Sounds like we need a kickstarter or something to fund some CL expansion
I do kind of agree though that a massive expansion in CL manufacturing might not be the right way to go. I like manufacturing in the US, I think it brings true value to the economy. Real jobs that create real things. As an engineer I appreciate that, but I also appreciate that you can't compete doing standard things vs an outsourcing company. I work at an engineering startup and we survive by being efficient as hell, but also being different and competing where others don't. CaseLabs has been similar so far, but it's important not to think like a big company. Customers want the advantages of a big company like "free" shipping, availability, the pricepoint of "made in china" while keeping the things that make CL standout. That is not all possible, and I think you guys need to focus on what is the long term goal for CL's growth and how to get there. Is CL a case designer or is it a custom manufacturer? Where is the competitive advantage? Personally I see the competitive advantage in the case design and in the ideas - i.e. not in the manufacturing. Yes the manufacturing quality is awesome and a huge part of CL historically. But it's the ideas and design that make CL stand out. The rest is a bonus to me.
BTW something to think about: Rivendell bicycles
make custom high end bicycle frames. They do it old school, brazing with lugs on steel rather than welding or using aluminum or carbon. They started off only manufacturing in the US. They also had a supply and demand issue so quite a few years back they launched a second/third tier of products, first it was non custom, and then they started outsourcing too (Japan first I think then they switched to Taiwan). Essentially they have three tiers of products:
Custom, US Manufactured ($3K/frameset)
Off the shelf, US Manufactured ($2K/frameset)
Off the shelf, Taiwan Manufactured ($1K/frameset)
I'm not saying outsource everything, but maybe for a new design (or even the bullet) that it is designed to be more mass market and with less custom options could be sent somewhere (preferably somewhere with respectable human rights, labor laws and copyright protection (although the latter never stops some companies from copying cough cough). Kinda like the evolution of quick ship to the next level.
If you do outsource you can even charge a different price for it. People choose what's important to them and pay appropriately. I still think custom stuff needs to go up in price, because it's something unique to CL, but you don't want it so affordable that you can't meet demand and have to shut it down for 80% of the year. Quickship could stay where it is price wise, and maybe a case like the bullet that has potential to be high volume could at least have parts outsourced even if it's only to a different manufacturer in the US.
All along CL has been charging very fair prices with minimal profit. That's nice and was good when cases were a side business but I think it has to change. Increasing prices will increase profit and allow for more investment in manufacturing/staff etc. It also opens up more options for a lower tier of cases. It also reduces demand which while there is a bottleneck might be a good thing. Is it better to have fewer happier customers and a better reputation or more customers who are annoyed that their case took 3 months?Edited by stren - 8/12/16 at 11:27am