November 2011 update: new building, new machines

Posted by Jan on 30 November 2011

Five months ago, I wrote that we “just finished a big facility expansion that was taking up a lot of my attention this year, so I have some more time now …” Well, that turned out to be wrong. It’s also been over a year since I started this blog, and so far, I am way behind my target of an article per week. It doesn’t help when I don’t post for four months, but some exciting stuff has happened in that time.

The biggest news is that we are moving to a new building! I just looked through my pictures, and it turns out I don’t have one of just the outside of the building. It doesn’t matter much since we are only renting part of the building, but you can get a flavor of it here:

One of the difficulties for us as we grow is that there are fewer and fewer buildings available that fit our requirements. We definitely need warehouse space for the shipping and distribution aspects of our business, so we can’t just get space in an office building. But, we also need quite a bit of office space, so most of the warehouses in Vegas aren’t a good fit since even big warehouses tend to have only a few thousand square feet of offices. There are lots of cheap, empty buildings, but most landlords do not want to put a lot of money into properties right now, and we do not want to be spending a lot of money on tenant improvements, either. Another factor making custom build-outs unappealing is that with our growth rate, we do not want to commit to long-term (5+ year) contracts.

So, any space we go to is going to have some trade-offs. One of the downsides of the new space is that there are no loading docks for trucks. On the plus side, that gave me more of an excuse to get a forklift.

We have only moved once in the past five years, and the rest of the growth of our facilities came from expanding into adjacent suites. That was convenient because we did not have to move, but it also led to inefficient layouts (right now, we have to go outside to go from one part of our space to another). One aspect of the new space that we’re very excited about is a single large room where we will do most of our manufacturing.

Another big limitation of our current space is power: we didn’t have 3-phase power, and there just wasn’t that much available to begin with (another result of these warehouse-oriented buildings with offices built in later). That limited us on equipment like reflow ovens; the main one we use now is relatively small, and it is powered through a phase converter. With more power available, we can have a bigger oven:

And a bigger laser cutter:

We’ll be very busy through the end of the year, moving to the new location and setting up our new toys so that we can make more new toys for you. Happy holidays!

4 comments

Congratulations on your expansion. I am an electronics instructor in California, and new to the Pololu Maestro product line. I am designing your Mini Maestro 24 channel card into my first robot - a hexapod.

Good luck in 2012!

Steve
Congrats on the big move. Must be exciting and shows that you're growing.
I want a store near Pololu Valley! I'd hike down into the valley to buy stuff if you had one there! Can I find your products anywhere on the island?
I want my office near Pololu Valley! We have customers on the Big Island, so it might be possible to see some of our products in action there (I remember hearing some talk of a robot club in Waimea a while ago, but I don't know what came of that). I don't think we have any distributors in Hawaii.

- Jan

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