WonderLab update - October 2022
By Paul McKay
Dear AW community,
As the summer sun slowly fades into memory - taking with it the surge in photography that happens every August - I'd like to update you on the status and progress of our on-site WonderLab.
And in a slightly unusual twist, I'll start by sharing a review that I think summarises perfectly the feedback that we've been getting over the past few weeks.
Why am I sharing this?
It might be a slightly unusual step - sharing critical feedback with all our website visitors - but I firmly believe in being honest and transparent with our community. Particularly when it involves something as precious and personal as developing your films!
We know that a three-week turnaround is not good enough.
In the below section I'll explain why the turnaround is so long at the moment, and what we're doing to improve it.
But before I do, I want to highlight that it's not all doom and gloom - far from it! As you see in that review (and the hundreds of other 5* that are on our site) folks are consistently praising the exceptional quality of the results produced by our lab. They also love the ease of use (free tracked shipping labels; the ability to see photos within their customer account etc)
So my priority is fixing the turnaround without losing the amazing quality or ease of use, so that people can get their beautiful scans and negatives back quickly and easily.
The Wonderlab launched last October with 1 colour developer, 1.5 scanners, and 1 B&W Jobo. We had 3 lab technicians and could comfortably process 30-50 rolls per day.
Today we have... 3 colour developers, 5 scanners, 2 B&W Jobos and 3 specialist editing computers. We employ 10 people in the lab alone, and our capacity (in theory) has more than tripled!
But in reality... it's not that simple 😭
Most of that increase has come over the summer, and for every addition of a new machine there is a period of installation, servicing, and incorporating into the system. Similarly for every new hire there is a period of training, teaching and supervision - to make sure that as a lab we are producing consistently excellent results.
Plus (as any System Engineer could have told me at the start!) the more elements you add to a process, the more issues arise as they interact with each other in new and complex ways.
All this means that while our capacity has tripled in theory, in reality it's taking time to realise the benefit.
The fundamental change is that we've started to treat the lab like the complex 'image factory' that it is.
So this means learning more about the science of complicated systems, and redesigning our internal processes from scratch to unleash the capacity of our people and equipment.
This is likely to take us a couple of months to finalise, but the result will be a much faster and more efficient lab - one which can turn around your films in a couple of days from receipt, and with the same super-high standards on quality and results.
In the meantime:
- we are all working as hard as possible to drive down the backlog. Including the warehouse and office folk putting in shifts in the lab (under close supervision! 😂) so that three weeks will steadily start to come down
- I'm investing to upgrade our software so that you get more regular updates about the progress of your films through the lab. Automatically generated as your order moves from received --> developed --> scanned --> edited
That last one doesn't affect timings, but it will help communication so that you are always clear on 'where' your film is.
And after that...we will get back onto building new services, printing and chemistry options!
I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported our lab since it opened less than a year ago.
Particularly those who have got in touch, left reviews, chatted to our staff, and otherwise helped us continually improve.
It's an unbelievable privilege to know that you trust us with your precious films, and I'm really excited about taking our service to the next level.
- Paul, on behalf of the full Analogue WonderLab team
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