I have found that starting a business is mostly just day-to-day progress; it’s a whole lot of little steps. Sometimes it is difficult to remember how much progress you’ve made because each day is only infinitesimally further along than the day before.
But every once in a while a series of events converge that provides a clear vision of just how much progress has been made. This week provided one of those series of events for me, as shown in the photo below.
This is Steve from Gateway Mechanical. He is happily standing beside one of our RazerLift field test units that was installed on his work van by Action Car and Truck Accessories here in Calgary. A second unit will be installed on another of Gateway’s vehicles in a couple of weeks in Edmonton; Western Truck Body will take care of that installation.
If you’ve been following the progress of the RazerLift this may not seem like a particularly big step. After all, we did an installation for Hank’s Plumbing a few months ago. What’s the big deal this time?
There are two key differences between this unit and the previous unit. First of all, the previous unit was assembled from parts that had been ordered by Tangent Engineering. Some of the parts were ordered in bulk, but others were ordered in very low volume; one to three pieces, for instance. That unit (though technically almost identical to this unit) still had the feel of being a prototype.
But this unit was assembled from parts that had been ordered through our contract manufacturer – August Electronics. And they did not order enough parts for a single unit; they ordered enough for the remaining 11 units. We now have the early stages of a production line through an established contract manufacturer. That’s miles closer to market-ready than doing the assembly and installation through our engineering firm; this no longer feels like a prototype. Steve even commented that it looked like a commercial product.
August Electronics not only ordered the parts, they also fitted them into sub-assemblies that could be easily transported and fully assembled on site. Typical installation times (for the upfitters) should be in the range of 4-6 hours, depending on the vehicle. And almost everything that needs to be assembled can be assembled with a single Allen key!
Furthermore, the installation took place at an established vehicle upfitting facility rather than at the engineering firm. This, too, represents a major step forward and shows that we are miles closer to market-ready than when we did the installation for Hank’s Plumbing. When we launch to market we certainly don’t intend to have our engineers do the installations, and we aren’t going to open up a bunch of shops across North America just for the RazerLift. We need to partner with existing upfitters and distributors, and the events of this week helped demonstrate that the RazerLift is upfitter-friendly in its current configuration.
I’ll be honest and admit that I spent the whole day just waiting for something to go wrong. Which piece wasn’t going to fit? Would the PCB somehow fail? What if the unit just didn’t work, in some completely unknown and unforeseeable fashion? Contra my anxiety, everything went together very smoothly, and it worked right from the moment it was plugged in. Even when we mounted the ladders on the unit it cycled up and down without any issues at all. Flawless!
So this one installation event showed me:
- We have made massive strides on our supply chain, manufacturing and sub-assembly packaging.
- We have real customers; testing is no longer limited to personal vehicles!
- The product is “upfitter friendly”, taking only 4-6 hours to install; mostly with a single tool.
We intend to give the units 3-4 months of field trial testing before officially launching to market. There’s a lot to do during that time, but the events of this week really helped me understand that “market ready” is nearly within reach.
This has been a very good week for me!