SparkFun, Manufacturing, Inventory woes part III, Forklifts, Linux, etc.

Wow, things have been busy. An update has long been overdue:

First off, welcome to SparkFun[[Link to SparkFun]], our new distributor! They’ve done a fantastic job with their entry for Logic (check out the great photography!) and it’s great to have these guys on board. I’m thinking that they’ll be the only US distributor, at least for a while.

I finally got my first shipment of assembled and tested PCBs in from China. Very cool. I also developed some cool automated functional test software that I use here as well as in China.

Since our volumes are up we’re now using a machine shop near here called American Prototype. The heroes over there have done a great job cranking out some really nice Logic cases. I even have some samples of nice red ones. Eventually I would like to offer some different colors.

The other day this guy comes to the door and asks if I have a forklift. Let me tell you there’s something very cool about getting asked that, like you’ve hit a certain milestone. Of course I don’t have a forklift or a loading dock or anything but since this was just a big shipment of Case Logic cases it wasn’t a big deal. Now I have a stack of cases in my cube that’s nearly as tall as me.

USPS has been a bit of a pain lately, losing some packages overseas, or just the other day taking about 4 days for a domestic overnight shipment, which the customer wasn’t too happy about. I was a bit annoyed that I was taking the heat for USPS’s screw-up. I think I’ll switch to UPS overnight and pass the cost along. As far as international goes USPS is something like 3-4 times less expensive than the — I can only assume much more reliable — FedEx/UPS/DHL – and for the immediate future I’m willing to re-ship some packages in order to pass along that good price to my customers. However the real solution is to get fulfillment in the EU, which besides Australia is the destination of most overseas Logic units. I’ve got some books on the way from Amazon so I can try and come up to speed on exactly how it’ll work tax-wise, etc.

Speaking of fulfillment in the EU, I also intend to get that going in the US. The last month has seen me go from running the store with 50% of my time to running it with 95% my time which is not sustainable or particularly fun. I love putting labels on boxes and taping them, don’t get me wrong, but that actually isn’t what takes very much time.

The other thing we’ll be doing is getting more and more assembly done externally. With our current volumes it would have made more sense to go directly to a turn-key manufacturer but as it is right now we have a small number of different ones, none of which is ultimately responsible for the end product (that would be me). That said, now that I’ve got boards coming in already assembled and tested things will be a lot easier. The only other non-trivial step is the assembly of the case, which I’m on working on outsourcing. It’s tough when it’s your baby and you’re concerned about quality and defect rate, etc, but it simply must be done.

I’ve been working on getting a new manufacturer ramped up with the wire harness and that’s all under control now but we’re going to be out of stock for about 3 weeks, which is really too bad but there’s not a lot I can do about it short term. The good news is that after the first massive shipment gets in we pretty much will be set, and be able to fill a massive number of orders without skipping a beat.

We’re doing some fun magazine ads these days and I think they’ll just get better. Definitely write in if you have some ideas for an ad you think might really resonate with people.

I’ve added a FAQ [[Link to faq]] for Logic and also updated the Press page [[link to press page]]. Check it out to see some cool blogs that have written about Logic!

I’m looking to hire a software person to jumpstart the Logic software efforts which have been taking a back seat to running the store lately. It’ll be my first employee, first experience with payroll and with a real accountant so it should be pretty fun.

About porting Logic to Mac/Linux: This will be an interesting challenge. Logic runs on .NET 3.5, which is a fantastic environment, but Mono doesn’t and isn’t going to offer .NET 3.5 support (certainly not Wpf), and WINE, so far as I can tell, just isn’t going to let you install .NET 3.5. So right now the plan is to port Logic (including the windows version) to .NET 2.0. This will be a considerable effort, but worth it if we can keep essentially the same codebase across the platforms. Another option would be C++ and GDK although I’d very much prefer to steer clear of that if at all possible.

All for now! Thanks to everyone who’s been sending in suggestions, it’s been great stuff. Things are going slow with the software updates but everything getting logged and we’ll get to it, not to worry.