The journey to Ode’s mass production has not been without its challenges, but our team pulled together and pulled it off. We are extremely happy with the grinder that will soon be gracing your countertops. Throughout the process, we have been providing updates to our Kickstarter backers who pledged their support in late 2019 and early 2020 to help take the Ode Brew Grinder from a conspiracy to a reality.
Read on to see how our team and partners adapted to a global pandemic to keep production moving safely and deliver the Ode Brew Grinder to our patient customers as quickly as possible.
March Coronavirus Delays + Manufacturing Process
Our factory and engineering partners in China spent much of their Chinese New Year holidays and following weeks confined to their homes as part of the country's efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Fortunately, those efforts were effective—there have been no reported cases of coronavirus from our team members in China, and they are starting to return to work in their offices and factories. Overall, we lost almost two months of development time due to these delays.
After completing tooling but before starting mass production of our grinder, we had to go through several phases to make sure everything worked as expected and that our customers would be delivered the highest possible quality product. Here are what those phases were:
Engineering Validation Test (EVT): Completed in December. This build focused on assembling grinders, making sure all the components fit together as expected, and confirming the function of the product. We uncovered a number of fit and finish issues and initiated changes to our tooling to fix them.
Design Validation Test (DVT): Completed in January. This build expanded on EVT by applying final cosmetics to all the components. Texture was applied to the plastic molds, paint finish was dialed in, and fit and finish between components was improved. We were able to keep about 30 of these grinders and have been placing them with users and coffee partners to receive feedback that can help improve the final product. DVT grinders are used for a number of reliability and safety tests to confirm everything works as expected.
Production Validation Test (PVT): This part of the build was delayed from March to April due to coronavirus. This build focuses on scaling the assembly of final, production-ready grinders while checking that issues do not arise when building them faster and in-line with cost expectations. This build is essentially the "dress rehearsal" for full-scale mass production. Additionally, PVT grinders are used in the electrical certification process.
Mass Production (MP): This is the build we have all been waiting for! MP grinders are the real deal, signed, sealed, and delivered to you in final packaging. We started MP at a slow rate of assembly to continue a high rate of quality inspection, then slowly increased that production rate as the team becomes more familiar with the process. We have been honored by the enthusiasm for Ode—but that also means there are a lot of grinders to build!
Shipping and Logistics: Some might say that shipping isn't as sexy as those cool engineering builds described earlier, but it is a critical part of the process that takes some time! Ocean freight from our factory in China to our warehouse in Southern California takes about a month. After arriving in the USA, the grinders have to go through import inspection at the port, then be received by our warehouse, re-labeled for shipping, and finally shipped to you! Including time for import, repacking, and domestic shipping, our Kickstarter backers will be receiving their grinders first in September.
April PVT Update
What is the goal of PVT?
PVT is the last of the pre-production builds. It validates that the engineering established during EVT and DVT can be reproduced and manufactured at scale. During PVT, we implement quality control processes (via monitoring incoming material, the production line, and finished goods at the end of the line). Here is a good blog on the validation stages if you’re interested.
What’s a normal PVT like?
In a “normal” PVT, Fellow engineers and designers visit the factory in person to establish a shared understanding of quality for the finished products. To give you an idea of how much time is usually spent on site with our manufacturing partners, we’ve already spent more than three months accumulated over 7+ trips in 2019.
So how’s a “virtual” PVT different?
For our remote PVT, we were not on site to correct and direct in real time due to safety and travel restrictions associated with coronavirus. Instead, we significantly increased our efforts for documentation, communication, and inspection. Every component and function of Ode was documented and described in meticulous detail to ensure that our expectations for a quality product were clear. On top of that, we were involved in daily calls with our engineering partners who are based in China to ensure that these requirements are being effectively communicated and understood. Our whole product team is involved in Ode to help with this huge effort!
Fortunately, we have worked hard to build a strong relationship with our valued partners in China. There have been many discussions over details like making things in the right shade of black and ensuring buttons have that right “clickiness.” We, therefore, had a lot of faith in our partner's ability to produce an exemplary product without us breathing over them the next couple of months.
May Production Update - Virtual PVT
We completed “virtual” PVT on 61 units in May. These units were shipped to the USA and inspected by our engineering team in our shipping warehouse in California while maintaining social distancing guidelines. We still inspected our PVT grinders in person, although we did it in California while maintaining social distancing guidelines. During our inspection, we took many quality control photos, performed tests on the grinders, and compiled a report back to the factory with our feedback. Overall, we were extremely pleased with the build quality! There were a couple finish and sizing tweaks we noticed that will be implemented in the mass production production run. It takes extra time to ship grinders back and forth between countries, which is one of the key reasons that we had to delay fulfillment to our Kickstarter backers and pre-orders.
Summer Production Update
We’ve diligently prepared for mass production over the last two months. Honestly, it has been challenging as we’d normally be living in the factory during this time! Once EVT, DVT, and PVT had been completed, we started mass production “ramp.” This ramp is something we did since we can’t be in the factory. Here’s a quick overview: during the first week we produced 50 units and then paused. Every single one of the 50 units were inspected. After they passed, we produced 500 units and then paused again. We randomly sampled and tested a subset of these 500 units. If any step in our quality spec isn’t reached, we would have paused and fixed the problem.
In July, the “ramp” units and first 500 units passed all tests, so Mass Production is full steam ahead August and onward.
In Other Ode News
We want to make sure you have all the info you need when Ode arrives on your doorstep. To do that, our marketing team is currently in the middle of shooting 10 how-to videos such as how to clean the burrs, how to replace the burrs, and how to calibrate Ode. Due to COVID-19, we needed to simplify these videos to follow all safety guidelines (i.e. no fake moon landing sets or Bigfoot appearances), but they’ll more than get the job done. Here's a sneak peek:
Since you stuck it out all the way to the end, check out this early review of one of our PVT units:
As always, shoot us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any unanswered questions!