TL;DR: MP2 keyboards are assembled and almost ready to ship out. (This should cover all remaining regular Kickstarter backers.) MP3 assembly has started. Jesse is on his way to China to expedite things. We’re working to improve the shipping experience going forward.
Hello from Oakland,
When we last wrote in December, we told you that because the new wood suppliers hadn’t hit the dates they’d promised, remaining orders wouldn’t ship out until after Christmas. Both new wood suppliers have delivered and the factory has completed assembly of more than 1000 keyboards. They’re working on the next 1000 now.
The two new wood suppliers (Supplier A and Supplier C) each delivered 1000 enclosures in January. The first 500 delivered by Supplier C needed to be reworked to add a bit more space around the USB port. The old supplier also delivered about 500 enclosures that passed our factory’s new stricter QC checks.
As of now, the old supplier has delivered a total of about 1500 enclosures that passed QC. Supplier A has delivered 1000 that (we believe) have passed QC. Supplier C has delivered 489 that have passed QC (and 11 that were rejected) and delivered another 511 that we expect to pass QC later this week.
MP2 (Mass Production run #2)
Final assembly of 1080 keyboards, which should be enough to fill the orders for all regular Kickstarter backers, was completed this Monday. Our third-party QC agent visited on Tuesday to do spot checks. Typically, a QC agent will check some percentage of a production run. They’ll randomly select keyboards and evaluate them according to the quality standard. While they’ll record ‘minor’ and 'major’ issues, what they’re really looking for are showstoppers, what are called 'critical’ issues. These are issues that make the product unusable or might cause a customer to return their keyboard for a replacement. If no (or very few) critical issues are found, the whole run is deemed to have passed. If enough critical issues are found, the order is rejected and the factory has to recheck every single unit.
(Above: a keyboard that the QC agent found to be a bit wobbly and rejected.)
The QC agent checked 80 keyboards. In general, the QC agent said that the quality seemed higher than from the first mass production run. They found relatively few issues, but the defect rate for the wooden enclosures supplied by the old wood supplier was just high enough that we asked the factory to 'rework’ them, checking to make sure that USB ports weren’t being pushed out of alignment, and that every keyboard lay flat when checked on a sheet of glass.
The factory began that rework yesterday. They’ve been sending us photos throughout the day and we’re pretty happy with what we’re seeing. They said they weren’t 100% sure they’d finish today, but that they expect to finish today or tomorrow.
MP3 (Mass Production run #3)
At the same time, the factory has begun assembly of the next 1000 keyboards. These keyboards will fill most, but not all, post-Kickstarter preorders. Initially, the factory thought that this production run would be done by Tuesday, January 30. Yesterday, they told us that the schedule has slipped a bit and that they expect the run to be ready for final inspection on Monday, February 5.
Ordinarily, we wouldn’t be too worried about a one-week slip. But February is a particularly fraught time because of the Chinese New Year holiday. Like just about every factory in China, our factory will be closing for a few weeks. Chinese New Year is a time when most people go home to visit their families. Historically, it’s also when labor turnover is highest. So for factories, it’s a one-two punch: production is shut down for a few weeks, and when you start up again you might find yourself training up a number of new staff.
For us, this means that if we were to discover serious issues when inspecting the order on February 5, there wouldn’t be enough time (or staff) to resolve those problems before the factory closed on February 7. To minimize the chance of something going off the rails, the factory suggested we station a QC agent on their lines to supervise production and to inspect the keyboards as they come off the assembly line.
Well, we thought about it for about ten minutes before deciding that the right thing to do was to send Jesse back to Shenzhen and put him to work at the factory. So, Jesse’s getting on a plane late Saturday night and will be in Shenzhen until the factory closes their doors on February 7. He’ll be providing on-the-ground updates at https://twitter.com/keyboardio.
If you’re a Kickstarter backer and haven’t yet received the keyboards you’re expecting, you should see email from us / BackerKit today or tomorrow asking you to double-confirm your shipping address sometime in the next day or two.
If you’re one of the first 950 or so folks who preordered from https://shop.keyboard.io, you should get a similar email over the weekend.
We’re looking at changing up how we do fulfillment. When we did the first mass production run this fall, we shipped everything to a US warehouse by air freight before sending it onward to you by FedEx Ground or FedEx International Economy. For U.S. customers this worked ok, but wasn’t terribly efficient. For customers outside the U.S., this quickly gets pretty expensive, both for us and for you. We heard from many folks based outside the U.S. that they’d strongly prefer a solution where the local postal service is responsible for customs clearance and delivery. We think we have something that’s going to work better for you.
When Jesse gets off the plane on Monday, he’s headed straight to a fulfillment operation we’ve been talking to in Hong Kong to double check that we’re a good fit. There’s also a particular Hong Kong postal service shipping option we’re hoping to use, though our package may be a couple of grams too heavy. If our package is deemed light enough, the total time-to-delivery for MP2 keyboards will be about the same as it was for MP1 keyboards, but the experience will be, we hope, much smoother. If we don’t squeak by, the experience will be similar to MP1, but delivery should be much speedier. And, of course, if the new fulfillment partner doesn’t work out, the experience will end up identical to MP1.
Keyswitches for MP2
(Above: a worker checks the keyswitches on an MP2 keyboard.)
As we wrote in the last backer update, a small percentage of folks with keyboards from MP1 have run into issues with 'key chatter’ due to an issue with how the internal lubricant was applied to some of those switches. (Key chatter is when pressing a key once leads to multiple keystrokes registering, so you end up typing words “liiike thiis”.) Most folks have been able to resolve the chatter issues at home following simple instructions we’ve sent them. To date, we’ve had to replace 0.5% of shipped keyboards for chatter issues that customers weren’t able to resolve on their own.
For MP2, we modified our hardware test program to detect key chatter on the assembly line. This won’t catch all chatter issues, but should catch many of them. At the same time, we’ve also been working on a software fix (which we’ll talk about in detail in a future update) that we believe will completely eliminate this issue in almost all cases.
Our key switch manufacturer has also been at work creating a version of the switches with a different lubricant such that the chatter issue oughtn’t come up at all. While we would have preferred to use newly-manufactured replacement keyswitches for MP2, the switch factory wasn’t able to get them made in time.
Because we’ve been able to resolve most instances of this issue without the hassle of a hardware swap, we ended up deciding to let the factory manufacture the quiet-click keyboards from the MP2 run with the same batch of keyswitches used for MP1. If you run into a key chatter issue, we’ll work with you to resolve it under the terms of your warranty.
If you’d rather wait for a keyboard with the new version of the keyswitches, we’d be happy to ship you a keyboard from what we’re told will be a mid-March production run. Just drop us a note at email@example.com.
We’ve promised some of you replacement stands or enclosures for issues you’ve found with your MP1 keyboards. In both cases, we want to make sure that the issues have been resolved for MP2 before we ask for extras. Once we have the replacements, we’ll be in touch.
Special edition keyboards
About 12 of you (hi mom!) backed us for 'Limited Edition’ Mahogany keyboards. One of the wood suppliers in Shenzhen is currently making us samples of the Mahogany enclosure. Right now, it’s a toss-up whether they’ll be able to get it to us before they leave for the holiday. When we’ve confirmed the sample with them, we’ll contact you directly with the details.
Extra keycap sets
The factory told us that they expect to be able to ship us the full production run of extra keycap sets in March. Even though we’d already signed off on the current versions, they’ve been pushing hard to improve the quality of injection molding and painting for the keycaps. (More on that in a future update.)