As many of you have already noticed, we have ran out of OpenBeam stock *EVERYWHERE*, from our webstore to our newest Amazon.com listings. So, what happened? Way back in late August / early September of 2012, I design released the new OpenBeam profile with a closed hole. A closed hole design is much preferred over an open hole design, as it makes the extrusion stronger, less likely for threads to strip, and frankly, the asymmetric nature of the open profile didn't jive well with my design engineer aesthetics. We qualified the extrusion die in October and ordered 3km of extrusions.
Decemeber rolled around (extrusion mills are anywhere from 6-8 week lead times), and much to our horror, the extrusions came in damaged from shipping, and on the black anodize parts, significant portions of the black anodize bars looks like they've been dive-bombed by a flock of seagulls with diarrhea.
With our inventory almost completely out and the holiday season kicking into high gear, we had no choice but to sort and cherry pick through 3km of extrusions to find usable lengths. We ended up rejecting approximately 800m of the 3km of extrusions and shipped these back to the mill for rework.
Early this week, we received the reworked extrusions from the mill - with the same white powder all over the extrusions! Of course, we called the mill, and they swear up and down that the extrusions were perfect when it left their facility.
We now believe that we have arrived at the root cause of the issue. This is a geometry specific anodizing issue - the new closed profile is trapping chemicals from the anodizing bath due to the long, narrow hole. Capillary action keeps the liquid stuck in this hole, and it is not visible to the mill when they do their inspection prior to shipping. However, once loaded onto a truck, vibrations from the road shakes the chemical solution out of the holes and they then corrode the anodized finish.
We have issued a supplier corrective action request (SCAR) to the mill's anodizing line, asking them to blow out the ends of the extrusion with an air gun between dipping into each tank. While there are no guarantees in manufacturing (my old mentor used to say: "You don't know what you don't know") we are about as confident as we can be that this will address the anodize finish issue.
Additionally, we have ordered an additional 3km of extrusions back in January, in anticipation of the demand. We were expecting reworked extrusions in to hold us over (so we didn't have to hang an "Out of stock" sign on our webstore), but unfortunately despite the best laid plans of mice and men, that did not happen. As many maker businesses had found out, it takes an incredible amount of money to stay in stock, and your supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
So, how does that affect things?
1) We are quarantining our precut kits until they can go through 100% inspection. We had cherry picked our extrusions for the cutting process, but some of it unfortunately slipped through inspection. If you received black extrusions with white crud on it, please let us know and we'll take care of you when we have material back in stock.
2) For liability reasons I do not do back orders - I don't like the idea of holding credit card numbers or capturing but not charging funds. We apologize for the inconvenience.
3) We are out of stock right now, but we expect a shipment to leave around March 15th from Los Angeles, dock date of March 20th in Seattle, WA.
4) Once the stock is in, we'll update the webstore, and we'll proceed to restock Amazon.com. We are going to sell the extrusions in the form of 6 packs on Amazon.com (this has to do with the way FBA fee structure works) and it's a great way for people to buy OpenBeam, because anything over $50.00 qualifies for free shipping within continental US and if you are a prime household you get a free upgrade to 2nd day air freight.
5) We have issued cutting orders already for precut kits and we will be resupplying all our dealers with backordered precut kits. In the meantime, please note that Solarbotics and Adafruit still has some OpenBeam in stock and you can buy from them.
Thank you for your patience. We like to thank Dan Terry and Associates for their assistance in supply chain management and in finding the root cause on this matter, and we look forward to move onto bigger and better things once we fix this supply chain issue and put it behind us.
-=- Terence, Rachel and the furry monster puppy