By Fred de Haro, Pycom CEO
I am mindful that whilst we are busy getting all these cool products to market, it is easy to lose track of keeping everyone up-to-date on developments and more importantly on how we get these things done!
Here’s an attempt at a simplified explanation of how we get these new ‘Things’ productionised.
It is is important to differentiate NEW product launches from EXISTING product manufacturing.
The latter is a case of standardised run-rates with all the processes, BOMs and test phases known and repeated. In other words, no surprises and hence why the existing products are always in stock. On the other hand, all our NEW product launches have to go through a series of steps each of which carry a series of intense tests such as quality and performance testing.
So, what are these phases?
Typically, once the product design is nailed, we involve our manufacturing partner In-Tech and together we put in place a manufacturing plan. The key stages for the manufacturing process are:
- Engineering Samples (ES)
- Pilot Run (PR)
- Mass Production (MP1).
Only once we have reached Engineering Samples stage do we start engaging the certification houses in order to ensure the product gets certified.
At ES stage, the team receives circa 100 units to make the sampling statistically significant (some product types may be more). They spend circa 3 weeks reviewing the boards in detail at hardware level. They load the Beta Firmware versions to ensure the boards and each of the 100+ components used on each one perform as expected. As we all know, many things in life can be fixed by Firmware updates after the event but this stage is CRITICAL and its where we flag any issues which cannot be fixed with such an update. We then take a view whether to change the BOM (bill of material) composition and use a different component based on the product performance. In essence we seek to optimise the boards’ performance. Once this stage is completed we then issue a firm BOM to all our suppliers and start the process of ordering the Mass Production components. Whilst the BOM will have been nailed down at the onset, it often is the case, that through optimisation we choose to switch some of the core components. And yep, some of these changes do result in delivery times being impacted.
Lets now talk about component sourcing. These are sourced on long lead times (to enable us to manufacture the lowest cost product) but component lead times vary constantly and can range from 12 weeks to 20 weeks. It is at this point that we spot buy some of the components to shorten the lead times where possible. The impact of this can result in 1 week delivery BUT not all components are always available on the spot market as many of you developers will know only too well! This process can also lead to some impact on the final delivery times as we attempt regularly to ‘Pull-in’ the components in order to reduce delivery times.
During this time, the PR stage will now have been completed and the team receives a further 100 (ish) modules to test from the new batch. Again, a series of hardware and firmware tests are completed to ensure that no stone is left unturned. We involve our technology partners through each of the phases as we seek to emulate in-the-field performance of each device. It is exceptionally rare for this stage to impact MP1 however in some cases we may have to make a final design change based on a behaviour not witnessed from the device during the ES tests. If for instance the PCB board needs to be re-spun because we needed a critical change then you are often looking at a 2 to 4 week impact.
Once the MP1 “GO” is given then we are on a home-run. Components are in stock, our friends at In-Tech continue to accelerate our orders through the factory and pretty much within a 1 to 2 week period, the products are manufactured, tested and flashed. Thats what happens when your manufacturing lines can output 500 million units per month!
During the PR stage we would have been working in parallel to get the modules certified against the various specifications thus resulting in firmware changes. Firmware then ready in time for MP1 process.
So, when we set these launch dates we already put an element of time buffer into the equation in case we have a slippage at each phase however despite our best efforts, some of these dates can slip as component supply fluctuates daily and things happen. Rest assured that we work pretty much round the clock to reduce all of these delays and get to you the products in the shortest possible time frame. One key point to make… we will never compromise the quality of Pycom products by rushing through these phases. That is not a risk we or you would be prepared to take. We want you to have products in the field with stress free years ahead!
I hope you find this overview helpful and hopefully it explains how we plan our launch dates. So to answer the various questions, this is where we are with the latest launch dates:
Pysense / Pytrack boards: These will leave Hong Kong 12th May and will now land in the UK 15th May. We currently distribute all products globally from the UK however this will change to the Netherlands in the next 6 weeks. We require 48 hours turn-around to then get these modules out to you all.
W01 / L01 modules: We are working towards these items to ship on 19th May. Thanks to all our In-Tech guys whom have worked so hard with Daniel and the Pycom team on these critical items. The L01 pre-ordered stocks are pretty much all sold (a few hundred left) however a second batch will be arriving late June as we are working to ensure regular monthly stocks.
FiPy/GPy/G01: Firstly, a big shout to the team at Sequans to ensure we get priority in supply of the first MONARCH chips. So excited and as a team we are reminded daily of having made the right choice in partnering with Sequans. The Monarch chip is simply awesome and packed with such features that global deployments on the new CAT-M1 and NB-IoT will happen in a seamless manner. The chip however has suffered some delays however we have been able to reduce thanks to Sequans. We will get several deliveries starting next week, early June and late June. We are still firming all manufacturing dates however with the current component deliveries, we will be able to complete ES and PR stages during May/ early June and have products manufactured mid to late June. I will come back as soon as I have a more solid set of dates however our objective is to start shipping out against all Kickstarter and Pre-orders towards late June.
Deepsleep Shields: All is in place and the schedule is for these items to be shipped to the UK on the 30th May.
As always we’re so grateful for the continued support. Last week, we reached a nice milestone of sales to 10k companies in 81 countries this week. We are humbled and focused on getting all our new range of products out in 2017… including a nice surprise later in the year 🙂
Fred and all at Pycom