What’s Up At MakerBot? (and that 7 week lead time!?!)
When you order your MakerBot Thing-O-Matic, it says 7 week lead time. That means that it’s our goal to ship it out within 7 weeks. Because there are more than 200 different types of parts from a massive amount of suppliers, operations at MakerBot are challenging and the operations team here at MakerBot works hard to get things here on time and sometimes our suppliers meet their delivery dates and a lot of times they don’t. We’ve had issues where we order something and the first batch is perfect and the second batch is junk that we have to send back and start over with another supplier. Also, sometimes we go back to order more of something and find that there aren’t anymore and we have to get them manufactured from scratch. This isn’t a new phenomena, we’ve been dealing with this from the beginning. At about the 800th bot, we ran out of stepper motors that had shafts that would fit the pulleys we had on the cupcake and because we had thousands of pulleys already, we had to get those motors made custom from scratch. This coincided the new year and we had a backup of something like 12 weeks at one point. Ugh. We emailed everyone who had ordered a bot to let them know, but it sucked for us and for Operators waiting for their bots. Nobody likes to order something and wait.
MakerBot is 25 people now but demand continues to grow. The thing is, we keep getting orders and we’re still working to scale up to meet demand. A year ago we were 5 people and everyone was doing everything including packing boxes. Just because we have more people now hasn’t slowed the pace. We’re still pushing the limit of the minimal amount of sleep to get so we can work hard to get MakerBots into the hands of creative people around the world.
One of the things that’s changed since we’ve started scaling up is timing. It takes us more time to put things into production. We were able to prototype the Cupcake in two months (and 2 cases of ramen and countless bottles of caffeinated club mate) and bring the first batch into production in one more month after that because we were only pulling together 20 kits. Now we have a much more challenging math problem allocating resources and trying to make predictions on how much of something we should buy and how much we think we’ll sell. It’s tricky. When we launched the MakerBot Unicorn Pen Plotter, we ordered parts for 250 of them. I love this kit, it’s a great way to turn your MakerBot into a sweet plotter, but it’s sold much slower than anticipated, partly because within hours of launch in the store and the sharing of the source files, there was a printable clone available. In retrospect, being obsessed with open source and having awesome operators, we should have planned for that! We’re getting better at making predictions, but things like getting slashdotted can change our gameplans at the drop of a hat!
I’ve seen a bunch of sadfaces on the internet about the cupcake being out of stock and that there are only 250 of them left. We’ll have these back up in the store in spring when we get some parts that are taking forever to get made. I’m proud of the cupcake, we launched the cupcake and later added a heated build platform and then an automated build platform and then we added the MK4 and then the MK5 and all these things pulled more power which started burning out the mosfets and we switched over to including a relay board with the kit. We modified the cupcake as much as we could and have done as much as we can to create an upgrade path for folks. User improvements like the z-rider mean that folks may be able to continually upgrade their cupcake, but for us, we’ve been really happy to move on to the Thing-O-Matic with MakerBot Generation 4 electronics and a cantilevered z-stage. When those last 250 cupcakes go up for sale in the spring, I’ll be happy that folks can get a great 3D printer for cheap for a limited time.
What’s coming up that’s got me excited? I’m super psyched for the next release of ReplicatorG and our front room is transforming into the MakerBot Botfarm™ with all the MakerBots we built for CES back in Brooklyn getting set up to print things out all day! More about that when it’s all set up!
I walked around and took some snapshots after writing this and put up a slide show so you can see a little window into our life at the MakerBot Botcave.
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