The Factory Trip
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.
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.
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.
PS: We love unicorns and ice cream.