First, a big thank you to those of you who took our survey recently. Your input supports and guides our assumptions for the business model and influences our decisions as we move toward bringing the JogAlong to you. We are analyzing the data now and will also get to work on the drawing for the JogAlong t-shirts.
In the meantime, our manufacturer has started on the second sample of the fabric pod. The first one looked good, but we identified areas we want to improve. We also made some some changes to the frame geometry to better accommodate the assembly process. The manufacturer expects the second version to be done by the end of February.
Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? In our case 20% of the design is taking 80% of the time! I spent January updating all of the drawings for every part. Drawings are not my favorite thing to do but they must be done. Even in the age of 3D geometry, some information is still passed through text and descriptions, and that information has to reside somewhere. Examples include the material specification for each part, the critical tolerances, and where the part is purchased if it is a part we are not manufacturing in-house.
During the prototype process, it is common to buy an off-the-shelf part and modify it to get the prototype going. Yes, that works for prototypes, but it doesn’t work efficiently for production. Let me give you an example of an area taking some extra effort.
The interface between the runner and the stroller is through the hands. We want the ergonomic hand grips to feel like an extension of the runner, a seamless pathway to the stroller. It is critical we get this area right. Bicycles have a similar issue, even more pronounced because you have more weight going through your hands while riding a bike. So we looked at bicycle grips as a starting point and found an ergonomic grip that feels great. However, we also need a support for the weight of your hand (I tried without support in an earlier prototype and my hands had a tendency to slide off the grip). However, the support bars for bike grips also act as a cap on the end of the handlebar, whereas on the stroller our support bar goes on first, prior to the grip. So we need a hole going all the way through our support. On the prototype, I drilled a hole in an off-the-shelf support and everything was good. We did some similar things with the brake handles and mounting. But when it comes time to specify the details on the drawings for these parts, I know there has to be a solution besides modifying those off-the-shelf components.
As a start-up, it’s great to keep the customized tooling bill low; however, in cases like this, ergonomics comes first and manufacturing efficiency a strong second. So I spent some time in January designing some unique parts for the grip support and brake lever assembly. We are able to use a great off-the-shelf grip, but the brake lever mounting, brake lever, and hand grip support are customized for JogAlong.
The picture on the left is a mock up we did with the grip and some parts off of our 3D printer to simulate the grip support and new brake components. The image on the right is a rendering of our ergonomic hand grip. Thanks to Chris and Matthew for the rendering and graphic layout work.
With the fabric sample slated for completion at the end of February, I am targeting a trip to Taiwan in March or April to review and meet with our outside suppliers. I will keep you posted.