Category Archives: Business

Posts about business. Money, strategy, marketing, all that stuff.

Ready to Go

Hooray, the next batch of boards has arrived after after a bit of an adventure – FedEx delivered them late and to the wrong address!

Fortunately it was a nice old lady down the street who received the boards and she brought them over to me. I now have stock. All you people holding off buying a Bit Rate Converter can place your orders now.

Sold!

Remember those new boards I got yesterday? Well, they all sold today. Bam! just like that!

So I guess I’m still out of stock until the next batch arrives :(

First boards in from China

A sample batch of boards have arrived today. Hooray!

They all work. Hooray!

Overall I am happy with the boards and as an added bonus they are now RoHS compliant and look a lot neater than the hand-soldered ones.

There were a few downsides with the process though, the main one being the length of time it took to get it all happening. I’ve had delays and issues from just about everyone I have dealt with – DigiKey with their dumb export restrictions, FedEx taking foreeever to deliver stuff, Gold Phoenix for forgetting about the job until I reminded them a few times, PayPal for stuffing up my payments and sitting on my money for two weeks while the Aussie dollar went down and I lost out on the FX conversion… after all was said and done it took almost two months to make this happen and in the meantime I had run out of stock which is always embarassing.

In summary, I definitely think that offshore manufacturing can work for me but I’ll need to take all these delays into account and be organized well in advance the next time around.

Adventures in Outsourcing

I’m currently attempting to get a batch of RS232 Rate Converters made in China, I’ve been getting the PCBs etched in China for months now so this is the logical next step.

The biggest problem so far has been sourcing the parts. I’m getting most of the stuff from DigiKey because they specialize in smaller orders – I don’t have the sales volume to justify making 1000 of these things.

But get this. DigiKey will not deliver microprocessors to China, because of export restrictions, for a microprocessor that was made in China in the first place!

Ah well, I found MCUZONE, a Chinese supplier for the microprocessors thanks to the very excellent alibaba.com so I have all the parts on their way now.

So stay tuned, I’ll post photos when I get the assembled boards back from China.


UPDATE: I have since tried to buy more things through alibaba.com and have been defrauded. MCUZONE are good, but I was lucky to find them because honest sellers seem rare on Alibaba. Don’t trust them!

Overkill or Foresight?

The Serial Bit Rate Converter runs an ARM7 CPU which is complete overkill for the simple job of relaying serial data. I’ve often thought I should redesign it to run a cheaper and less powerful CPU like a PIC or AVR. I originally designed it with an ARM7 simply because I like them and enjoy programming them.

Another reason I never redesigned it for AVR is that the economics are not that great. It would probably take $5 off the price but cost me a couple of weeks of time to redesign the entire thing.

This decision has had an unexpected benefit recently. A customer asked me if I could add an extra function to search-and-replace byte sequences in the data stream. Now I’m really glad to have 50 MIPS on board because a smaller CPU might not have had the grunt to do the job.

So having a way-too-powerful CPU has produced a long-term benefit to enable me to quickly sieze a market opportunity.

Faster and Faster

I haven’t written very much about my goals here. My general long-term goal is to produce a range of for-sale products which might be either hardware, software or a combination of both, but my short-term goal is to simply become faster at designing and implementing stuff and that means:

  1. Being able to learn new technologies quickly
  2. Picking and choosing which design techniques to use to make a good match with my experience and strengths
  3. Remaining focused and managing my time well

I was quite pleased to get the Volume Box product from concept to production in only six weeks – especially since most of that time was spent waiting for suppliers and subcontractors, I probably only spent 10 days of my own time on it.

But of course I’ll have to try to be even quicker next time.

I already know what my next product will be but I am up to my eyeballs in contract work at the moment which, while it does pay the bills, takes up all my available time. So I will have to hold off until I get the contract jobs out of the way, then I can go hard on the next product and see how quick I can do it.

Volume Box is Almost There

VolumeBoxPlugs-smallI’m getting orders for the Volume Box already. I haven’t even put up a web page for it. But wouldn’t you know it, the plastic case I want is not in stock with any of my regular suppliers (at least, those ones who are not still on extended Christmas holiday) so I’m having to get some cases flown in from England of all places so I can fill the orders. Of course I am going to have to absorb the extra cost of that, I wonder if Sony ever has these kind of supply-chain problems.

And Out the Door they Go!

LotsOfGadgets

Sales of the RS232 Rate Converter were a little slow throughout October and November but they sure have caught up in the last couple of weeks. I thought I had enough stock to see me through until January but after a flurry of orders, I am now completely sold out.

So I’ve been frantically ordering parts to build more units ASAP. I suppose having too many orders is a good problem to have, better than having no orders.

I’ve no idea why sales have suddenly surged, it’s not the kind of thing you’d buy as a Christmas present!

Time for a new Product

VolumeBoxPrototype2Well, the RS232 Rate Converter is pretty mature now. It does it’s job well and there is not a lot of improvements to make to it anymore. So what to do next?

I’ve been talking with a friend in the home automation business and he reckons there’d be a small market for an RS232 controllable volume control. This device would allow a home automation processor to control the volume on an amplifier which does not have any other means of remote control.

Now I thought that would be a pretty simple thing for me to make so I built a prototype. It only took me three evenings to cobble together something that works, thanks mainly to RS Components‘ free next-day shipping for electronic parts. I think this will be my next product.

Of course I can’t sell it in this state, it’s funny but taking a product from prototype to production is usually more work than making the prototype in the first place.