Moving forward; looking back
In the last few weeks we reached a couple of milestones here at Joeveo, completing fulfillment of the brushed stainless mugs for both our US and international backers. Of our approximately 5,000 Kickstarter backers, the only ones who are still waiting as of this writing are thirteen of those who opted for the black oxide mugs, which entail a more labor-intensive finishing process.
Meanwhile, we await the mug parts that will allow us to fulfill the post-Kickstarter pre-orders.
It’s an appropriate time to think about what a journey the Temperfect project has been so far.
If nothing else, our Kickstarter backers have been treated to a really good story during their long wait for rewards. Three years ago around this time we were in the beginnings of our long (we had no idea!) back-and-forth with factories over the tooling production for the mugs and parts. We had encountered the first of many bewildering redesigns by factories and were learning to navigate around language barriers (did you know that drill bits are literally "red needles" in Chinese?).
During the Kickstarter campaign, plans had been for this stage to get done pretty quickly. “I expect to be able to get the complete tooling production underway in two weeks,” Dean wrote to backers in December 2013. Instead, the initial tool-making process took eight months, and in fact many, many more tools were made throughout the project as they were perfected.
During that time, Dean was also dealing with a bit of a debacle closer to home. A tree had fallen on his garage workshop, where he had been busily working on process development. Repairs of a sort that should have been completed in a month or two were well into their fourth month (and went on to take nine months).
This time two years ago we had received some samples showing progress, and we optimistically believed that the final problems standing in the way of production had been resolved. “Barring further intervention of Murphy's law, we should have pre-production mug body samples soon and will be able to green-light production,” Dean wrote to our Kickstarter backers, who had at that point been waiting 13 months for their rewards.
Murphy’s Law prevailed, however. The mug body samples that arrived the following month were beautiful but disappointing: three of the four samples had lost their insulating vacuum and all were missing their internal heat transfer elements. It would be another two months before we could give a production go-ahead on the mug bodies.
One year ago, at the end of March 2016, we had a major milestone: we finally received our first (small) shipment of mug bodies, enough to start on the special-coatings Kickstarter rewards. It was part of our first non-test major production order, which had been subject to repeated delays after being placed in late October 2015. We had been told the production would be finished in 62 days, but by the end of January (the last-minute before Chinese New Year shut down the country for several weeks), our sourcing agency representative reported that 50 mug bodies were finished through the final brushing operation, and those were finished on the day of his arrival at his insistence.
All of the other China-sourced mug parts—lids, gaskets, sleeves, feet and shutter pivots—were made and we had a shipping container ready, a ship date, and a US delivery date. We just needed our finished mug bodies. The good news was that the factory assured us they had thousands of mug bodies ready for the final brushing and our container full of mug bodies and parts could be on a ship by the end of February.
That didn’t happen. The rest of our first production order finally left the factory on April 21, 2016. Our first Titania mugs went off to Kickstarter backers on May 2, 2016. “The road from possibility to reality has been much more difficult than anything we could have guessed when we activated our Kickstarter campaign two and a half years ago,” Dean wrote to backers that day.
Now our road will be a little less uphill. We have the experience of assembling, packing and shipping thousands of mugs, and production is underway for the parts we need to fulfill the rest of our pre-orders. We are using a new factory that is much more reliable and responsive than our first one, so we are looking forward to delighting our patient customers with those mugs beginning in May.