ok, i bought plane tickets so i can make both of the meetings below, as well as the trip to the maasai village if the new design shellers are working by sunday.
sunday night at 8 i'm flying on precision air turbo prop (wish me luck with that one) from kilimanjaro to nairobi, and monday night at 5:30 from nairobi to dar to make the tuesday meetings. i'm not getting a ticket back to arusha yet from dar in case there are more meetings there. but any additional meetings in nairobi monday will have to end by 2:30 so i can get to the airport by 3:30. follow up meetings in nairobi should be scheduled for jodie on the 16th, and i'll mention that during my meetings as well.
all 3 units here seemed beyond repair, the old and the new shellers after 2 days of demos at Nane-Nane, and the grinder which never worked at all. so I asked around and the expat business owners recommended Karam Engineering right here in Arusha. I spoke with the Indian father and son who own the place. They have lots of advanced machines of all types, 40 people working simultaneously all day, and in addition to extensive prototyping experience they are now running a large operation to produce every MoneyMaker pump sold in Tanzania, and gradually ramping up that production as those sales grow. I saw the factory floor where the pumps were being made. It was a very impressive operation, definitely African in appearance in terms of safety equipment and cleanliness, but nonetheless stocked with a full complement of all the necessary machines.
I left the bike with the new sheller with them, as well as a grinder and sample parts from our rahi. They said the design had 3 major issues that they could see immediately:
1. Much of the metal was too thin for holding the unit still and keeping the shaft from bending, considering the forces involved. They weren't going to do real finite element analysis or anything like we would do if we were designing it in the US, but they clearly had the experience to make a much better guess at component strength than we did.
2. The joint between the rahi and the sheller or grinder needed to have a bearing, and needed to be centrally supported in the frame right at that bearing, in order to once again keep the axis from eventually driving the upper gear out of alignment under the full force of the shelling or grinding.
3. The design had to accommodate different size shellers and grinders, and the ability to more easily switch devices.
They said that the current unit we showed them could not be repaired, and I agree strongly after watching Chris mess with it for a whole week. On the plus side, they said they'll have a preliminary design for us and a working prototype in 2 days, in time for the peak of Nane Nane on Saturday, and possibly for our Maasai village trip on Sunday. If they pull it off successfully and get us out of the jam we're in, I'll ask them to re-build the other sheller and grinder demo units next week, and if they succeed with that and give us a fair price, I will ask them to build all 30 shellers and 10 grinders that we currently have (or Jodie will if I'm gone by then).
In other news, the lawyers are now promising that the corporate registration papers will be finished tomorrow, and they are apparently sending people to Dar next week for some other reason, so they may be willing to file them for us for a fraction of the original $1500 they asked for. I don't feel like this is a rush, but it's nice to get it out of the way, so that Jodie can open a local bank account, and look for office space in Arusha as soon as she arrives.
Summary of meetings for Semyon coming up:
- Acumen Fund
- Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives