Aug 8, 2013 at 8:01 am #1306314
Checking out ZPacks again earlier in the week, still a long wait time for items, although I will not get any more new stuff from anyone until late winter. If business is so good, why don't they ramp things up? I'm guessing, do not want to get too big because after all, they are a small business, keeping the operation managable, worried about the bottom of orders falling out, cannot find good help? EE in the same boat for lag time.
DuaneAug 8, 2013 at 8:42 am #2013567
@m-lLocale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
Since designs are always changing I think they don't want to get to ahead of themselves. Also a lot of stuff is custom. With a wait time thier staff stays busy more consistently, if there was no wait they would have to lay people off during slow times and employees would not have have steady hours. There is probably other factors too.Aug 8, 2013 at 9:15 am #2013576
Ben 2 WorldParticipant
@ben2worldLocale: So Cal
I was one of Zpack's earlier customers. I have fond memories of emailing Joe about customizing a pack — then receiving photos from Joe modeling the modified pack the very next day — then buying it and having it shipped to me right away. :)Aug 8, 2013 at 9:26 am #2013579
If I had to guess, they've developed a sustainable business model by keeping their overhead low. There are other cottage industry companies who seem to be losing a grip on their quality control as they expand their operations.
I've made a few purchases from Zpacks. All of the items so far have arrived with zero defects and customer service has always been outstanding.Aug 8, 2013 at 9:28 am #2013580
Entrepreneur here. It can be hard for smaller companies to prioritize training and scaling out the operation.
It means you have to stop what you're doing and train new employees and it seems counterproductive at first.
But it's the ONLY way to scale.
The E-myth is a good book on the subject.
Though truth be told it's still something I have a problem with :)Aug 8, 2013 at 9:38 am #2013583
spelt with a tParticipant
@speltLocale: SW/C PA
people complain if they have to wait for gear.
people complain if production is ramped up and quality becomes even mildly inconsistent.
people complain if production is outsourced to meet demand.
comes down to the owner what sort of vision they have for the business and subsequently the sort of complaints they are willing to tolerate.Aug 8, 2013 at 9:54 am #2013592
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
"people complain if they have to wait for gear.
people complain if production is ramped up and quality becomes even mildly inconsistent.
people complain if production is outsourced to meet demand."
Customers can be pretty obnoxious – my hat's off to any small businessAug 8, 2013 at 10:08 am #2013595
I also checked out Katabatic the other night too. Some items not available until Sept.
Not complaining just asking, as gear is very good quality from cottage industries and worth the wait. My first small company gear was from Henry on my now over 8 year old TT Squall. Used every year, no flaws or quality, wear issues.
DuaneAug 8, 2013 at 10:30 am #2013603
The wait times actually make production alot smoother for a few reasons.
Many of our items are highly customized. Our sleeping bags for example have 4 temperature ratings, 6 lengths, 2 widths, 2 types of down, and several zipper configurations. That is well over 100 different combinations.
An Arc Blast backpack has 5 torso heights, 3 belt sizes, 6 colors to choose from, plus all the other options. Again, over 100 variations on just one pack.
There are some steps that we can prepare ahead of time, but it is very difficult and inefficient to try to stock inventory. Production is smoother and more efficient with a queue of orders since we don't have to guess what to build.
The second reason, is we usually get a big influx of orders in the spring when everyone is planning their thru-hikes and summer trips. That demand levels off in the summer and fall. We actually did increase our production capacity significantly this year, but we don't want to get too carried away and have to fire anyone, or build inventory that may take a long time to be ordered once things slow down.
We give every customer the opportunity to request a due date when they order, and we can usually rush things when necessary. So please just ask if you need something sooner than the specified wait time and we will schedule accordingly.Aug 8, 2013 at 10:38 am #2013605
Don't mean to say any of the businesses here create a situation where a wait is required.
It does occur to me a small business may not mind a small wait for their products. In addition to keeping employees busy, a small wait can lend cachet. [So, I mean a business may not /create/ a wait, but may not /mind/ a little wait, either…] The item is not just some off the shelf thing. A little wait reinforces 'hand made'.
[From what Joseph Valesko wrote just above, there is still a lot of hand making involved even before special requests are made.]
Balancing anticipation for a hand made thing versus frustration with waiting is the art.
I do know restaurants will keep sections closed… Just enough for a short wait before seating people. Just a little wait so the place doesn't seem starved for business. A short forced wait with empty tables in sight here and there just peaces people off. A short forced wait with a closed section and every other table occupied comes across as 'this place is hopping tonight'. A long forced wait with a closed section peaces people off again, 'these guys should plan better'. A balance…Aug 8, 2013 at 10:42 am #2013606
> … we don't want to get too carried away and have to fire anyone …
Of course, your employees appreciate this and I understand it as well. I have worked places where there was a lot of overtime. So much that people didn't always like it! The alternative was hire more people with subsequent layoffs. Overall, the employees appreciated/understood this. It saved the company training and admin costs as well.Aug 8, 2013 at 11:01 am #2013611
having a queue also has the advantage that you can re-order the queue and build N components at once.
For example, if you get 5 orders for a pack with a specific length belt, you can work on that at the same time.Aug 8, 2013 at 11:09 am #2013613
Kind of the opposite of JIT Min/Max where Minimum threshold triggers an order to Max.
Here, Max queue threshold triggers order to… relieve the queue.Aug 8, 2013 at 11:11 am #2013614
Zpacks is making what amounts to custom gear. I've commissioned quite a lot of custom and semi-custom items over the years, from many different cottage industries. Zpack's wait times are actually quite short compared to other similarly scaled businesses I've dealt with. And their customer service and communication are absolutely stellar. I say if it ain't broke, please don't fix it!!Aug 8, 2013 at 11:15 am #2013618
There's also the flotsom trigger to the value of Q minus productivity flux (which IMO is a direct result of the '08 housing market crisis) but fortunately this only seems to affect businesses west of the intercontinental lateral zone so Zpacks should feel some shelter from its impact since they are based in Florida.
Viva el colegio comunitario!Aug 8, 2013 at 12:56 pm #2013645
Thanks Joe for the explanation, about what I thought. I've been a Retail Store Manager for about 30 years, so managing hours/expenses is what I did best. I do not have a Business degree, so some of the rest of the terminology went over my head. :)
DuaneAug 8, 2013 at 8:25 pm #2013778
@millonasLocale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
"There's also the flotsom trigger to the …"
I was wondering what Greenspan was doing with his retirement – lurking out on BPL!Aug 8, 2013 at 9:13 pm #2013786
Chad “Stick” PoindexterParticipant
@stickLocale: Hot & Humid Southeast....
I believe it was 5 weeks and 5 days ago today that I placed an order at ZPacks, and today I got the email that it has shipped! Should be at my house by Saturday afternoon! Woo hoo…
Saying that, I am perfectly fine with having to wait, so long as it is a reasonable time frame, and I feel like this has been. Fact is, I love the gear from ZPacks, and have no problem waiting for gear that I am very confident that I will be happy with.
As well, as Joe mentioned, he can rush things if need be, and he has done so for me in the past, and the quality was just as top notch as expected.Aug 8, 2013 at 9:21 pm #2013788
@kalebcLocale: South West
I have made a good amount of gear. My latest pack took me about 12 working hours, it was very complicated. I have the utmost respect for someone to make handmade quality gear for the masses, hats off. It takes a lot of effort and I completely understand the wait times.Aug 8, 2013 at 9:42 pm #2013791
"I was wondering what Greenspan was doing with his retirement.."
Well I went to the WC Fields school of business. “If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bs.”Aug 9, 2013 at 2:29 am #2013827
@jephotoLocale: New Zealand
Personally I am happy to wait for high quality gear that is made in country and provides employment in the local community. I like to have clear communication about when I will receive the product and an email when it has been despatched (with a tracking number).
Businesses are often told to take on debt and scale up. This, however, can potentially impact the company's long term sustainability and result in the owner/company no longer doing what they enjoy doing and/or are good at.Aug 9, 2013 at 5:55 am #2013840
I had good communication with ZPacks, even when Joe was on holiday. And, though I did not buy anything from Tim at EE yet, he did reply to me regarding his cuben quilts and why they were the last to be relisted (temporarily). I'd be nervous too about extra debt or gearing up, then only to see something change. After all, I am debt free except for my monthly credit card purchases of vintage stoves.
DuaneAug 9, 2013 at 7:02 am #2013850
I think it's a conspiracy to keep us from being impulse buyers.Aug 9, 2013 at 10:05 am #2013909
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
As a person who has run a couple businesses – and currently works for a mom and pop organization as their sole employee in a company of 3 people- inventory management is very difficult, especially for small companies. Every business would prefer to have exactly what their customer wants, right now. But inventory is the highest cost of running a business outside of the initial capital expenditures (building, equipment) and employees. If these businesses are going to continue doing what they do best- making high quality custom gear- then carrying a great deal of finished product on their shelves takes money away from the day-to-day operations. Bear in mind they already have a high investment in equipment, raw materials, and people. Shelf inventory is money that's just sitting around. Every business I've been in has struggled with when to stock inventory and how much. You don't want to lose a sale, but you have to weigh that against what it would cost to keep inventory on the shelf. And many small businesses go under when they make a decision to start carrying inventory or to expand. So it's not a decision to be taken lightly. If you lose 10% of your inquiries because you've got a 2-4 week wait on your high quality product, that may be worth it weighed against the potential loss of your business entirely when you wrap too much capital up in carry on-hand inventory.Aug 9, 2013 at 10:21 am #2013916
My first managerial job, you'd get hit with merchandise the head office bought for you, then the second managerial job of a convenience store, you had no problem buying merchandise, just had to keep the employees from making off with cigarettes, eating inventory on their shift, a high pilferage area unfortunately. I was allowed 1% shrinkage was all. I understand the money part being tied up in goods waiting for a buyer. I did not do the math Joe cited, with all his configurations of packs and bags. It would be nice if folks like him and Tim at EE had a way to track the larger sellers and have some of that item stocked. I've never pushed for gear to be made faster for me, I've planned ahead and bought when I had the money, usually after taxes and bonuses came out.
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