We’ve been in China for the last week or so working on the Engineering Pilot (EP) Build for the Coolest Cooler. This is the stage where the factory takes all the parts, made from all the tooling, from all the suppliers and first tries to assemble a complete product.

EP1 is where the rubber meets the road because all the parts are the REAL parts made with the REAL materials.

Here’s what we’ve learned so far:

Lesson #1: All the time, energy and resources we’ve spent sweating every detail has absolutely paid off. Both the factory and our sourcing partners have said that the Coolest has come together at this stage far better than most other projects.

Lesson #2: Stay hydrated. Every day brings new details to sweat and there are huge lessons to be learned from trying to make something new the first time. I can’t imagine how we could ever manage this process without being here every day, working with the factory engineers and rejecting or accepting minor tweaks and adjustments.

Lesson #3: Stand by your guns, but listen to the experts. There have been several parts of the Coolest that the factory suggested should be changed to improve their ability to manufacture the product. Our first step has always been to dig deep and make sure we understand why the change is suggested – and sometimes we say, “Sorry, but this is how it needs to be made.” Most times, however, the changes suggested actually improve the part or the overall system because the manufacturer has such a wealth of experience in the field.

Most of the changes are minor and relate to surface finish, edge gaps, spring tension, screw types – or simply that the space between two parts needs to be adjusted. Because it’s easier to change a tool to add plastic and remove steel than the other way around, some tools are made slightly smaller with the plan to ease up to the final dimensions.

Other parts, like our LED light, just didn’t work like we imagined. We originally planned for the LED to be glued in place, but the factory explained that would not give us a reliable seal. We also discovered that our light location was a bit too low, so that when the lid was open about 1/3 of the light would shine on the hinge rather than inside the Coolest. We discussed every possible solution with our engineer and their engineers, and a day later we had a new prototype with the LED positioned higher, and it now has a little rubber O-ring and it’s own tiny PCB to mount it in place.

There’s plenty more to share, especially as we get some new samples this next week. Stay tuned for more!