We've come a long way since first shipping our prototype designs to testers earlier this year, made a lot of progress, ran into countless challenges, and we're finally resuming our shipments again! We'd like to first start off by thanking everyone's support and patience as we move forward with our journey.
Since this is a first official blog post, I thought I'd share more "behind the scenes" information leading up to where we're now, and also go over the highlights and challenges we've faced throughout our product development.
Here are the recent developments and what's new:
From our visit to Shenzhen, China. May 2018. - We chose this factory specifically after examining their production standards and quality control. I was genuinely impressed to see them actively implementing TPS (Toyota Production System) to bring efficiency into their production, and most of their engineers had over 20 years experience for global companies. We do plan to bring the die casting production back to North America in the future, but for the time being the startup costs and lead time required for getting small quantities into market is much favourable in China for die casting.
March & April - Overcoming production challenges
2018 began with much excitement, as we began shipping out the test products and started preparing for our first production run. We divided up our manufacturing base into two locations, with majority of the parts (beams and panels) being manufactured locally in Toronto, Canada, and the die casted connector parts manufactured in China. As mentioned in our last order update emails, we ran into significant production issues with the first supplier we began working with in China. We learned that the saying "Hardware is hard" is no exception for a modular furniture startup, and that when dealing with overseas manufacturers, it is critical to perform a thorough check on their capabilities, and make sure all communication is as hands-on as possible. Despite the joy of receiving our first pallet full of production parts, our disappointment was even greater as most of them were deformed and completely out of spec.
After much back and forth, we decided to cut the losses and quickly began scouting for more qualified supplier with better track records and clear communication. The difference in quality of work and communication was instantly recognizable, and to further make sure things were done right this time around, I visited the factory in Shenzhen and spent a week working alongside the team until our production parts were done and finished right in front of my eyes.
Of course, hitting the "reset" button on any part of your manufacturing is no easy task, and it took us a while to get things back on track, all the way into May.
Visiting our powder coating facility in Toronto, Canada. Both of our aluminum extrusion manufacturer and finishers are one of the largest and reputable furniture part producers in Canada (and the winner of Canada's top 100 best managed companies 5 years in a row!). I've visited them more than 12 times this in the past month.
May & June - Relaunch with Streamlined Product Lineup
With the first production batch finally at our warehouse in end of May, we began shipping out the backorders in a chronological order (I know it's only an excuse, but each order is taking some time to be prepared as we're currently cutting, sorting and packaging them by hand). If you're one of our early supporters waiting to receive your shipment, you should receive an update as we're fulfilling the items one by one.
Additionally, a lot of thought went into choosing exactly which designs and parts should be included in our first manufacturing run, and we've decided to further simplify our product offering in order to give us a better manageable starting point as we resume our sales. This means some parts and design will be discontinued for the time being, and new items will be added into the collection.
All parts received, sorted and checked. May 31st, 2018 - This day will have a special place in our memory :)
Now in Stock: L Connector, T Connector, Straight Connector
Removed for Now: 75Deg Connector, Y Connector, Wall Mount, Round Base, Round Side Table Tray
New Addition: Corner Connector, 4 Way T Connector, 4 Way Corner Connector
We will highlight the changes to our furniture offerings in a separate blog post.
We're excited to share our new product lineup, and to better serve the DIYers, designers and creators, we'll be releasing a brand new "community" section where you can explore and share unique designs created with Aalo. For the customers who has reserved our new dynamic shelving system, our new shelving configurator will be rolling out for testing soon!
As always, we're truly grateful for all of the support and excitement towards our product and mission!