MF Case Study #019:

Using digital manufacturing to scale to thousands of units.

Kinetic’s REFLEX is a wearable device to help reduce back injuries in the workforce across numerous industries where repeatable stress causes significant pain and financial losses. The device is used by workers in manufacturing, transportation and warehousing industries, and must have the durability and high construction quality to withstand the needs of these rugged environments.
Kinetic began working with MacroFab on prototypes and low-volume runs and has used the MacroFab manufacturing platform to scale up to thousands of production units.

Get to know the work:

The Kinetic REFLEX is a wearable device that is part of a connected workforce. It alerts users when they are improperly lifting and includes a dashboard for management to effect small changes on the floor to reduce injuries. In 2017, Kinetic began using the MacroFab platform for hundreds of prototype runs. The ability to integrate with the most popular EDA tools allowed Kinetic to iterate the design quickly, even as customer requirements changed rapidly. Because of the consistent communication and benefits of working with a digital manufacturing platform, Kinetic is now producing tens of thousands of their devices and charging stations with MacroFab.

kinetic reflex device

Assessment

When a business is starting small, it is difficult to get many overseas manufacturers to care about a product, especially at 100-200 units, but MacroFab’s platform made it easy to get started, without having to speak to a sales rep. The lead Electrical Engineer for Kinetic loves using our platform because he can upload all of his Gerber files, inspect every layer and easily approve parts placement. This makes it easy to test new designs and quickly prototype.

Once prototypes were finalized, Kinetic needed to be able to quickly scale to higher volumes without delay. Working with MacroFab’s account management team for custom quotes and project management was one of the easiest experiences they’ve encountered in manufacturing.

Challenge

Because Kinetic Wearables iterates new product features quickly and values IP protection, the team was looking for a contract manufacturer capable of scaling production in North America. MacroFab was chosen to provide a production-volume scale because it enabled Kinetic to seamlessly move from design to production stages and ramp up to lower-cost manufacturing regions without going through multiple New Product Introduction (NPI) stages with new factories. Relying on MacroFab to scale up production allows Kinetic to use Factory Portability as their demand grows, without delays in deliveries or pauses in production.

Process

Working with MacroFab, Kinetic was able to ramp up production as their demand increased while making continual improvements to the manufacturing process. In the initial months of production, the MacroFab manufacturing team collaborated with Kinetic on changing the mechanical design, resulting in a more reliable and streamlined assembly process. MacroFab’s process expertise with multi-layer, high-density PCB assembly allowed Kinetic to ensure their design went through a review process identifying issues like size constraints, signal integrity, and parts orientation issues.

There is a view that it’s a partnership and we’re working together to achieve our goals. It extends down the line, the group of people working the assembly line are really friendly and eager to give you advice, and that’s been really helpful. — Jeff, Director of Manufacturing, Kinetic
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Our Solution

Continual feedback, flexibility and excellent customer service are the cornerstones upon which MacroFab and Kinetic have built their relationship. Growing companies like Kinetic begin to experience new sets of challenges with higher volumes of manufacturing including, maintaining inventory, negotiating with suppliers and balancing lead times with production schedules. Relying on the MacroFab manufacturing platform allowed Kinetic to significantly ramp up production volume while delivering product to market, faster than their competitors.

The Kinetic team loves that everyone on their team is empowered to provide feedback on their designs. As Kinetic grows their business, they are making plans to leverage the MacroFab for all PCB assembly, box build, and project management at multiple factories across North America to achieve their goals, serving new and repeat customers.

The biggest benefit of working with MacroFab is growing the business through your services. We were able to start small and quickly figure out issues. Now we are ordering 10x what we were two years ago. — Matt, Lead EE, Kinetic
box build macrofab

Summary

The ability to version control their production runs in the MacroFab platform as Kinetic’s design went through multiple iterations was essential to the company. The MacroFab supply chain visibility and price modeling tools allowed Kinetic to understand the unit economics of their design decisions and launch a product that quickly gained commercial traction. The engineering team at Kinetic is integrated into every aspect of the product decision, allowing control over the way the design is interpreted from the Gerber files, reviewing parts placement and approving alternate parts.

Working collaboratively on the MacroFab platform allowed Kinetic engineering and purchasing teams to communicate easily reducing the need for phone calls and emails. All custom quotes and project management references approved designs, allowing fewer mistakes to be made as Kinetic went to high volume production.

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