At Tulip, we eat our own dogfood.
Not actual dogfood (we leave that to our Chief Greeter). By “dogfooding,” we mean that we use Tulip’s manufacturing app platform to build and deliver our products.
Specifically, we use it to improve supply chain visibility, to share data with our contract manufacturers, and to prep-to-ship the Tulip Factory Kit.
Maybe we should follow those who prefer to think of it as drinking their own champagne.
Whichever metaphor you prefer, the rest of this post will outline how we use Tulip behind the scenes.
Collaborating with our CM: Tulip for Supply Chain Visibility
Working with a contract manufacturer has its challenges. Customers increasingly want access to detailed production information. They want to know that production is on track, and they want the data to prove it.
Several of our customers–contract manufacturers themselves–use Tulip for precisely this reason.
We also use Tulip to improve our relationship with the contract manufacturer who produces our Factory Kit.
Since our contract manufacturer is located on a different continent, Tulip provides an easy solution for collecting and sharing data.
To understand our CMs production, we built and shared a visibility app. The app walks operators through the assembly of our hardware and, at the same time, collects data about their performance (cycle time, first pass yield, and quality, among others).
This provides a single source of truth around our manufacturing, giving us a real-time view of our hardware production and facilitating communication with our CM.
Tulip for Training and New Product Introduction (NPI)
Effective training is a critical step for getting new products to market as fast as possible. When first introducing the Factory Kit to our contract manufacturer, we delivered a training app that walked operators through the process, and broke a complex assembly into easily digestible modules. This ensured that NPI cycle progressed as quickly as possible and quality improved.
Prep to ship
In the last year and a half, we’ve shipped Factory Kits all over the world.
Before going out the door, though, every Factory Kit passes through a Tulip prep-to-ship application that includes inventory checks, packaging, and quality assurance.
Several of our customers sensitive shipping operations, and have developed similar prep-to-ship apps to guide their associates as they fulfill their orders. We decided to take a cue from them and develop an app for our own use.
In our Somerville offices, we have a dedicated fulfillment station, outfitted with a Factory Kit running a prep-to-ship application.
For each order, the application guides a Tulip engineer through the following process. First, they scan the work order with a barcode scanner. Next, they follow the instructions in the app, which uses IoT sensors and Tulip Light Kit to guide them through the preparation and packaging process. This ensures that every order is fulfilled too spec without mistakes.
Tulip for Quality Inspection
While our CM performs quality inspections in the factory, we put each factory kit through an addition QA inspection before shipping them to customers.
To do this, we use a factory kit in our Somerville, MA, headquarters, as well as a comprehensive quality application.
The quality assurance app performs a comprehensive quality analysis of each Factory Kit. It ensures that power runs to the I/O gateway; that each of the USB ports functions; that all of the IoT devices included in the factory kit function as they should; and it connects to the internet. If at any point something doesn’t work, the QA engineer has the option to flag the problem within the app.
One of the greatest advantages to using apps is the data they collect. From the analytics dashboard, we can see breakdowns of production processes on our end, and on our CMs. This helps us to identify areas for improvement, and ultimately to produce a better product.
As we were designing the user unboxing and onboarding experience, we wanted to make getting started as seamless as possible. Our goal was to guarantee that users could do the entire setup on their own.
The standard for most manufacturing products is to include paper based instructions, but part of our philosophy designing Factory Kit has been to use as much of the Factory Kit in building it to show the world as much as possible the benefits and what you can accomplish with it.
Therefore, instead of including paper based instructions, we’ve included a Tulip App that helps you setup your devices. This app was built by a team member on her first week at Tulip, which speaks to the ease with which you can get started building apps. And since the process is built as an app, we can iterate over it to improve it every day based on the feedback our users give us without any development cost.
Conclusion: The Advantages to Dogfooding
Using Tulip to build Tulip allowed us to coordinate our team across different facilities in the design, manufacture and shipping of hundreds of Factory Kits. Along the process, we got the opportunity to become first hand Tulip users ourselves and this gave us unprecedented insight into how to improve the product and user experience.
As we continue using Factory Kit to improve our own operations, we’ll continue sharing with you the apps we make.
Curious how these applications can apply to your operations? Get in touch for a free demo.