Procurement, it’s an art


Firstly, I apologise for the recent lack of communication on the website. This is purely down to lack of time on my part in conjunction with a welcome two-week vacation seeing family over in British Columbia, Canada, and the jet-lag that that entails. I believe it’s my first two-week vacation in over ten years. The downside of taking such a long break has been a deluge of correspondence to face upon my return, something that I’m still trying to catch up on, for which I apologise.

Right now we’re already gearing up for a third (and even fourth) production run that’s due to start in the next ten days or so, although we are still receiving the last 100 or so assembled boards from the second production run. So far we’ve been ordering enough stock to run 1,000 for each run. This is very much a finger-in-the-air estimate. I am profoundly glad that we managed to fulfill all the pre-Christmas orders that were taken directly through the website, it was hard work! The board assemblers really pulled out all the stops and, with some help from my extended family, we managed to get those units I’d promised would be out before Christmas delivered, and then some. In fact, for a few days between Christmas and New Year we actually had a small positive inventory.

Upon my return from vacation we’ve found that there have been some unforeseen discrepancies in parts stock, and this has delayed getting back up to speed on the remainder of the second production run. I used to think that managing 30 or so discrete line items on the BOM (that is, 30 unique parts) for the original FCD was hard work. With 100 line items for the FCD+ it’s that much harder: one part on back order will delay everything. and substituting parts means re-testing. I take my hat off to those who do procurement on a daily basis, it really is hard and frustrating work. While it might not appear to be the exciting face of manufacturing, procurement is certainly an essential role that should be deeply appreciated.

The good news is that I am led to believe that the SAW filters that are usually on a long lead time (10-12 weeks) are arriving in the next couple of days: these are the single most expensive parts of the FCD+ and already we’ve placed a full order for the fourth production run as a result of the lead time on them. (Side-note, and certainly something they don’t teach you at college: the impact of Chinese New Year on parts delivery is most definitely not to be under-estimated).

The bad news is that the microcontrollers, due last week, had been pushed back to March while I was away (don’t worry it’s not March, read on). These days I’m canny enough that although second sourcing isn’t always possible these days, at least I give myself the option a few different devices: I learnt that, by luck, from the original FCD. There are two different microcontroller chips that went out with the original FCD, not that anyone ever noticed, one had more memory than the other, but because that extra memory wasn’t needed, it’s left unused. However those of you who don’t have the “deluxe” extra memory version can rest assured that those who do are basking in unnecessary glory: that extra memory just means it takes longer for them to re-flash their devices.

The same applies to the FCD+, there are a handful of different microcontrollers that have been tested and work in the FCD+, but, similar to the original FCD, sourcing any of them right now is proving frustrating, I suspect because they’re all based on the same wafer die. I found it interesting that a phone call to the manufacturer seemed to bring that March date forward to February 3. While I am grateful, I am scratching my head as to how all this chip manufacturing and assembly works!

The great news is that my assemblers have been kept abreast of this so, while there’ll be a hundred or so coming out over the next week or so from the final second production run, once those pesky microcontrollers are in we’ll be pushing them out super-quick at the beginning of February. Indeed, typically, once I receive units from the board assembler, they’re put in enclosures, re-tested, and out within one working day.

I truly thank you all for your patience while I organise myself after my vacation, although I can’t promise it’ll be ten years before I take my next two-weeker.

Thank you all again, Howard


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7 Responses to Procurement, it’s an art

  1. Mike G0MJW says:

    Hi Howard. Glad you enjoyed the break. It certainly seems to be hard work. I wonder how you remain sane.

    How is the other sdr project coming along?


    • Louis Mamakos, WA3YMH says:

      Howard, I can certainly appreciate the procurement related issues that need to be managed. One of the companies I used to work for in the telecom equipment business missed revenue numbers for a few quarters despite having a sales backlog just because of the inability to source parts and manufacture the products! Of course, the sales end of things figured their job was the most difficult; to win the business from their competitors, but it’s a long chain from taking the order to cashing the check!

      By the way, as I’m sure you know, the SAW filters in the FCD Pro+ are really doing their job. I have a 1.5kW VHF weather transmitter on 162.5 MHz about 5 miles away. It is interesting to see the de-sense impact it has on some of my “extended coverage” 2m VHF rigs, while the FCD Pro+ is working like a champ! Thanks for all the great work here building some wonderful hardware.

      • admin says:

        Hello Louis

        Delighted that the SAW filters are doing their job! Just received nearly 900 for the next batch, just need the MCUs now.

        Many thanks, Howard

    • admin says:

      Hello Mike

      Just getting back into it. It’s been over six months since I last worked on it and of course all the toolchains have been updated, plus we now have Windows RT to consider.

      The good news is that a device I’ve been waiting for is now available, but the bad news is that it looks like another one has been abandoned (MC13260) although I suspected this was going to happen.

      Getting my head around the concepts that were so clear in my head a few months ago takes time, however I am already evaluating new hardware right now.

      Many thanks, Howard

  2. Pedro says:

    Hi Howard,
    Funcube with stand alone Lan feature will it be possible one day ???,, there is a similar device for ADS-B signals called bullion —>
    basicaly we can remotly use the device without a need of a pc ,, such a device will do big i´m regards …PEDRO

    • admin says:

      Hello Pedro

      I am working on some options for this, but first priority is to get the FCD+ production so we can maintain stock.

      Many thanks, Howard

  3. Pedro says:

    thanx Howard ..looking forward for any progress for such a device …cheers