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Get big budget camera moves from a jib (crane) that weighs less than a bottle of soda, fits in a backpack, and sets up in seconds.
Get big budget camera moves from a jib (crane) that weighs less than a bottle of soda, fits in a backpack, and sets up in seconds.
Get big budget camera moves from a jib (crane) that weighs less than a bottle of soda, fits in a backpack, and sets up in seconds.
502 backers pledged $223,192 to help bring this project to life.

The Factory Trip

Hello Backers!

I'm just back from the factory. You can see several images of The Aviator getting built in this update.

I'm not sure how much everyone wants to hear about the process I'm going through, so I'll share a bit and if it's too much, please feel free not to read past the shipping update.

Shipping update:
The first bunch (almost 400) units should start shipping this week and next week. The remaining units (after those 400) hopefully are going out by the 2nd week of December. There was a problem (that we have since taken care of, but is adding to the delay) with the Carbon Fiber units (details below) so all of the first 400 shipping are Mag Alloy jibs. Tracking numbers should be emailed to you once your jib is sent out.

Leveling the bubble levels. There's an art to it.

Attaching the bubble level to the bracket.

Getting there.

Completed jibs.

OK. Feel free to skip the rest.

The Factory Trip:

Ah, the joys of overseas manufacturing. I am not asking anyone to feel sorry for me. Of course this was going to be hard. Having never done anything quite like this before - and thinking we were maybe going to have 50-100 backers - I really wasn't expecting there to be so many hurdles. Yet hurdles keep-a comin'.

Again, please, this is not a woe is me update. I'm only sharing some of the details in case some of you are curious or getting ready to take on this type of project.

So... Twice a week for weeks leading up to my most recent trip to the factory I sent emails to my contact at the factory in China explaining how critical it was that we finished the products and that I was not changing my arrival date. And that I needed to inspect the full, completed run the day I arrived.

I took a car to the airport and 28 hours later (after a few planes and a 3 hour drive through parts of China) I arrived at my hotel. It was a nice hotel. I didn't really think about it that much because I had just found out that instead of having the whole run of jibs completed they actually only had zero finished. Yes. Zero. None. Not-a-one.

Some people may think we're some huge, heartless company, who couldn't care less about it's customers, maybe we even hate unicorns and ice cream. But anyone who has written asking questions can tell you, I reply myself to every one, usually within 24 hours and often within the hour. The company is my wife, my 4 year old boy, and myself. And to be honest, my 4 year old does very little to help. We have advisers, and a huge established factory making the jibs, but when someone emails me and tells me they needed the jib for a project and now it won't be there in time, I feel bad. Again, I'm not saying feel sorry for me because I feel bad. I deserve it. Anyway, all that is to say when I found out a single jib wasn't finished it brought on a nausea that I haven't been able to shake.

Fortunately the factory put on triple shifts and got the final assembly in gear. The first 24 hours after assembly the jibs can't be touched as some of the parts have to cure. It was a long 24 hours. The following day I started inspecting jibs. 90% of the first 50 jibs failed my inspection. My stomach turned inside out. It was a nightmare.

Fortunately it was an assembly issue and not only were they able to quickly get those 50 up to spec, but the remainder came off the line already done right. Phew!

Waiting for more jibs to "cure" I walked around and looked at the parts. What was this? They used the WRONG kind of carbon fiber. When I pointed it out, they tried to tell me it was the right one. But clearly it was not. Then they tracked down the work order and agreed they hadn't used the one that was on the work order (they used a less expensive - lower quality carbon). So they tried to get me to agree to use it anyway. No. I will probably have to pay for all the wrong carbon that they'll now have to throw away even though it was their mistake. But I told them to start over with the right carbon fiber. And they have. But it adds to the delay. Then they told me all 25 of their CNC machines are working around the clock making the brackets for the jib and they just need more time. I complained. I begged. I went through the The Five Stages of Grief. But it's just the way it is.

While I was there they told me the delay would only be an additional 3 days. But after those three days have passed they are now saying it could be as much as 3 weeks.

The people at the factory are all very nice, but the delays are maddening and the cost savings of making it overseas have evaporated. So if you are considering manufacturing overseas, keep this in mind. It may not be worth it.

Fortunately most of the Kickstarter backers will have their jibs shipped out either this week or next. For those who have to wait a bit longer, I am sorry. The best news is that the jibs look and work great. I very, very, very much look forward to everyone getting their jibs and watching the stories you tell with a little help from The Aviator.

Thank you for taking this ride with me - even if you didn't plan on it being a roller coaster when it started.

Still have lots to do, so responses to comments and email may take a while.

Cheers,
Zeke

PS: We love unicorns and ice cream.

Comments

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    1. chris.bernard@live.com on December 8, 2012

      Fascinating story and thank you for sharing. I think folks can learn a lot from your story.

    2. Missing avatar

      Daniel shinault on November 28, 2012

      Thanks Zeke, for the update I could not help but laugh as I sit in an apartment in china and read your e-mail. Having grown up in China I can picture exactly what you went through on your last visit, I hope that your experience has not tainted your view of china as a whole. I understand that the manufacturing is difficult especially quality-control and I appreciate your dedication to a high quality product. I am looking forward to getting my Jib.

      Daniel

    3. Jim Allen on November 27, 2012

      Thanks for the update and don't sweat the fight to get it right, the product is a reflection of your vision and perseverance. I look forward to using mine when it's ready and wish you the best of luck in the future scale up of the product to meet the hoped for demand. I sure wouldn't pay for the wrong carbon tubes if the work order specified the right stuff and it was their mistake. I second another commenter's point if you do end up paying for them, pack the incorrect tubes up and bring 'em home with you. You can make Nice Industries mini-pods or something with them. Even if you use them to hit rocks over the back fence with them, at least you got them. Thanks again and good luck!

    4. Kenyon Gerbrandt on November 27, 2012

      500 backers, a quarter million in funding and what seems to be a cutting edge product. Don't think you have too much to hang your head over...keep your chin up dude. Stuff happens. As a backer, the pictures of all those finished jibs got me excited, despite all the delays and hardship! I admire the risk you've taken here and hope you get justly rewarded for it. You've given us all a great introduction to Entrepreneurship 101.

    5. Thomas on November 27, 2012

      Hey Zeke,

      I'm an international backer from Australia and I recently filled out the survey, however I haven't paid for overseas shipping yet.
      As you're beginning shipping now I was wondering what I should do?

      Tom.

    6. Missing avatar

      Steven A Quan on November 27, 2012

      Zeke, I'm curious about your long term plans. You don't have to address this right away since you're busy, maybe later. Sounds like a small operation. Makes me wonder how Apple can make and ship 10 million iPhones within a month, wahh! Somehow I envisioned the Aviator Travel Jib being on B&H and Adorama, competing with those other expensive jibs and being very popular. But now it sounds like it's rather difficult, or is it?

      I think once the manufacturing kinks get worked out, it should be smooth sailing would it not? Over the long haul you could actually get some savings because labor in China is cheaper. It's a cultural thing to expect less over there having been raised by Chinese parents and been to China a couple times.

      In any case, I hope you haven't been too dejected with the process. It sounds like it's the first time doing this sort of thing and I guess we'll see if you will be in this for the long haul or not. If not, at least we'll all have our "one of a kind" travel jibs for our memories.

      I wonder what would have happened if you worked with a giant like Foxconn? They have so many employees they could probably pound out Aviator Travel Jibs by the thousands per day if they wanted to.

    7. Marshall Harrington on November 27, 2012

      Hey Zeke, Just got to say after having read all the crazy things that have happened with all the angst and stress, well the next part is going to be much better. You are going to see some amazing shots that have been made. You'll be a part of each of them. No one will remember all the details as much as you. Hopefully no one will enjoy all the great work that's about to happen . . . Thanks Zeke and thanks to your family. Wishing you a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving.

    8. Paul Broadhurst on November 26, 2012

      Thanks for the updates. It's great to hear about the manufacturing process.

    9. Jeff Mcneill on November 26, 2012

      Such is the way of business. Appreciate the update. Note: there are other countries to outsource production as well as China and the US. For one, Thailand where I live. But there will always be miscommunication and misunderstanding and mistakes. Roll with it. I think you've done a great job so far.

    10. Missing avatar

      Thomas Snide on November 26, 2012

      Zeke - Thanks for your perseverance. It would have been easy to accept a lower quality product and take the money and run. Instead you took the high road and we all appreciate it.

    11. R on November 26, 2012

      Thanks for the honest updates, looking forward for your "return" ;)

    12. Missing avatar

      Tim Stolk on November 26, 2012

      Hey Zeke... thanks for the update. We all chose to back a product that didn't exist yet, so the rollercoaster is precisely what we signed up for. Your determination to do this right is a testimony to your character, and a great endorsement for the product we'll eventually get.

    13. David Kong on November 26, 2012

      Thanks for the update, Zeke. I'm excited to get mine :) and I appreciate you keeping us informed as things go. The worst thing is when delays happen but the company is silent.

    14. Missing avatar

      Darren Leung on November 26, 2012

      Yes, Zeke, it's true: Chinese manufacturing is broken promise waiting to happen.
      Even if you have someone on-site during every stage, it's essentially standard practice for mfrs (I use this ambiguously) to cut every corner they possibly can, even if there's no cost benefit to them. How do they get away with this? Simple: bribe your QA guy until he says things are 99% to spec.

      It's a tough, tough lesson for us all, but mostly for you because you have a conscience. Just remember that the US wouldn't necessarily be much better. For an example, just look at A123 and how the company has been reduced to shambles because of one out-of-spec piece of equipment on its assembly line.

      Stay strong. Pace yourself. Try to enjoy the food. Don't pay for the BS mistake they made unless you're planning to walk away with those tubes in hand because I bet you anything they will just turn around use them in a knockoff as soon as you leave... and it will have been at your cost.

    15. Tony Frasher on November 26, 2012

      Thanks for the update!

    16. Nice Industries 4-time creator on November 26, 2012

      Michael - we're looking into it.

    17. Missing avatar

      Michael Rizzo on November 26, 2012

      Does this mean you'll have the next run of products made in America? You get what you pay for.

    18. Logan Frick on November 26, 2012

      Thrilled to hear they will be shipping very soon, Zeke! After having read about products that are update-less and not shipping after over a year on Kickstarter, it's a pleasure to know that you are not only making an incredible product but also putting your all into getting it out to us in a timely fashion.