The summer of 2017 is only the second camping season of our young company's existence.
We learned a few things last year that led us to develop and launch the second version of our product, SnapPad XTRA, but this year we've had a new challenge to deal with - too much demand! Our business has almost tripled compared to the same time last year.
It's the best possible problem for a new company to have, but it has nevertheless caused us some real problems. The main one being shipping our orders in a timely manner. Our goal when launching SnapPad was to ship new orders at least 48-72 hours after receiving them. Besides making a high quality product, we also want to be known for a high quality customer experience. We consider shipping and order fulfilment a big part of that!
The greatly increased demand has caused our shipping times to grow to 10-14 days this summer, unfortunately. We deeply regret anyone who has been inconvenienced by this backlog and are working to correct the issue as soon as possible.
So what have learned? And what are we going to change to fix it?
1.) Build up inventory!
In our first 12-16 months of operation, we worked with our manufacturing partner in a "just in time" fashion. Meaning they would create and ship new orders as they were received. Because we were new and not sure what demand would be, this option seemed to make the most sense at the time.
The other option, of course, is to create a large volume of SnapPads and draw from that inventory as needed. Meaning there is always more product hand that is needed right away.
So what did we learn? Well if we knew in December and January (our down season) what we know now, we would have used the time to build up inventory for the summer. That's our plan from now on.
2.) Increase manufacturing capacity
As we explained previously SnapPads have a unique manufacturing process:
The thoroughly coated rubber resin mixture is then added to our preheated mold. The mold, which is over 300 degrees F, is where the magic happens: over 100+ tons of pressure is applied and 7 minutes of time passes to ensure all the resin has been fully bonded to the rubber.
Up until this summer, one SnapPad press/cavity was enough to satisfy our demand. We quickly realized that wasn't going to be the case anymore when summer began this year!
As result, we have commissioned several more cavities to come online before the summer ends. The new tools take about six weeks to create and put into service, which is why this hasn't happened sooner!
3.) New shipping processes for our resellers
As you may or may not know, there are also a number of SnapPad resellers and retail partners out there. Not only did we add more partners this year, but the demand for SnapPads also increased exponentially for many of our resellers. That meant not only increased sales for our online store, but much, much bigger orders from our most successful partners!
In response, we are working with our SnapPad retailers to come up with a better ordering system so that they don't run out of inventory (and our manufacturing partner isn't unexpectedly jammed with large, bulk orders from them).
4.) Bad Batches
As noted above, SnapPads are made through a process that involves rubber, resin, heat, and pressure. Our manufacturing partners in South Bend have everything down to a science, but every so often a batch is off for one reason or another.
We check the SnapPads in the factory after they've been pressed for quality assurance. On the rare occasion that a batch is off, we will scrap everything and make it all again from scratch. As you can imagine, that can cause delays as well, given we are still a "small batch" operation (for now).
Although this sort of delay is impossible to predict, we are creating communication channels between our production facility and ourselves so we can share with our resellers and customers when something like this happens. That way we can make sure everyone knows why their pads will be arriving a little late.
So that's where we're at! It's amazing to experience the response we have for our product so far and we're overwhelmed (both figuratively and literally) by the demand.
Again, we apologize to any of our customers who have been impacted by shipping delays this summer. We're hopeful the things we've learned and the solutions we are putting into place will ensure this doesn't happen again.