Mark II Update: Choosing a Contract Manufacturer

Originally published at:

At Mycroft AI, we have many strengths. We engage well with our community, release software frequently, and we’re getting better at the quality of the software with our recent automated testing tools. Although we think we did OK at manufacturing the Mark I, we feel our community deserves a more robust approach for Mark II.

As some of you may remember, our largest challenge with Mark I was sourcing of vendors, and keeping up with assembly. So, even before launching our Kickstarter for the Mark II, we had been working on design with an eye toward manufacturing, and have continued on that path since.

These drivers led us to the decision to appoint a contract manufacturer (CM) to source all of the little screws and spare parts, build the printed circuit boards, and assemble the units. The contract manufacturer we select will also help us with testing and international component sources.

Basically all of the stuff we are not good at and had a hard time with during our first fulfillment.

What is a contract manufacturer?

  • A contract manufacturer is a partner that we hire to bulk purchase all of the subcomponents, build the PCBs, assemble the units, and quality test.
  • We are also leveraging their experiences and their partner network, for testing and to get us all the certifications we need for domestic and international shipments.

Why is it important to pick wisely?

  • At the end of the day, the CM plays a huge role in the final quality of the devices.
  • We will work closely with them to create a product that exceeds your expectations from a hardware standpoint and allows us to easily update the code to ensure you are running the latest version. Trust that they can build a quality device while we focus on software is key.
  • Picking a CM is kind of like picking partner for the next few years. Changing down the road can cause timing issues and significant costs. But, a fruitful relationship can yield a better product, shipped to you faster.

Where are we at?

  • We have rigorously assessed several potential partners, and it is apparent that there are vast differences between these shops. Some specialize in just one aspect of the build, like final assembly, and some can do everything from supply chain to final testing and shipping.
  • We have narrowed it down to three choices, and are now going through the process of evaluating their capabilities, getting back quotes, and securing the right one for Mycroft.

What are the challenges in this process?

  • Lead Times, Lead Times, Lead Times. As anyone in manufacturing knows, most lead times for components are about 2-6 weeks. BUT we initially ran into challenges with memory. Currently, we are sitting at 36 week lead time. Luckily we have already pre-purchased some of these parts, and the remaining needed to fulfill demand have been delegated to us via a contract.
  • We’re currently wrapping up work with the mechanical and acoustic engineers that our design team has partnered with. Those are now ready for the design for manufacturing stage. This is one of my favorite stages due to the fact that the goal is to reduce some costs of the device without sacrificing quality. At Mycroft, we aren’t as concerned with the price, but trimming this down allows us to offer it at competitive prices to the Tech Giants that are eagerly giving these away well below costs because their business is your business.
Stay tuned for more updates on Mark II's production. You can get RSS for Mycroft's blog at and subscribe to the newsletter at the bottom of the page.