The Saga of the Machines

The first day we unpacked the machines. The giant smiles give away the fact that we didn't know how much trouble they were going to cause us yet.
The first day we unpacked the machines. The giant smiles give away the fact that we didn’t know how much trouble they were going to cause us yet.

Saga is the only word that can truly describe our most recent journey that has spanned more than three months and has finally culminated with two functioning machines. Ninon, our fearless leader and the owner of Rill Foods, didn’t take the decision of buying two new machines lightly. She researched for almost two years, checked out competing machine manufactures, called companies to ask about their equipment and was only convinced when she was able to go to a trade show and see the machines in action herself.

She came back to the production site with good news, we were going to be getting two new machines. They would work in tandem to measure out and bag all our single component items with little human oversight. The idea was that what currently took us 15 hours every week would soon take 15 hours every 6 months to accomplish. Now all we had to do was wait. Each machine is made specifically with the buyers needs in mind and tested to make sure it works as it should. We sent hundreds of dollars worth of product to Pennsylvania where our machine was being tested and set back easy in out seats knowing in 6 or 8 months we would never have to weigh another beef base by hand.

Finally when the day came to see our machines in person for the first time we went to California to get a little bit of training.  This is where the problems started. Sixty pounds of vegetable base in hand we arrived eager to see some magic. We couldn’t get the vegetable base to work. One bag would weigh 17 grams, then the next 25 grams, then 10, then 27, then 16, it was all over the place. At one point Lacey asked “Did you pay yet? Can we just leave it here?”. It had been paid for. Panic subsided once we finally got it dialed down within a gram of what it should be three bags in a row.

When the machines were shipped to our production facility in Thorp, Washington they didn’t even fit through the door to our warehouse, it was 1 cm too tall. After getting creative and removing the trim from around the door we squeezed it into the warehouse and found it a nice home out of the way. There it sat unassuming in a corner for almost 3 more weeks until we finally got the right type of electricity (this was another debacle in itself).

Lori is putting the insides of our auger machine together in this picture.
Lori is putting the insides of our auger machine together in this picture.

After we got electricity the problems with the machines were just getting started. We couldn’t get anything to work. We tried different products, different revolutions, different heights of the auger, different types of agitation and nothing gave us consistent weights for more that a few bags at a time. Finally after Ninon talked the sales man’s ear off he told us that he would stop by during his personal time on his way to Seattle and get it working for us.

Here Lori is putting the hopper, the bowl that holds the product, onto the auger machine.
Here Lori is putting the hopper, the bowl that holds the product, onto the auger machine.

He spent six hours without so much as a bathroom break trying to get our machines to work before he told us what we already knew in the back of our minds, something was wrong. The machines that we had just spent thousands of dollars and countless hours of time on did not work. Then the hardest part started, convincing the producers that there was in fact something wrong with the machine other than our incompetence.

We tried everything that they asked, we took videos and explained over and over what was happening. Finally exasperated they asked us to send, for the second time, hundreds of dollars worth of product to their testing facility. At the testing facility they found out that they sent us the wrong tooling from the get go. We had been trying to shove a round peg into a square hole for weeks, no for months and it would never have happened if they had actually tested the products we had sent almost a year earlier.

Now here we are at what we hope is the end of the saga. The machines are working well and we are learning every day how to use them better. What used to take us 12 hours to do now takes us 2. We can spend one week working on what used to be 3 months worth of work. Check out our video to see our new machines in action and breathe a sigh of relief with us knowing how long and tumultuous this journey was!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtsFeWhS-LI]

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