What’s it like to bring out a product never seen before? What types of unique challenges do you face when pushing the boundaries of technology? We sat down with our COO Tommi Pyykönen to answer your questions and shed light on the ring delivery process and schedule.
Tommi, who are you and what do you do at Oura?
I’m the Chief Operating Officer of Oura. As the COO, my focus is on building an organization that makes impossible possible, ensuring that everything at Oura operates in sync, and I also directly lead the teams running our supply chain and customer care. I have worked at Oura over three years now, well before we started the Kickstarter campaign for the first Oura ring.
I came to Oura from Polar, the pioneer of consumer heart rate monitoring, where I worked for 14 years, first as the Head of Quality and later as the Head of Logistics.
Is there something you’d like to emphasize to start us off?
First of all, a big thanks to all our existing and new customers for your enthusiasm, encouragement and feedback. When you’re producing something never seen before, like the miniaturized tech and proprietary algorithms of the new Oura ring, you’re bound to go through quite a process.
It’s meticulous work with a lot of big and small steps – both forward and backward. Knowing that we’re creating this awesome product for people who expect nothing but the best from us is what keeps us rolling!
We estimated that rings will start shipping in April 2018. What happened?
Yes, that’s true, we communicated at our launch 30 November last year that shipping would start in April. We did have a comprehensive plan to support that, and a thorough risk analysis with preventive actions in place. Also, I would like to remind that we are in no way first-timers: in addition to invaluable experience gained from the first Oura ring development project and mass production, the Oura team has on average 20 years of industry experience on bringing world class products and solutions to consumers globally.
However, when pushing the limits of technology, materials and manufacturing methods to the extreme, it was impossible to know all the causalities beforehand. At each step, we needed to put together an actual functional ring, its internal software (firmware), the application, the cloud service, and test the whole system. Only then we knew which approaches and solutions work for real and which don’t. Finally, we needed to get all the authority approvals, and that just takes some time, too.
All in all, we faced all the challenges of any product development project by any company, enhanced by the extremity of our targets. I am proud of our agile team: the product is ready, shipping started in May, and now it’s just about the final steps to scale up production to its full speed.
Also, the pre-order campaign was a huge success, something we never even dared to anticipate. There are more than 20,000 pre-ordered rings. We’re now shipping rings out as quickly as possible, but it’ll take some time as production volumes always have to be increased in increments. So, with ‘shipping starts’ we meant that the deliveries will begin, and will continue from that point on. From communications point of view, we learnt that our message caused some confusion, and I apologize for that.
What’s the current situation with production?
Quality is at the very heart of Oura, it’s the most important thing for us. I would never accept us delivering a product that doesn’t meet our internal quality standards.
I would like to emphasize that even though we talk about mass production, every Oura ring is an outcome of meticulous craftsmanship. Machines make the circuit boards, yes, but the assembly, molding and finishing is done by hand and more akin to the work of goldsmiths.
As we have been optimizing the product and its manufacturing process to the last minute we are only now able to produce higher numbers of rings and alongside it, run the required extensive training periods to a higher number of factory operators. It became evident this week that even though production volumes are increasing nicely every week, it’ll still take some time to boost the fine-tuned craftsmanship process. That means that we won’t be able to reach the production volume estimate we had for June. However, we are fast approaching 1,000 rings shipped as we speak, and production volumes will be increasing all through the summer, so our ultimate target to ship all pre-orders by the end of August remains.
Can you tell a bit more about the production process?
We produce the rings in batches. This means that at a particular time, the assemblers (line operators) at the factory produce rings of specific design, color and size. These specific rings are then shipped to customers by order date. The Oura ring is a combo of 150+ parts, and comes in three designs, four colors and eight sizes, resulting in altogether 64 products. Batch production is a necessity for manufacturing these products, with methods that meet our specifications for top-notch quality.
Already at this early stage of the product life cycle, our manufacturing process has an exceptionally high success rate. In other words, if you carry materials for 100 rings to the production line, very close to 100, or even all, rings are shipped to you customers. This is the ideal situation when pushing for more capacity.
We did smaller volumes in the beginning to ensure perfect quality, high success rate, and proper learning of production line operators. The speed of production volume increase can be partially estimated based on past products, but for every new product the journey towards full-speed mass production is still unique.
The most common question we get is “when do I get my ring” and “can you give an exact delivery date”. Can you give an answer?
We fully appreciate your need to know the exact delivery date for your ring, and would love nothing more than being able to share it. Unfortunately this is very difficult due to batch production. We believe that our approach to focus primarily on running and scaling the manufacturing process as quickly as possible to get all pre-ordered rings shipped in the shortest possible time frame best serves your expectations. We trust that in the end the speediest possible actual shipment is more important to you than most accurate and frequent estimates.
Is the Oura ring a hoax?
Absolutely not. Our company’s policy is to always respect the customer, and as one token of that, our return policy is very comprehensive. If at any time during the pre-order process you feel you don’t want to wait anymore, or lose your trust in us, you can always cancel your order and get a full refund. We don’t want you ever to think that we would withhold your money without shipping you the product as soon as it’s possible.
You are also allowed to return your undamaged ring within 30 days of receipt of the ring for a full refund. The ring has a two-year limited international warranty as well, something which is in no way a default in this product category.
Is there something people can do to speed up their order?
No, there isn’t. We’re producing the rings in batches, and the batch of rings is then shipped to people who are first in line.
Is there something else you’d like to say?
The product is ready and shipping, and we’re almost there with full-speed mass production. So thank you for your patience, it won’t be long until you get your ring! We’re focusing all our efforts on one goal: getting the rings shipped to you asap. So when we say that we share your pain of waiting, we really mean that.
We’re very grateful for all the feedback we’ve received. Keep it coming also in the future, it’s a constant inspiration to us both in product development and communications. There are bunch of cool new features and enhanced experiences on the Oura roadmap, and we’re very eager to share them with you and hear your opinions! In the end, seeing people get their rings and start their journey towards better sleep is, and will be, the best (and only acceptable) outcome for this and all upcoming product development projects.