When I just landed at Guangzhou airport, I was greeted by a clean new built airport and yet more advanced security measurements.
I proudly past by all the baggage hussle, as an experienced traveler by now, and was greeted by the factory driver at the arrivals. After a short talk with the driver using my limited amount of Chinese, I decided to start writing. It’s time to blow some steam.
But Calder, why are you back in China again? Wasn’t the production, like uh, a month ago?
Yes, you are right. And I’ll tell you even something better. This is the last week before Chinese New Year (CNY) and boy, let me tell you, that’s a big deal. A month before CNY, a lot of Chinese citizens will already go on holiday to avoid the immense traffic jams and mere commuting hell that happens shortly before CNY. And the traffic isn’t only domestic, it’s also international.
However, I’m not here to visit family for the CNY holiday. I’m here to quality check a Wooting one production and make sure the Wooting (two) accessories are shipped out before the factory closes for a month. The accessories being the real pain in the butt. More on this later.
For anybody in ecommerce/retail, the busiest time of the year is in the last quarter building up to December. Christmas and new year’s eve. When that passes, it’s hangover January and things start afresh.
For Wooting however, this is different. We get to enjoy the stress from above, quickly followed by the bag of pressure that comes from Chinese New Year (CNY).
The impact of CNY already starts when the majority of factory workers take a month early holiday to avoid the CNY commuting hell. Everybody is suddenly short-handed and, of course, everybody tries to squeeze a last moment something before CNY hits off. This means higher defect rates, slower productions, delays, unexpected issues, expensive shipping cost and more.
Calder, are you telling me this impacted our Wooting two shipment?
Yes and no. The Wooting two already all finished production, and all the stock is either at location or in transit. However, the accessories, that being the switch boxes and PBT keycaps, are still in the factory and if they don’t ship out before CNY, then it’ll be stuck there for at least a full 2 weeks.
The issue is, we can’t ship a lot of your orders without the accessories and, of course, we want to avoid having to ship another time afterward.
Oh no! But fear not. I’m in China. Let me explain how things went and will go down without compromises.
The PBT keycaps and switches are far easier to produce than the Wooting two but we greatly struggled with the packaging. It was a war between brand value and effectiveness. I mean, here’s a couple of packaging iterations that we had for the switch box.
It’s awesome, but it wasn’t cost effective. The first required opening a mould that couldn’t pay itself back fast enough and the second per piece price was ridiculous. For other ideas, we couldn’t find an appropriate supplier, and everything just took too long. In the end, we decided to go for the ol’school carton box style with product packed in a premium ziplock bag inside.
This decision was made early November with prototypes approved near the end. Not too late for our schedule according to manufacturing partners. But apparently, they were overly positive in their ability. They underestimated the time it took for the ziplock bags to be made by a bit more than 2 weeks. So, this meant we had to ship the accessories separate from the keyboards if we wanted to hit our deadline. Not a major deal, but we could have saved a few thousand dollars here.
Little did I expect that the first delivery of the keycap manufacturer (one of the largest in China) was a disappointment. Their defect rate was higher than what our quality standards can accept (x% of total quantity defective) and we had to return the entire batch. Mind is blown, since a large portion of keyboard brands make use of their keycaps. Furthermore, we are their new customer, you’d expect a good first impression for greater future business.
This delayed the entire delivery by a good 10 working days. They shipped out the keycaps last Monday (21st). Usually, it takes 2 working days to receive the goods. However, they used a particular cheap shipping company that didn’t only have a longer lead time but also was short-handed (CNY) for delivery. Even worse, when we had received it last Friday, we found out it was a partial shipment without any notice about a second shipment.
That Friday, we decided to cancel the PBT keycaps until after Chinese new year, to then ship them separately. We’d publish an announcement this week and I’d be salty.
This is not that announcement.
Thankfully, we had received the second shipment on Saturday and our manufacturer, Adomax, was still able to hit the deadline. Today (Mo 28th) and tomorrow (Tue 29th), I should see the accessories leave the factory. Now I can only be salty by the additional costs we incur by sending it literally in the last week before CNY and the amount of additional stress this has caused.
Alright, so what does this mean for the shipping plan?
Initially, we wanted to avoid a situation in which a group of people would receive their keyboard later than others. We felt this was unfair and we wanted everybody to receive it around the same time. That’s why we held off shipping individual keyboard orders in North America.
Now that the accessories are on their way, we don’t want to further delay shipments and kick-off shipping orders that don’t include accessories in North America first. The accessories will quickly arrive (we used an express courier) in our warehouses next week, and then we can kick off all the other shipments as well.
For Europe, we are still able to follow the proposed schedule as found on our website or discord.
For International, I’m personally helping to ship individual orders this week from the Factory. This, however, this only concerns 84 orders. There’s still a bunch that will ship from our Netherlands warehouse, so hold on patiently.
When the shipments go out, an automated email with tracking number will go out to your registered email address from our web store or Kickstarter.
Update Jan, 30th: Accessories shipped out, 84 International orders were picked up, and I’m heading back home.
That was my mumble. I just want to make sure everybody is on the same page as we are. We’re a small team, and your cooperation brings us a long way.
Just thinking about this, I have to admit, I have deep respect for you. You’re the one patiently waiting, placing trust in me and the team, and supporting what we stand for. Without this attitude, without this trust, patience, and support, Wooting would be non-existent. And you know what, I love this and I don’t want to stop.
You are what makes the team and pushes Wooting forward. Thank you.