Shipping Update #3: Two steps forward, one step back

/ Written By Ben Forgan

Hello Everyone,

We hope everyone is doing well and staying warm and/or safe from blizzards.  Or if you happen to live in place that is currently warm then just know that all of us here in Chicago are extremely jealous.

I know a lot of people have been concerned about their boards and whether or not they are actually going to make it to you.  A bunch of you have all received “your board it being shipped notifications” from BackerKit which has created a ton of confusion (scroll to the bottom for info on that).  So to set the record straight we are going to open up the hood with a guest post from our Electrical Engineer/Manufacturing Engineer Daniel:

Daniel with some boards ready to go through SMT processing
Daniel with some boards ready to go through SMT processing

Lets open up the hood…

I’m Daniel, the Design / MFG engineer and I just got a break from expediting the factory production and I wanted to take some time to let you know how your boards are doing.

First off, I’d like to apologize and take personal responsibility for not communicating more. Things are actually really good (which I’ll go into more), so every obstacle we’ve encountered is has been fairly simple and easy to overcome. It was hard for me to see the day-by-day slide, because every problem that has come up has been fixed and reincorporated into our process. The next run of boards is going to scream through.

We’ve already performed two 100-board pilot runs and had successfully implemented manufacturing changes for issues that we found after performing Design For Manufacturing (DFM) reviews.

Status

Click on this image to see a more detailed view of the manufacturing process
Click on this image to see a more detailed view of the manufacturing process

 

Dash Pro: 50% of the Dash Pros are still un-populated. As you’ll see below, this will actually get you your boards faster.

50% of the Dash Pros are queued up for selective solder of the connectors. This means they already have all the components except the connectors placed. Then a robot solders on the headers. I’ll try to get a video, because it’s pretty cool to watch.

Dash: 90% of the Dashes are also queued up for adding the through-hole components.

10% of the Dashes are already in the hands of users!

We have switched gears between trying to push out as many Dashes as quickly as possible, to as many Dash Pros. The Pros can be selective soldered, whereas with the current design, the Dashes need hand-soldering on the header pins. We’re working on the same in parallel, but there are a significant larger number of you who ordered Pros. We are operating on getting the most people the most boards soonest, as long as that also means that everyone gets their boards faster after this reconfiguration.

Dash Pros Ready for Selective Solder
Dash Pros Ready for Selective Solder

Whats gone wrong?

Because Konekt is dedicated to open hardware, I’m joyed to be able to share with you lessons learned and the details of what’s slowing us down. I’ve seen all these things before, and I’m sorry that it impacted the delivery. There is a list about 10 times as long of industry best practices we followed that did pull in the schedule :).

  • First Article Risk Build: When every order comes through, there is a First Article Inspection. It’s what you would think that a Quality Assurance team would do. Unfortunately, I was so used to a prior CM automatically doing a risk-buy of the PCBAs that I didn’t realize that our CM was trying to do us a favor by not ordering the boards, in case the design was scrapped. We were incredibly confident in our design, but I didn’t follow through and verify that we had ordered all of the boards.
  • Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Years-Chinese New Year:  Normally, failing a risk-buy will only set you back two weeks at most. Unfortunately, we’ve fallen into the Thanksgiving-March fallout that happens in manufacturing. The combination of holidays, winter shutdowns, combined with savvy people like us who are frantically trying to jockey their boards to the front of the queue winds up making all of us take a hit in turnaround time. I had everything lined up to miss this window and goofed on the above FAI risk-buy. Another similar issue, is a lot of CMs use this period of time to upgrade hardware, and create additional SMT lines. Machines were down on the second shift, which was when our boards were being run. We literally had a problem one day when a 2nd shift person had loaded up an SMT machine for the morning shift, only to have the line torn down first thing. Frown.
  • Switching from Fast Turnaround to Highest Throughput:  For a while after this, we got stuck in a loop of getting the fastest turnaround time, meaning a small percentage of the order would get run start to finish. I switched gears the first week of the year and we are basically re-ramping up production for highest throughput. There are always problems communicating on a manufacturing spinup and communicating to all of the process changes often requires several days of training and reinforcement, so there was a bit of a jerky transition. (The jerk mostly being me 🙂 ) Expediting Errors Another problem that happens is you can spend so much energy trying to hurry things along that problems that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise will rear their ugly heads.
  • Silkscreen Error: We had a nested footprint for the cellular modem, so we could put on either flavor onto the PRO PCB. The solderpaste mask should have had these pads masked-off but wasn’t for about 50% of the boards. The extra material wound up lifting the modems and we’ve had to hand solder the connections, which is much, much slower.
  • Hand Placement There are a number of components that were hand-placed on this run that had been automatically placed in the past. I’m working with the CMs QA department to understand what the issue is.

So, it’s an unfortunate list of errors, but we have solutions to overcome all of these issues. I’m not excited at all about the delays, but I’m actually really happy with the manufacturing process and all the improvements we’ve made.

I really am just as excited as you are to get your boards. I can’t wait to watch you change the world.

In the interest of transparency you can follow along as your board move through all the manufacturing stages

Click above to check out our real time production dashboard
Click above to check out our real time production dashboard

Wait, didn’t I see something that said my order shipped?

Yes, and we’re very sorry for the confusion.

We use a third-party logistics company to warehouse and ship all of our products. If you’ve ever ordered SIM cards from the store on our website, that’s who actually did the shipping out to you and the Dash is being shipped in the same way. In an effort to be proactive, we exported some orders from Backerkit and uploaded them to the logistics company so that they would be queued up and ship as soon as the boards got to the warehouse. Then, to keep things organized, we marked all of the exported orders as “shipped” in Backerkit. At the time, we didn’t realize that this would alert anyone that it was shipped and we figured that a bunch of Dashes were incoming any day so it wouldn’t matter that much. It’s obviously taken longer and we apologize if some of you saw that message and thought that your order was lost.

Anyway, if it says it’s shipped in BackerKit, that just means that it’s queued up with our shipping company. When your order ships for real you’ll automatically get an email that night with the tracking information.

We apologize again for the confusion this caused.

So how about that free data?

In Shipping Update #1 we promised a free MB of data for every week past Nov 16th that we didn’t deliver.  Technically speaking we have started shipping, but know it doesn’t feel that way.  It doesn’t even feel that way to us.  Next week boards will be going out in volume, so we are going to call it a 10 week delay and give everyone an additional 10MB of free data.  Stay tuned for a promo code in the next couple weeks.

Thank You

It seems like we do a lot of apologizing in these updates, and honestly we mean it deeply everytime.  Its only because of your support that we were able to get the Dash off the ground and we feel deeply committed to getting the product to you.  We can’t thank you enough for your patience as we’ve dealt with the hurtles facing us.

As we get closer to delivery date (and after delivery as well!) remember that you can stay in touch with us via TwitterFacebookGithub, IRC, and our community forums.

Team Konekt