When manufacturing the Dygma Raise in 2019, we traveled to China at least five times in less than a year. But the COVID pandemic changed everything.
For example, we had to set up a fulfillment facility here in Spain to have proper quality control. And we hired people in China to be our manufacturing and shipping liaisons.
With that, we managed to manufacture several batches of the Dygma Raise, launch and manufacture the tenting kit, and kick off the Dygma Defy production.
However, it’s always easier to find suppliers and solve problems on the ground than to send samples back and forth across the globe.
So, as soon as China announced that it opened its borders to foreigners with reasonable quarantines, we prepared a trip for our lead product designer, Manel.
He would have to stay in a random hotel for a week. Eating the same sad noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But he was willing to take one for the team 🍜
✅ The requisites to travel to China
On December 2022, to travel to China, you needed:
- A visa
- A passport
- Booked hotels and flights
- AND a negative PCR performed 48 hours BEFORE YOUR ARRIVAL, which had to be verified by the embassy through an online procedure BEFORE BOARDING THE PLANE.
Then, and only then, they send the green QR code you need to travel.
So, we got the VISA, the flights, and the hotels… and designed an elaborate plan to get the timing right with the PCR.
The flight to Guangzhou from Madrid via Abu Dhabi is 20 hours long, and it departs at 9:45 am, so we had to be precise in our calculations.
🗺️ The plan
Manel traveled to Madrid the day before the flight, and we had booked an express PCR test late in the evening.
That way, the results would be in during the night (they take 6 hours), and we would submit them to the embassy first thing in the morning. This would give us time in case the flight was delayed.
So, he took the test, had a nice dinner paid for by Dygma, and went to sleep.
Early in the morning, we filled out the online form to submit the negative PCR results to the embassy with the rest of the documentation.
But it didn’t give us a QR code 😱
Instead, a message informed us that someone would review and validate the application.
We frantically checked all our emails, spam folder, and phone messages… Nothing.
We also called the embassy. Nothing 😱😱😱😱
Ok, calm down -we said to ourselves.
Let’s get Manel to the airport, catch the flight to Abu Dhabi, and we’ll have the green QR ready when he lands there.
🛂 The terminal
So, he rushes to the airport and goes straight to the check-in counters.
The staff from the airline are very friendly, but they have devastating news: they can’t let him board without the green QR code.
Even though he’s not technically flying to China yet, and has a negative PCR and all the paperwork, the system doesn’t let them issue the boarding pass.
They also explained that they would face heavy sanctions if they let him on the plane.
Of course, we wrote and called the embassy again and again –hell, Manel even went there– but they only respond via email 🙈
We got the approval mid-afternoon, but it was too late. Manel had lost the flight and felt like Tom Hanks in The Terminal.
It’s just crazy that with such a tight timeframe, it all depends on a manual process you have no control over 🤬
After he returned to Valencia, we dug deeper to find anyone who had flown to China, and similar stories popped up.
We also heard from our connections in China that lockdowns in our factories’ region were increasing every day: even if we had gotten there, we could have been quarantined most of the time 😷
⁉️ So, what now?
If you’ve been watching the news, China has changed its Zero COVID strategy to “COVID-WHO?”
Lockdowns have been raised, and now China is under a huge COVID wave. Many people are getting sick, and of course, it’s heavily affecting our suppliers.
With that scenario and the Chinese New Year around the corner, we have started organizing a trip for early February. That way, it’s more likely that everything is as back to normal as possible and travel restrictions will be lifted or eased.
In the meantime, we’ll continue pushing the mass production of the Dygma Defy remotely as much as we can.
Right now, we are making the final adjustments to the components, like the tenting legs and the palm pads, and finishing the DVT of the electronics.
We’re also making good progress with the keyboard's final firmware and software so we can start user testing.
In fact, I have been using a pre-manufacturing Dygma Defy for almost a month, tinkering with my layers and all, so feel free to ask any questions if you want.
Finally, when Manel goes to China in February, he’ll be able to check that everything is on point to launch mass production of all the components.
Once the components are ready, we’ll assemble a first small run that we’ll send to the early-bird backers by the end of April. And the rest of the keyboards will be shipped during May and June.
We know this is a significant change, and we’re deeply sorry 🙏
We’re doing all we can to expedite the process, but we didn’t expect a massive COVID outbreak that has profoundly affected our plans, including this failed trip.
We hope that at least Manel’s adventures at the airport amused you.
Dziękuję Ci 🇵🇱