6 months ago in November we were laying the foundations for the rucksack revolution. We had a prototype, we were gathering force, funds + followers to make it happen. We shared videos, told friends, family + colleagues. We know on Kickstarter, however, it's not just about successful funding; as a project creator, I had to deliver on my promises. That's what Kickstarter is really about. Today, I can say we are almost there!
Last 30 days
The RiutBags were at sea for 30 days. The New York Express, a 12 year old German container ship which can carry up to 142,295 tonnes of cargo, with a length of 366.50m and 43 meters wide, brought the RiutBags all the way from China to the UK.
On Wednesday the RiutBag container was off loaded at Southampton. They passed through customs into the UK successfully. I asked the freight company to house them in a warehouse so that I could inspect every RiutBag going to backers + my first customers.
The quality check of 1158 RiutBags started on Thursday morning + finished late on Friday. Allowing 2 minutes per RiutBag, checking all of them equals over 38 hours of solid zip, seam + quality checking. Of course, in reality, it took longer because my dear partner + I weren't as efficient as we could have been at the beginning + we needed to open, unload + reload each carton of RiutBags. So it took two of us two 12 hour days to complete them. It was worth every second.
I want to show you all the steps to takes to bring a complex textile like a rucksack into being. This process will be very similar to that which most textiles go through. As part of the revolution in user thinking, each RiutBag user can be aware of what took place to get their RiutBag to them. I hope you all feel well informed about your RiutBags.
Why quality check?
A backer on Facebook made a good point. "...commendable service but why do you need to recheck them?" There are a few reasons: 1) my approach, 2) the factory's approach, 3) a fundamental fact about manufacturing.
This is my first ever production run. I don't have a large multinational company which has employees + a quality checking department, so I have to be involved in everything. Having done this myself also means that when I do come to having an outsourced team, I'll fully understand the strengths + weaknesses of these RiutBags + exactly how long it takes to quality check them properly.
On a personal note, as the project creator, I needed to be sure for my own sanity + your satisfaction that every RiutBag is as it should be. After so much work, I couldn't simply presume the quality was good. I had to see it for myself.
It's the factory's job to make the RiutBags + they should be perfect. But that's not how it works in reality at this end of the supply chain. As an analogy, anyone who has ever written a larger document knows the benefit of another pair of eyes in completing it. You become blind to your own errors. So the factory does check one, the inspector does a spot check + I do the final one. Of the 1300 bags, over 100 had problems which meant they could not be sent to customers.
Making 1300 of any textiles product brings with it its errors. The skill paid for in the contract is material sourcing, implementation of prototype into manufacturable design + sewing. I believe the skill set missing is to look at each RiutBag - in this case - a new to see, has this been done correctly? For this reason, errors occur. Whilst they are checked at the factory, it is the eyes of the designer that spot problems more readily than the people who made them.
Manufacture is hard
The more perfect the products we use every day become, the harder it is to understand the work that goes into them. The ideal of product perfection in 2015 comes from Apple: these are almost otherworldly products. I'd love to see the mountain of MacBooks, iPhones + iPads with tiny errors which show the humanity behind their manufacture: Apple logos upside down, a scratch on the brushed casing, a keyboard button not fully formed. Whilst made by machine, even the machines mess up sometimes. So imagine the process with 15 - 20 humans sitting at sewing machines trying to complete RiutBags - a brand new design - within a timescale which is profitable for the factory.
I've learnt to respect each T-shirt I see, every curtain, pillow case + pair of trousers + of course rucksack. The consistency of output is incredible in the main. However, I have to allow for mistakes. I'm only learning that now.