In this post, you will learn how our commitment to quality has shaped multiple aspects of our manufacturing operations.
You’ll read a quick background and history and then brief descriptions of changes which we have integrated into our manufacturing and operations.
We started selling our Coop Tender ® Automatic Chicken Coop Doors in 2014. At first, we only used cedar to manufacture our doors and soon added pine. The pine is treated with a non-toxic wood treatment which never needs to be reapplied. Pine allowed us to offer our chicken doors at a lower price, and provide a long lasting, durable product.
We found that the common pine lumber was too inconsistent. This inconsistency led to minor malfunctions in some of our doors.
What we did
- We started to use select grade pine lumber beginning around January of 2017. We also changed from using 1X4s, 1X6s and 1X12s to making all cross and rip cuts from 1X12s. This allowed us to completely control the accuracy of dimensions for the door.
- Woodworking equipment was upgraded to incorporate laser guided accuracy. Our coop door cabinet makers work to ensure 1/32 inch (0.79 mm) cut accuracy.
- Added quality control checkpoints throughout the manufacturing process to ensure that specified tolerances are achieved in each unit produced.
Our electronics based controller has evolved substantially over the past 3 years.
Our electronics have migrated from through hole technology (THT) to surface mount technology (SMT). This helped to reduce power consumption of the controller by nearly 50% (~60mA to ~30mA). It also provided the means by which we could increase production without sacrificing quality.
We encountered a few problems with our SMT based technology circuit boards.
What we did
- Invested heavily in surface mount technology manufacturing equipment. This helped to eliminate soldering rework which was prevalent in the initial manufacturing processes.
- Circuit designs went through a few updates. The most significant update was put into production early in 2017 and has proven to stabilize issues which were encountered on some of the previous versions. We found that the motor would sometimes “take more power” than it should, causing damage to components on the circuit board. The updated design ensures that this can no longer happen.
- We also invested in tooling such as specialized crimping tools to ensure that all the various connectors which we assemble are crimped to electronics industry standards.
- Implemented quality control testing throughout the electronics manufacturing process.
Firmware (coop door software) updates:
Firmware is the computer software code which runs our automatic coop doors.
Our firmware is currently on version 8.8 and has proven to be completely stable.
Over the past 3 years, we have not encountered any major firmware issues. Most issues we encountered were related to Internet Wi-Fi module integration (e.g. temperature not reporting in wi-fi app when door operates in schedule mode).
What we did
- We accessed the firmware source code, identified the issue and resolved it.
- Customers who were affected by a firmware based issue would have been provided with a replacement control panel with the updated firmware loaded onto the CPU.
Wi-Fi Module updates:
One of the major benefits of our automatic chicken coop door is its ability to connect to the Internet.
Our first Wi-Fi modules were powered by Electric Imp based modules. We then switched to Particle Photon based modules.
Over the past few years we have had a few issues relating to the Wi-Fi module and associated modules (accessory control and predator motion).
A large number of customers were having difficulties accessing their wi-fi networks at the chicken coop with the modules.
What we did
- We implemented an external antenna onto our Wi-Fi modules which have greatly enhanced connectivity and range.
- As with firmware updates for the door controller, we access the firmware code, identify the issue and resolve.
- Wi-Fi module firmware updates as well as Universal Web App updates are delivered automatically after proper testing.
Our goal is to manufacture and deliver the best quality coop door money can buy in a timely manner.
Our first couple of years were quite a struggle for our limited resources. Bill of Materials / Parts management became cumbersome and often caused parts delays.
What we did
- We implemented a comprehensive parts and inventory management system. This enabled us to better react to manufacturing demands for the over 200 parts which go into one of our standard coop doors.
- We are leasing dedicated manufacturing and office facilities. This has decidedly enabled us to increase our manufacturing capacity and capabilities.
Our service commitment is to respond to support inquiries within 1 business day.
As Coop Tender has grown, we have also strived to ensure a stronger commitment to ensuring that the needs of our customers are met in a timely manner.
What we did
- At first, the owner’s wife was enlisted to help. Unfortunately, she’s not very technically oriented, so most of the inquiries would go directly to technical support. This still left a bottleneck in technical support.
- Technical support, Jim, now checks for any support inquiries at least once each day. He has often been caught checking twice each day and on weekends. It sounds like he is taking his commitment seriously 😊
By far, the most common support requests we receive now are maintenance related. The solution is always quite simple.
Over time, dirt and feather particles can accumulate on the worm drive (long metal screw which operates the door). Liberally spraying WD-40 onto the worm drive after removing the back cover will dissolve the old, dirty grease. Open and close the door a couple of times and be sure to wipe the drive clean as the dirty grease is dissolved. Repeat as necessary and then re-install the back cover (4 screws).
This process should be done once a year. The best time to do it is before winter since the colder temperatures will have more of an impact without maintenance.
We appreciate all our customers. Over the past 3 years we have listened and learned from you. We have taken the best automatic chicken coop door on the market (as reported by our customers) and made it better. We’re happy and grateful for all the orders we have received. We are especially grateful for the patience of those customers who may have been affected by a defect from our earlier production processes. Fortunately, we have always been able to do what it takes to ensure that you have a quality, long lasting, durable and worry free automatic coop door.