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 UNITSBUILD, 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 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)
Top metal part before final coating
Bottom metal part before final coating
Final coating completed- Quality check
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 firstname.lastname@example.org,
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.
The Auroma Team