May 19, 2016

5 Reasons Why Your Kickstarter Reward Is Always #$%#$% Late

Having pledged a couple of Kickstarter projects prior to launching my own, we all have heard of notorious stories of late deliveries, often months beyond the promised delivery date. As backers, we have often curse and swear at the project creators for bad services. Now that I am on the other side of the fence, I can well empathize some of the problems creators who need to deliver manufactured goods to the backers. Prior to manufacturing Wongamania:Banana Economy in China, we have done two smaller print runs from a smaller manufacturer from Malaysia and we were confident that we will be able to handle the much bigger print run in China with ease. After our Kickstarter project ended in December 2015,  We made provision for 2 months worth of projection management and 1 month worth of production and delivery time. Little did we expect that our production only started during the mid of May 2016. So while you are wondering why your Kickstarter projects were so late in coming to your door steps, let me share with you our 5 reasons why our Kickstarter project is late to delivery! Although what I experienced is pertaining to tabletop games, I am quite sure that what we experienced is pretty relevant to other small project creators who are designing other physical products.

Reason 1: Huge Number of Chinese holidays

It was no joke when people say that Singaporeans are one of the most hard working bunch of people in the world with few public holidays. Comparatively, China has a huge number of official and unofficial holidays, many of which falls on the first half of the year. Many factories often give extended holiday on top of the official dates to allow their workers extra time to travel back to their hometown. Workers can have up to 1 month off for Chinese New Year and one week off for Labor Day. There is also the pre holiday mood syndrome that affects every one in the world whereby productivity slows as everyone is more interested in the preparation for the holidays than clearing their work. Than there is also the post holidays forgetfulness whereby you will have to communicate your requirements again... just in case.

Reason 2: Prototypes Retooling

Before we can green light any production, we need to approve the printing plate and the prototype. The whole process takes 10-20 days. During our previous production runs, we did not have to deal with plastic or metal components, but this time round, we have a couple of such components and needless to say, the component prototype did not turn out ideal and we had to fine tune the components over weeks in order for the quality of our bananas to meet our standards.

Initial Prototype. Short Ugly Bananas!
Correct Banana length, size and texture after much work

Reason 3: Major Conventions

With the global bloom and interest in the tabletop market, tabletop conventions are getting record attendance in Europe and US. Other than stocking enough game sets to sell during the convention, publishers often have to prepare excess complimentary copies for licensing, reviews and media. China is currently the top manufacturer of tabletop games and all the factories will be gearing up their production for games old and new. Needless to say, as a small publisher with a small print run as compared to the big boys, our pecking order in the grand scale of things is at the bottom of the pond. Things move a lot slower.

The 160k crowd at Spiel Essen Germany

Reason 4: Excessive Stretch Goals

Stretch goal is one of the essential feature in all Kickstarter campaigns and stretch goals will definitely stretch your production cycle significantly. For Wongamania: Banana Economy, we attained 3 significant stretch goals, a metalic gold ingot token, a new playing board and a customized etched dice. We realized that most of the time during the project management phrase went into the design and prototyping of these new stretch goals. The nature of stretch goals is that the design of these goals has not commenced during the Kickstarter campaign as designing a protoype or paying for an artist for asset before you know your campaign will be successful or not will result in a waste of valuable moolah. Many a times, these creative designers have multiple projects that they need to work on and cannot drop their existing projects just to work on your stretch goal. The more stretch goals which you will need to fulfill will result in a longer project management time and dad we not have these stretch goals, our production timeline can definitely be met by the promised date. However, a project creator will need to state a delivery date even before they know if their campaign is successful or how many stretch goals will be unlocked in the case of a runaway kickstarter hit, so it makes the whole project management timeline extremely difficult to predict once the amount of stretch goals you need to fulfill starts to pile up.

Reason 5: Different Folks, Different Stroke

We started engaging our manufacturer way ahead of our Kickstarter project in August 2015 and started standing in the artworks and models and to check with them on the layout requirements of their printing plate. Different manufacturers often have different requirements due to the different kinds of machinery and workflow process and many a times, they may ask for different layout or file formats while you are submitting your input. The requirements from our Malaysia manufacturer and our Chinese manufacturer differs by quite a lot and we spent a few weeks retooling our input to suit the requirements for the manufacturer. However, there are times when there are manpower change in the manufacturer's side and suddenly, there is a new set of requirements, which we will have to spend time and money to retool the input process.

What We Learnt

During our first crowdfunding campaign with Crowdtivate for Wongamania Classic, we were delayed by 1 month and for the more ambitious Wongamania: Banana Economy project, we will probably be delayed by 2.5 months even though we have allocated 2 times more project management time for the latter project. Of course, we are also new to working with a much larger manufacturing company with a global reach as compared to a large printing company serving the Malaysian markets, which brings about a whole new set of problem. On hindsight, we should have allocated more project management time to accommodate a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Meanwhile, our Wongamania Classic has been sold out since January and we are now twiddling our thumbs with no products to sell and praying everyday that the new product gets manufactured soon!

Indeed, an expensive lesson to product life cycle management! 
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