Business Status Update

I know, half of you just checked out, another business status update.   But hey, it’s been a crazy two months here, and I have the feeling things are going to get even nuttier.   Short version,  I’m doing the best I can to kick orders out the door, but don’t be surprised if it takes a few days before you get a shipping notice.

So the big new is that I released the first batch of the bench displays up for sale.  I only had 10 pieces,  but the first style took probably two months to sell that many units, so I thought I was safe.   This time around it took about 18 hours to sell all 10.   Um, whoops.  The good news is that all 10 units are built, tested, and ready to package.  I’m just waiting on anti-static baggies and some connectors to get them all finished up.  Some are shipping tomorrow morning, the rest by Wednesday.

PCB’s for another hundred pieces are on order,  I’m working on a batch of OLED’s via a couple of sources to get good pricing, and the rest of the parts are all standard stuff that I can get in 3 business days.   So while I’m temporarily out of stock I can say these are a regular product now.   When they’re available for sale again all depends on when the OLED’s can get here.

I’ve also worked on my infrastructure a bit over the past two months.   Behind the scenes I added about $400 in software, and a few hundred on a new printer.  Part of that is financial software, and the other part is a new PCB design suite that so far is a big improvement on the freeware system I had been using previously.  Business keeps growing so I need to keep evolving it to keep up from an efficiency standpoint.  The printer will be nice for you guys, since the old one only printed in medium grey,  this one actually prints black.   Plus color, and double sided.  Saves me a LOT of time.

There’s a bunch of PCB’s that I’m running low on and will have to re-order soon.   Nothing critical right now, just don’t be surprised if a few testers are ‘out of stock’ here and there.   This summer caused a big hiccup in things, and with how crazy it’s been these past two months it’s getting trickier to maintain parts inventory.



Pricing announced on the new bench displays

Short version,   price on the new bench display will be the same as the old bench display,  at $45.   I HOPE to have these ready to ship by mid-November and test units are being sent out this week.

Long version….

I really wanted these done already, as I’m sure you did too, but I had a few issues to take care of with my PCB.  These delayed things a bit, but in the long term let me trim things down further and the result is going to be cleaner and easier for everybody.

The biggest issue is that I put the wrong type of programming header onto it.  I put an FTDI header, but needed an SPI header.  I’m still new to handling micro-controllers, and uploading code into a blank Atmel processor on a custom board isn’t the same as uploading to an Arduino board.   I have that sorted out now thankfully and the next board revision will be a lot easier for me to program than this one,  plus I also ordered a proper programmer to take care of this issue.  Bootloading the beta units was a wee bit convoluted.

During this process I came to the conclusion that I can remove about half the components on the PCB.  The ‘reset’ button isn’t needed, and I also don’t see a purpose for the indicator LED’s.  So all of those are going to be removed.  I’ll be increasing the size of all the remaining capacitors for my own sanity sake but keeping the surface mounted Atmel processor.

Realistically,  the per-unit cost of parts, material, and labor is significantly less on this version than the old discreet logic version.  So you’d think I can drop the price a lot, but it doesn’t really work that way unfortuantely.   Here’s how that all pans out….

I was barely breaking even on the old ones, due to all that labor time.  Lots of soldering, a lot of time at the crimping press.  Originally they had been priced at $60 but the market didn’t support that price point.   So I marked them down to $45 to get them to sell.   All the ones I sent to Marco Specialties I probably LOST money on.

The new units are a LOT less parts, a LOT less labor, a LOT less wire.  So what’s different?  Code.   I didn’t write it myself, I hired somebody to write it.  I also need to buy a programmer to streamline loading the bootloader and code.  This is all non-recurring expenses but still expenses to get things ready for production.   Then there’s the planned code upgrades to add Bally/Stern and other generations of machines to the tester.   These are additional expenses to pay somebody to write the code.    It’ll probably add up to about $1,000 or so when all the revisions are done and everything.   If I sell 100 pieces, that’s $10 per unit just for the code.   So I have to factor that in.

But the good news is I’ve got a great product here, nearly ready to ship, which is going to make a lot of people happy with the additional capabilities and future upgrades.  It’s a LOT better unit than the old one,  and it won’t come with a cost increase.    I’m extremely happy with how this product is moving along, and what it portends for my product line in the future.

Good times, friends, good times.