Hello from China!
This week was what we call a "pre-production" run. This is a small manufacturing run of around 100 units, which is done as a trial run to test the entire process, end-to-end. It's basically a way to check everything - from the individual pieces, through to the process we use to put the product together.
On the ground in China
One of the most interesting things about finally being in China is meeting all of the people who work on Pillow Talk every day. These are people we have spent months (nearly two years, in fact) talking to via email, video call etc, who are responsible for the day-to-day process of manufacturing Pillow Talk.
It's also been fascinating to really understand the whole process of producing Pillow Talk. Obviously we had a fairly reasonable understanding of what was involved, but it's very different to see it all happening in real life!
Visiting the factories
Pre-production involves making a lot of little decisions. And when we say a lot, by that I mean the decision making is constant and unrelenting. A lot of time this week has been spent assessing the items that have been made so far, and either approving them or requesting changes.
The first place we visited was the packaging factory. We were shown round and they explained how they make Pillow Talk's boxes!
Our week of decision making began here, when they handed us three giant booklets of paper samples and said "please choose which paper you want your instruction leaflet printed on". Oh, okay then...!
So all in all, we think our packaging is looking pretty good.
Next up, we visited the plastics factory, where they use injection moulding to produce the plastic elements of Pillow Talk.
Here is Joanna with our "tooling", which is effectively the big lumps of steel they use as moulds for our plastic. It probably looks quite underwhelming, but what you see in this photo is where about 50% of the money we received from our Kickstarter campaign went...!
The tooling also took a staggering six weeks to make. We never understood why (and it felt like an eternity when we were waiting), but in the factory we learned how they mill away the metal in a way that only removes 1mm of the surface every hour.
The Mixing Man
It's an interesting process - the colour of the plastic is produced by assembling the correct ratio of small coloured pellets. You can see here in the photo, he has a little scale on which he weighs out the ratio of each colour. With every new test shot in the mould, they note down the combination and ratios of colours used to make the final plastic mix.
We took each sample out into the daylight, reporting back if it needed to be "more blue", "less brown", etc. Eventually we ended up with a shortlist of options.
The good news is that we finally mixed the correct colour, and the new batch of plastics were produced the next day.
As I write this, our assembly factory is doing the final assembly on our first 100 units. At the end of this week we have a big review meeting with the entire manufacturing team to discuss all elements of the process to confirm any final changes. We will discuss everything any final tweaks to the product, as well as any production issues that cropped up in the trial runs.
Final assembly takes place tomorrow, so more news and photos to follow soon!
Joanna and the Little Riot Team