One of my biggest fears has become reality: The panels I had produced are not of the quality I expected. These were produced by a factory in China, and I waited months for them to arrive.
What’s the story
After the crowdfunding, I sent out a survey to inform myself on what the reason might have been that people did or did not want to buy my controller. One of the take-aways from this survey was that people thought the controller was too expensive (the retail price was €450) and that people wouldn’t mind if some parts were not locally made (which was my initial plan). Back then, the panels costed more than € 35 per piece but were of perfect quality.
So, with that in mind I started looking around on how to lower the price of all parts, including the panels. I became member of a makerspace to enable me to do a lot of work myself and I decided to go on Alibaba and ask for several RFQ’s (request for quotation) for the other parts. I would see who the cheapest was, look on their website to see if they seem reliable and let them make a sample.
This worked well for most of the parts. The company I picked for the panels seemed quite ok; their website was in order, and they were verified on Alibaba. They also did some other projects involving housing for electronics which looked pretty good.
I had them make the samples and was a bit disappointed. There were scratches on the surface and the panels weren’t cut straight. When I addressed this, the factory convinced me that this was something they could fix and I myself also thought that these problems were fixable. I liked the surface finish and the way they did the welding on the back side, so I agreed on starting production, providing they fix the issues.
I was kind of shocked to see the result. They did manage to get rid of all the scratches but in order to do so, they sanded down the panel with a very coarse grit. This resulted in a totally different finish, not the one we agreed on. Besides, they had some parts ground down so much that there was a visible relief. Also, the surface finish was done unevenly which resulted in some visible stains. These problems all look quite minor, but when you’re selling a quality product, this is very unwanted.
What will my next steps be
The factory is willing to accept a part of the blame and will pay me a small amount back (only around 12% of the costs). I am currently sending out new RFQ’s to some really promising factories so I hope they have a good price.
How will this impact the planning
Unfortunately, this will impact the planning since this was the last part that I was still waiting for. I’m hoping for a fast reply from the new factories so I can finally start producing!
Meanwhile, I can still use the old panels to create the prototypes, so I don’t have to sit still 😊.
Follow up on this story (with the self explaining title ‘Good news’): https://midique.com/2021/12/22/good-news/