Many of you signed up for this journey because you love the process of Kickstarter and the collaborative creation of something new. You appreciate the transparency and attempts to chronicle the wild, unforeseen, and unbelievable challenges a project like ours has had, and you've encouraged us to stick to the plan of creating an innovative quality product that we will all be proud of no matter the cost or wait.
On the other hand, there are some of you who are justifiably dizzy and nauseous from this wild ride and just want off this roller coaster as soon as possible. And we know you just want to get down to business: e.g. "Where's my %@ belt?!"
...and, of course, there's everyone in between.
We totally get it. Who knows which camp we'd be in if we weren't directly involved with this thing.
We're VERY THANKFUL for each one of you all the same and wouldn't have this opportunity without you. Contrary to the old adage "you can't please everyone", this update is an attempt to do so to the best of our current ability. For the former folks, we'll offer the behind-the-scenes details at the end and for the latter, let's get straight to the facts first and then we have an offer you might be interested in (see Swap Option below).
THE QUICK FACTS
- We've shipped Cache Belts to over 1000 Backers so far.
- This recent buckle shipment arrived damaged from shipping and a VERY high unexpected QC rejection rate.
- The anticipated 3,750 buckles were reduced to approximately 800 "good buckles."
- The next batch of 6,250 buckles have already been stamped but are on hold. We are waiting for updated samples to give the go-ahead to continue assembly and plating.
- Shipping damage resulted in 415 damaged buckles and 619 missing.
- The shipping damage occurred under the custody of FedEx and the appropriate actions have been taken for a remedy (sadly, this does not fix the damaged buckles, nor does it make the missing reappear).
- The main factor for the high QC rejection rate was small nicks and scratches on the material surface (details below).
- The manufacturer has been testing various changes to the production processes, including but not limited to: having all the raw metal sheets protected with a plastic layer, lower batch tumbling, smaller media during tumbling, post-polishing, post-sand blasting, and post-brushing the steel.
- We believe we have narrowed in on a cocktail of new protocols and processes that should curb most if not all of the defect issues.
- We are waiting for verification from the factory that all of our changes are scalable so that we can continue to scale batches while maintaining quality.
- We already have the next batch of 6,250 buckles stamped and on hold waiting for approval of the new processes. Of these, 1000 are already assembled.
- At this time, we do not have a new timeline that we can we can confidently pass along for this next batch but you can bet we are pushing extremely hard on all parties involved to hustle and work through validating these new systems.
- The first run was focused on only gray buckles for sake of expediting the production, but this next batch will be a combination of black and gray.
- It is possible that our rejected buckles might still serve some people's purposes and for this, we want to offer a compromise that we hope will make as many people as happy as possible. See below for details.
SWAP OPTION (Get It Sooner)
As you know Kickstarter is a crowdfunding project that was established to help a company turn an idea into a product. For our company, we want to strive for perfection. Our goal has always been to deliver a product we can be proud to put our name on, and especially now worth the extremely long wait.
However, given the circumstances and the open-nature of crowdfunding projects, we thought it would be proper to offer some of you a choice in the matter. A compromise between our definition of acceptable quality and your immediate needs for a buckle.
Our in-house QC failed an unexpectedly high number of the recently received buckles. Most of them could be considered cosmetic.
Below is a few examples of the reason the buckles were rejected. Due to the matte finish, the actual flaws may vary from what they look like in real life and from different angles. These images are meant only as a reference and cannot represent the full extent and severity of these blemishes. Assume they are more visible and look worst in person.
Various size nicks in the surface metal.
Scratches on the surface metal.
SO, HERE'S THE DEAL...
If for whatever reason you'd rather receive the buckle quickly in spite of its cosmetic characteristics, we will offer to ship your belt with one of these rejected buckles we currently have in stock. Please see stipulations below.
Officially speaking, we would not recommend that you opt for this option as we would rather the opportunity to deliver you the buckle at the quality we set out for from the beginning and one that you deserve. If no one chooses to take us up on this offer, that's perfectly OK. We are simply trying to make everyone happy and for some backers that might mean a preference to sacrifice aesthetic quality for immediate use.
Although we will assure that it is in 100% working order and will be properly plated, we cannot guarantee which flaw(s) and to what extent will appear on your rejected buckle. Be prepared for worst case scenario.
Sorry, but we will not be able to provide these as extras, freebies, or discounted items. It is not certain yet, but these rejects will likely be recycled or bought back by the factory to recoup costs.
Choosing this option means that you are opting to swap the future perfected buckle for a currently flawed buckle and this will count as the fulfillment of your pledge. Unfortunately, as items rejected for quality purposes, these buckles will not be backed with our Worry Less Lifetime Warranty. Our buckles are interchangeable so if you choose to purchase a buckle in the future, it will still work with your belt. Once all pledges have been fulfilled, we will be selling extra good buckles on our website.
How To Swap To A Rejected Buckle
NOTE: ONLY fill this form out if you want to swap to a rejected buckle.
NOTE: This is ONLY for the GRAY buckles. If your pledge still contains any black buckles we do not have any at this time and therefore cannot apply this option to your pledge.
1) Fill out this simple form with the same email address you used on your pledge:
2) There is no 2... we are trying to make this easy!
AND THE STORY CONTINUES...
If you have any friends that practice voodoo or know anyone that can remove curses, please have them work some magic for us. Stamping, bending, and plating metal parts is not a complex process in general, nor is it the most complex part of this Cache Belt. Luckily, we have Nick, a former rocket scientist, so we can insert with authority the "this ain't rocket science" joke here. At this point, we're thankful this has been documented in the form of Kickstarter Updates, but boy do we wish a camera crew could have been making a reality show about this drama-filled fiasco.
Here's a recap of the most recent months:
6 Manufacturing companies, 4 sets of tooling, and 8 months of delay finally got us to an approved sample. Thumbs up were given to produce parts same as the sample. Manufacturing of 5000 Gray buckles began. 1250 of them were rejected by the manufacturers on our behalf (assumed to be good quality control on their end... whoops). The remaining 3750 were late being produced but we stayed hopeful that we'd get them within a week and they'd be good to go!
On the day it was scheduled for delivery, it never arrived. Tennessee warehouse said they shipped it to Texas. Tracking says it is in Texas warehouse. Texas warehouse said they didn't receive it. FedEx doesn't know where our 400 lb pallet of buckles is.
A day later, they arrive.
As the delivery guy begins unloading our pallet of buckles out of the truck. It's obvious, something is not right.
Imagine this: We're giddy, wearing silly hats, phones out ready to video this momentous moment, special homebrew in the fridge, and ready to celebrate the receipt of these long-awaited buckles. Only to find the boxes are exploded, plastic wrapped back together, buckles are in trash bags, and otherwise a hodge-podge into what vaguely resembles a shipment. Yet another gut punch! The beer is still unopened in the fridge.
"That's OK" we said... We designed these to be strong and durable. We opted for the more expensive PVD coating so it can withstand almost anything. We can still salvage this.... Right? It takes over a week and a half to inspect each and every one only to find out that in the end, we are actually missing 619 buckles.
On top of the damage and missing buckles, inspection reveals that these do not match the samples we approved. The buckles we were supposed to be sandblasted to remove material imperfections before plating. Apparently, this was changing dimensional tolerances and they claim it was actually warping buckles (yeah, I still don't understand what sort of rocket-powered sand blaster they were using that could warp parts, but I think I want one!) so they opted to remove that step without telling us.
After some long, heated discussions, they are finally working towards remedying the problem. We have been working with the factory to get this QC issue dramatically reduced. The major issue that we had to address (and apparently the factory did not recognize this as an issue) is that the tumbling process used to deburr the buckles was actually causing them to clash against each other, creating more dings and nicks on the surface. Most coatings cover the surface and act as fillers for small imperfections. Using a process like PVD that directly embeds into the metal surface means that it doesn't hide any flaws. The only solution is to remedy their flaws.
This 2nd batch of 6250 buckles was made from a material that has a plastic protective layer to help prevent small surface imperfections and tool marks. They have also reduced the size of the media in the tumbling process and reduced the quantity of buckles per batch in the tumbler. The samples have shown great promise already in greatly improved the surface appearance and even cut down more on the edge burrs.
As it stands right now we are waiting for all parties involved to complete their portion of the process on the samples to verify that the finished results match what we already approved months back. This should have happened last week, but it has been rolled into this next week. Once approved, the 5,000+ already stamped pieces will go through the processes of small batch tumbling, PVD coating, and then shipped to us. We pressed them for a timeline, and have not been able to get anything we can hold them to. Standby for updates with batch 2 as soon as we get them.
We know we've said this a lot, but truly we're not sure we could have persevered all these continual holdups and letdowns without your support. We really appreciate the personal notes we receive every now and again. Here's some we got along the way with some of the first reviews of the Cache Belt:
"As a retired engineer from PENNZOIL and living very nearby your office from time to time, I cannot tell you how many late deliveries I have had to deal with over the years. It makes us wanna cry sometimes.
However, I am retired and do truly understand your delivery issues. I just want to provide a comment of support and best wishes with this project.
(Note) If you did take off with the cash to a Caribbean destination, I probably would not blame you for that. Houston has just gotten sorta wet and nasty lately and getting away is exactly what I used to do!"
~Steve K. (Everett, WA)
"I know you have received some good positive support, with the negative and I just wanted to add myself to former. Thank you for you for being so translucent with everyone, sticking to the regular updates, even when all you may have had to update everyone with was ‘we are still working hard,’ and for not compromising the design to get the product rushed to us. I’d be lying if I said I am not eagerly awaiting your product, and that I have not been disappointed with the delays, but thanks for the effort."
~Adam P. (Chicago, IL)
"I received my cache belt a couple days ago and love it so much that I bought another for my sister. Thank you for making such a useful product."
~ Teresa C.
"After a long wait (due to a vendor issue) I received my Cache Belt and I have to say the quality is spot on. Very nice materials, very robust looking but still very minimal. I think this will make an excellent addition to my EDC gear!"
"I finally got my hands on this belt and it has been worth the wait. The buckle is solid, the quality of the belt is first rate, and I am thrilled with this product. Wazoo has always offered great customer service and great products, and this is yet another example of their quality and workmanship."