The AwkEng Sets Up a High Efficiency Work Cell

Hi all,

Today's post continues the previous Yak Shaving theme from reorganizing the basement, but this time it's with the intention of revisiting the Analog Voltmeter Clock, and optimizing for single piece builds.

Background: Small Batch Clock Production

When the Clock was first launched on Kickstarter, it was designed to be profitable in batches of 50 units. Over the life of the product, I sold over 1400 units, and production was always run in small batches of around 100 or more units.

Sales slowed down, and my focus and interest moved on, but I periodically get requests for more Clocks. The Clocks were fun, they made people happy, and making customers happy made me happy.

The Challenge: Even Smaller Batches

The challenge is now, how can I make the Clocks practical at even smaller batches. I've learned a little more about manufacturing since then, (my day job is at, after all), and I'm interested in making it practical to run even smaller batches, and assembling them on demand.

I'm very interested in Vikrey auctions to make this work on the sales side, but that's a post for another week. For today, I'm interested in how can I make it reasonable and efficient to assemble single pieces builds of Clocks in my spare time, rather than outsourcing it to what's known as a "box build" assembly house.

Setting up a Work Cell

I'm now setting up a work cell in my basement, designed specifically to build Clocks in batch sizes of one.

I built a door desk, using... umm... a door that I bought at Home Depot, laid across a pair of saw horses. This creates a large, flat work space, on the cheap. I have a set of hanging bins that I've arranged as close as possible to the actual sequence used in the build (some parts are used more than once, and space constraints mean I don't have a truly linear arrangement).

For excess stock that I don't have room to keep in the work desk parts bins, I'll have longer term storage on racks, arranged in a rough U-shape around the desk. The U-shape, of course, is meant to improve ease of access and minimize travel when I do need to grab things.

Finally, I'll be experimenting with to see how it can make builds go faster. I've certainly built enough Clocks to have the assembly work instructions memorized, but Tulip has a slick, "pick to light" system, that lights up the parts bin needed for the next assembly step, and I hope cuts down on time with me fumbling around looking for the right screw, even if it's only a few seconds savings at a time.

The cell looks something like this:

Work Cell Layout

Next Steps

Up next, I'll have posts about the Vickrey auction itself, I still need to scrub the Bill of Materials to address supply chain issues, but hopefully, with enough yaks shaved, I'll be able to sell clocks again. Stay tuned!

aka THE Awkward Engineer

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