I had the pleasure this past week of working on Meural’s production line. To me, the experience falls into the category of something that everybody should have to do once in their lives, akin to working at a restaurant or doing other types of manual labor. We all use physical products all the time, but most people don’t realize what goes into them. Working on the production line is exhausting. Time on the production line is nebulous, the days go quickly and slowly. It’s tedious, laborious, challenging.
Things go wrong, it’s impossible to avoid. There are hundreds of small pieces that all must arrive at the same time. Computer boards and chips, sensors, cables, metal pieces, wood, screws, labels, printed goods, packaging, the list goes on. And then you need to assemble each piece, one at a time. It’s different for every product, but the next time that you use a product (I’m guessing right now), take a moment to consider the amount of thought and coordination required to make it.
Another interesting note is that you need a lot of space. All those parts that I listed above, yeah they’re coming in the thousands. You need to be able to move them around, especially if you’re creating a product that is as large as the Meural Canvas. That involves fork lifts, hand lifts, and good old fashion elbow grease. The space gets filled up very quickly. And unless your at a larger scale, something like 10,000+, there’s going to be some compromise about the size of space you can afford. I found that we needed constantly to move things around in order to prepare for the next step of the process.
Before working on the line, it was easy to criticize how the units turned out. I’m a perfectionist at heart, and of course that mindset is important. If something isn’t coming out correctly, you do need to be objective and find a way to fix it. But seeing what it actually takes to create a product, I have a little more empathy and far more appreciation for the multitude of tiny decisions that get made, and that perfection is rarely possible.