first place. We can’t wait to get this into your hands. Please make sure you complete this form by next week (October 15). As always, you can reach us at support@auromabrewing.com,

Until next time, we’d like to leave you with this quote that beautifully sums up our journey. When you face seemingly insurmountable problems, we sincerely hope this message speaks to you.

Best,

The Auroma Team 

 

August Update

Dear backers,

It has been a while since we last synced up. Hope things are great on your side. This is going to be a long update so please sit back and relax.

Before we move on to the update itself, we would like to apologize for the lack of consistent updates over the past few months. It was not our intention to cause any unnecessary worries. We simply wanted to allocate our time on the most important thing – shipping the best products to you. Moving forward, we will be more transparent with how things are progressing.

Hint: Many awesome things are happening.

 To be clear, we did not leave the project unattended nor went on a vacation on the beach anywhere. We have been stationed in China spending all of our time, energy and focus on solving manufacturing and supply chain problems in order to get the products to you. (By ‘all of our time’, we mean even the weekends.) Thanks again for your patience and continuous support!

 Now back to the update on what we’ve accomplished over the past months on your behalf and how the project is coming together!

 SP

We would like to officially welcome SP to the team. As we learned together in the previous update, managing suppliers is very critical to the quality of our products. Do it right and we are many steps closer to having the best products shipped to your doorsteps. For a product as complex as ours, this activity can be very involved and time-consuming so we decided to find a full-time expert to manage the suppliers and ensure quality on your behalf. And this is exactly where SP comes in.

 Having managed suppliers, quality control as well as assembly process design for Toshiba, SP brings years of experience to help us manage our suppliers proactively. He has been with us for the past 2.5 months and added tremendous progress to the project. More details later.

 Surprise from our metal supplier

 To prepare for mass manufacturing, we ordered a small (tiny) batch of 5 production samples to conduct trial assembly run. The first parts we ordered were the metal parts because they were the most complex and required more time. Having received a great set of sample parts from them before, we were very excited to see 5 perfect pieces arriving for assembly.

 To our surprise, what we received was not up to our agreed standard. Thankfully, with SP’s addition to the team, we had enough boots on the ground to navigate through this in a relatively peaceful manner.

 The symptoms we saw were a combination of aesthetic problems – ranging from bulging surfaces and welding marks. These flaws, although minor, were not acceptable according to what we had previously agreed with them prior to signing the contract. Since we have received and carefully checked a great sample before ourselves, we were perplexed to what could have caused such flaws. Were they being careless with our samples? Were they trying to cut corners somewhere to make more profit? Our minds spiraled as we struggled to search for the truth.

 The first (and perhaps most important) step to solving any problem is to identify what the root cause really is. Upon his personal visit to the supplier, SP found the root of the real problem. Apparently, the first perfect set of samples we received was perfect only because they made so many units that failed. In short, the metal tooling design was still not perfect and needed more work.

 So why didn’t they tell us about it? As it turned out, they did not have any ill intention. Instead, they were worried that we would stop working with them when we found out about the mistakes. Jurn, SP and the rest of the engineering team got together to help them solve through the problems. Two extra toolings later, we figured it all out!

 Although this came as surprise to us, we had built cushion into our shipping schedule to mitigate this. The only issue was our morale. After going through so many ups and downs, the last thing we needed was for our 5 metal samples not being usable in the trial assembly.

Before & After

Before & After

To lift the team spirit and further contribute to the product quality, we decided to use some of the metal samples to experiment with surface finishing. The goal of the surface finish is to make the product look great with minimum effort from your side. We found that certain finishes were more prone to fingerprints while others were more prone to scratches. Of course, we decided with the most robust finishing that could look great with minimum cleaning required.

3 Shades of Gray

3 Shades of Gray

Stronger together

With the parts and components in order, we shifted our focus onto optimizing our partnership for assembly, quality control, and delivery logistics.

Long story short, we established a strategic partnership with one of the best OEMs in the Pearl River Delta area. Thanks to their years of experience delivering kitchen appliances and representing respectable brands in the North American and European markets, we believe this partnership would serve as a key leverage in setting up the supply chain, and controlling quality during assembly.

Their supportive team and their prominence among the local suppliers have, in fact, already increased our negotiation power with suppliers. Worst comes to worst, they do have in-house capabilities that would allow them the flexibility to either fix or make certain parts themselves as a backup plan.

Another reason this was a big step forward was that they promised to give us the attention they would normally give to their bigger clients. Our OEM typically would only work with big companies and not with a smaller firm like ours. However, we managed to convince them to buy into the idea after we showed them our previous prototype. They believe this to be the future and would like to help by investing their care and effort into making it the best it could be.

 

OEM staff caught checking out our product-SP explaining how it works. The machine showing how it’s done

 

Packaging design and preparing for shipping

With shipping date nearing, we dedicated a significant chunk of our time to sort out the logistics to deliver the products to you in the best manner.

The biggest concerns for our product are the delicate glass parts. We were introduced by our OEM to companies they trust in delivering fragile delicate products with years of experience. Together, we designed the foam in the packaging box and prepared the methods for shipping the packages out with confidence.

Clearing certification

To ensure a high level of safety and peace of mind, we took our previous prototype through certification pre-scanning. In short, we cleared through certification speed bumps and are now just waiting for the final check on the mass production factory floor for confirmation.

Our Assembly Process Design

After hitting those milestones, we now have only assembly and quality control to focus on. We decided to start on assembly process design.

Right from the design phase, we have anticipated assembly to be tricky since our product is very compact. As a result, we have proactively designed features to make assembly easier in the ways that we could anticipate.

Before we hand off the assembly to the line of assembly workers, we decided to conduct thorough studies of how the assembly process could be designed and optimized. We see it as due diligence instead of completely outsourcing it to the OEM because we know our product better than anyone (and usually have a higher standard than other third-parties).

We broke down the processes into small chunks of tasks so that a line of workers could complete multiple machines in a much more efficient manner. Insights were shared with our OEM to help facilitate building their assembly process.

 OEM Assembly Process Design

OEM staff having a go at assembling our product

OEM staff having a go at assembling our product

 Realizing quality is our #1 priority; the OEM suggested we slow down the assembly on purpose. For instance, although the factories could churn out X, we would do Y instead and spend the extra time paying very careful attention to all the things we could improve in the assembly process. To us, this option provides the highest probability of giving everyone the best product possible so we quickly agreed on the strategy.

After handling the old parts to our OEM to do a quick trial assembly, we did find many things that could improve. The biggest learning however came from the one issue that caught us by surprise.

One of the tubes got caught during assembly causing many units to not function properly. After a thorough investigation, it turned out to be a mistake on the assembly floor. While our engineers knew how the machine worked and which part to be extra careful with, the OEM workers were not armed with the same awareness. This insight gap caused them to make more mistakes.

 Building a better process

 

We had a meeting with the OEM managers to make a decision on who would be the one solving this problem because it was a gray area of responsibilities. The options were clear: either we change something in the design or we rely on the ability of the factory worker to be careful at certain parts.

Assembly will be the last touch point before the products get shipped and arrive in your hands. Whether the workers do a great job will determine the end quality of the products. Realizing that the only thing we could do at this stage to ensure the highest quality is to help design the process better, we took it upon ourselves to solve the problem.

Very quickly, we came up with a change in one of the plastic parts. The improvement made assembly more foolproof so that any worker would be able to get it right. We tested the change with the worker and had a very positive result. In fact, all the error was eliminated.

Moving forward

What this also means, unfortunately, is that we would need extra time to change the plastic tooling with the improved design for assembly. Our updated schedule as agreed by our OEM is the following:

  • 40 machines ready by the end of August/start of September shipped to early unit testers.
  • All Kickstarter, all Indiegogo, and some website units shipped out by the end of September
  • All website units shipped out by the end of October

    We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused. Our team has been very hard at work with one single hope for this update to show you boxes of finished goods.

    Our last hope is for you to understand that we have tried and will continue to try our very best to fight on your behalf for this product. There are a lot of hands involved in manufacturing and many things could go wrong. Together, we have journeyed a long way – with tooling made, certification approved, shipping containers booked. The only thing missing in this complex chain is where it all comes together – assembly and quality control. Every minute of our time is spent polishing that. The only way to clear this minefield is to walk through them until there are no more surprises. We have come so far, solved so many problems and grown stronger through every problem solved. We will keep marching through until the products arrive in your hands. We appreciate all your continual effort as always!

    On a more lighthearted note, we would conclude this update with this.

    Have a wonderful week ahead everyone. Until next time!