We have some very, very exciting news to share with you.
We have located and qualified an off-shore supplier for our flagship extrusions. We had tried very hard to keep manufacturing in the US, but in the end, the numbers just did not work out.
It was bad enough that our US supplier screwed up three extrusion runs in a roll – but what made it fundamentally unacceptable to keep doing business with them was their belief that the 5+% reject rate we experienced in the last batch constitutes as “okay” – they seem to have a very different barometer for customer service and quality control. Borrowing a quote from Marsellius Wallace from Pulp Fiction: “We are pretty *beeping* far from Ok”. We have literally spent more time and money sorting good parts from bad than on our new extrusion die.
In the end, it came down to a very simple business decision: The offshore vendor is cheaper, the quality is better (although it would be hard to get worse in the quality department), the shipping rates to ship a pallet of OpenBeam across the world is comparable to Fedex ground freight from California. Our off-shore vendor can manufacture good parts, load them onto a container ship and have the container ship dock here in Seattle before the extruder in California can deliver questionable quality parts. Our off shore vendor is also more willing to provide value-added services such as kitting and cutting at a reasonable cost – something that our American supplier had been unwilling to even consider.
We are working with MakerBeam.eu on the new extrusion supplier, and we have reached a joint agreement to produce these extrusions. Under this arrangement, both MakerBeam.EU and OpenBeamUSA.com will be using the same extrusion vendor to manufacture the extrusions, and both companies committed to placing regularly timed orders together. OpenBeamUSA also explicitly gave MakerBeam.EU the rights to use the OpenBeam trademark in the EU as well as to manufacture the extrusions without paying royalties, and extended special discount pricing for volume buys on the injection molded brackets from our supplier in Hong Kong. In other words, we are setting up MakerBeam.EU to become the de-facto lead importer of OpenBeam to the European Union region while keeping prices reasonable. So, for our European friends, you will soon be able to buy OpenBeam at very reasonable prices; and if you are interested in becoming a European reseller, you can contact MakerBeam.EU directly. Shipping is something that benefits from economies of scale and by concentrating the orders this way we can amortize the freight across a much bigger shipment and get better pricing from our vendors due to the higher volumes.
OpenBeam is also happy to announce that Technobots has also started carrying the entire range of OpenBeam products. The really exciting thing is that Technobots has a brick and mortar presence as well, giving us our first walk-in retail outlet in the EU.
For our Australian and New Zealand friends, we will be making an announcement in the coming month concerning a similar deal with regards to the AU/NZ territory.
With today’s announcement of a qualified, competant extrusion supplier going forward, we are also happy to release the new revised CAD geometry onto Thingiverse. We have been a little hesitant to release the new CAD files before fixing our supply chain issues – remember, once you open source something, there is no going back – and generally speed of execution and established distribution network / community (and brand name recognition) is the only protection an open source company has to protect its market share.
OpenBeam is still a very young company – we shipped our first extrusion only about 10 months ago. We have been working very hard in the past 10 months to building out our supply chain and distribution network, so that you, the end user, can get your hands on the OpenBeam Construction System easily. At times such improvements may not have been visible to the causal observer, but they were a very necessary step to build a strong foundation upon which we are going to continue to grow our business. Now that the foundation is laid, stay tuned for more exciting updates from us.
-=- Terence, Rachel and the furry monster puppy