FKG3 Fulfillment and Knobs QA

I received my FKG3 preorders in early November. Some of the knobs had defects of fit and finish. (For example, some do not fit the pot d-shaft and the paint on others smears.) I emailed support and an order was created for replacements.

After two weeks passed without a shipping update for the replacement knobs, I followed up with support. I was told that knobs were holding back fulfillment of other modules such as SMX3 and that replacements and modules requiring the new knobs would ship when ready.

I received my SMX3 preorders but have not received replacement knobs for my original FKG3s. I understand there is undue duress due to the pandemic, other longstanding projects, and in general priorities that may take precedence over things such as knobs.

With the above in mind, I must ask: @creatorlars is it unreasonable to be upset and a bit disillusioned by this?

I do not feel like I am out of line expecting monies paid for a product to deliver that product in a reasonably whole state. I understand that I can buy knobs and put them on myself, or strip another module for substitutes, but this seems to imply it is easier for me to fix this problem than for the manufacturer to advertise and sell the product complete.

My intention is to continue to support LZX with preorders even with other preorders years outstanding. I do think that shipping modules with dysfunctional knobs is an avoidable failure, as knobs seem reasonably solved by other manufacturers offering devices at this price point.

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I am sorry the knobs are taking so long. SMX3 and FKG3 use different knobs and in-house production of knobs has been more challenging than we had hoped. We have switched to outsourcing these knobs, but it will take time to receive them via this new method. In the meantime, Nick has been working on a new batch of FKG3 knobs for the requested replacements (about a dozen). He is estimating it could take another two weeks to get these finished. Keep in mind we are a tiny shop, trying to manufacture as many parts as possible in-house (so as to avoid supply chain delays). We made an error on a small batch of knobs used for early FKG3 orders, but have solved the issue. Any LZX users experiencing issues with their modules should contact support@lzxindustries.net

We will continue to try as hard as possible to deliver a quality product and support that product to your satisfaction. I apologize for the mistakes made on both of those attempts on your FKG3 order. LZX appreciates your support.

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A month ago I was told the replacements would ship within 24 hours and two weeks after that I was told they would ship with SMX3. Now having received SMX3, the estimate for replacements is another two weeks. Is it really easier for me to use the module as is or to order other knobs than it would have been for LZX to ship substitutes while waiting for the production problem to be fixed?

That sort of interim solution as opposed to an expectation that the customer wait 6 weeks to resolve an issue such as unusable knobs would help substantiate that LZX takes the relationship between artist, tool, and tool maker seriously. It might allow for the patience more recently and frequently requested to be seen as an equitable agreement between both small manufacturer and customer.

I apologize for taking this thread outside of the context of a Help Desk question and answer. I am hoping to support a company I deeply believe in while providing feedback in a way that hopefully leads to nothing but your sustained success as entrepreneurial independents surviving an unprecedented calamity of the modern world.

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We made some mistakes and are working full-steam to correct things. I apologize that the solution is coming more slowly than any of us would prefer.

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Hello friends,

Three weeks ago when I made this post, I was given the following information:

“We have switched to outsourcing these knobs, but it will take time to receive them via this new method. In the meantime, Nick has been working on a new batch of FKG3 knobs for the requested replacements (about a dozen). He is estimating it could take another two weeks to get these finished.”

It has been seven weeks since the initial request for replacements.

@creatorlars, please friend?

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Still working hard to get this done. Please keep in mind that we’re a tiny team, Portland had some significant winter weather (which is always tough on the city and resulted in people stuck at home), and we’re also completing DSG3 and ESG3, while building and fulfilling FKG3 and SMX3 orders. Chromagnon and TBC2 production and development are simultaneously getting some attention.

I am sorry the knob replacement sets have been taking so long. The bad batch of knobs is a mistake that has been difficult to recover from. We will keep working on it until all knob replacements have been shipped.

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Maybe I can provide some additional insight beyond what Chad’s already expressed – first off, in house knob production is dialed in and running great right now. We are infilling with engraver’s enamel and a specialty dispensing pen (it took a while to get these) and printing at 50 micron resolution with the FORM3 – tolerances and fit are great, finish and appearance are exactly how I wanted them (which was a tall order) – clones of hand cast knobs from the golden era of 1970’s analog broadcast gear and electronics test gear – brands like Ikegami, Sony, Tektronix. Our plan, as mentioned above, is to work with an injection molding supplier to scale our production capacity as soon as possible. Finances are making it difficult to make that happen “rapidly.”

It’s taking so long to get you replacements for a few reasons –
– The workshop team is under a very rigid weekly shipment quota (dictated by management) on these new modules. This weekly fulfillment quota is essential to our survival at all. If we don’t meet it, we’re going to be closing doors – which isn’t an option.
– The move from 100 to 50 micron prints means it takes 24 hours to print a batch of knobs. We have our machine running 24 hrs/day, 7 days/week. Nick even comes over twice each weekend to flip and wash so we can get those 2 extra batches done each weekend.
– The need for the higher resolution print (to avoid inconsistent batches that result in waste) has halved (at least) the initial estimates on how fast we could make these knobs in house – and at least right now, we don’t have the budget to add a second machine.
– So what I’m getting at, is a certain number of modules need to get shipped before we can even blink each week. Right now, that module is SMX3 – which has 9 knobs (the maximum, for Gen3 12HP). With the slower printing speeds, it’s taking the full capacity of the machine to meet that quota.
– The good news, is that we’re nearing the end with those SMX3 quotas and about to enter DSG3 production – which has ZERO knobs. During this interval, while still keeping our machine going around the clock, we will rapidly be able to fulfill on promises for replacement knobs to date.

So, we’re almost out of the woods. The replacement knobs you’ll receive will look amazing and fit amazing. They will have been handled by fingers during assembly imbued with willful intent and Human Energy – the same fingers designing the circuits, soldering the joints, testing and shipping – for what that may be worth to you. (To me, that means something very specific.)

None of us like the fact that you’re still waiting on replacement knobs. We lose sleep over it. We love you and appreciate you more than we say. Thank you for waiting.

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The overlap of your business model, producing and selling items as described, providing reasonably accurate timelines for deliverables, and the imbuement of willful intention, human energy, and love may be making things more complicated than they need to be.

Perhaps some ways of avoiding this are:

  • provide realistic timelines ie. ‘We are making drastic adjustments in our fulfillment model to keep our doors open, the fulfillment of replacement knobs may take an indefinite amount of time.’

  • provide alternatives to an indefinite timeline ie. ‘We can send you replacements that wont match or you can process a return.’

  • provide realistic product descriptions upon launch ie. ‘We are stabilizing our in-house knob production and initial batches have some knobs that will not stay on the module. Contact us if you would like to wait to receive your preorder until this is resolved.’

These alternatives provide the customer with the opportunity to consent to an indefinite timeline for replacements, receive replacements of another finish, process a return, or wait to receive a preorder that has been built to a standard.

As it went, seven weeks ago I was told that the replacements would ship in 24 hours. The options provided have been to wait and to keep in mind your team size and your current business challenges.

You have told me that LZX takes the relationship between artist, tool, and toolmaker seriously and also that you enjoy creating win-win situations for everyone. Certainly we can agree that we both want to align with and be on both sides of that.

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I really appreciate your suggestions. We definitely could have communicated timings and expectations better – communicated as a team better – but we did communicate the situation with the change in fulfillment expectations and the fabrication of control knobs up front. There was a post here on the forum made before any of the Gen3 modules were shipped, dated Oct 21st, including a full disclaimer for the expectations of Gen3 module customers. I reposted this thread in our Facebook group and it’s been public here ever since:

Control Knob Fabrication: Process Photos

At this time, we did not know there would be issues with the knobs, but wanted to communicate expectations up front in case that there were. Most of the issues with the knobs (including yours) are the work of a tech who is no longer with us. I really hate how that sounds – I’m not trying to pass the blame – it was managerial oversight on my part as much as this person’s work – but it is the truth (that stated QA guidelines were ignored, resulting in this thread.) We should have never let modules escape that had issues like the ones you experienced at all in the first place, and haven’t – since these initial batches. We (management) were caught blindsided, when some of you received modules with uncured paint or that were falling off of the potentiometer shafts. That should have never happened. Now it’s taking time to correct the mistake.

The most realistic solution, to add to your list, is “bump product prices up 150% so we have a large amount of bandwidth to slow down and not rush anything, and do all of the above more effectively.” I’m just not there yet. I feel like the mechanics of the operation are good as they are, and that we are just in trying, but temporary, times – the result of which is that we all have to be more patient in our expectations when there are anomalies in product quality like this. What we are committed to fully, is putting a beautiful set of knobs on all your Gen3 modules as soon as we’re capable of doing so. Which, as explained above, will be right on the tail end of SMX3 production, which is where we have FKG3 replacement knob sets queued up in the activity list.

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I have no issue with the blemishes or smearing paint but rather the unmentioned failure to fit/failure to function. If you have linked this post as a stated disclaimer, then maybe you can see how it identified certain problems without mention of others while implying prompt shipment of replacements.

If charging 150% more is a potential solution, then charging 15% more seems imperative? It needs no mention that you are at the helm of a well supported ship with a community that could certainly accommodate some kind of inflation—especially if 1.5x markup is already a strategic consideration.

Anyways, thanks for the look,
Have a good one!
&LLLZX!

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We’re auditing all our costs right now – tons of which have gone up in the past year. If we need to, we’ll bump prices after the preorder period is over on ESG3/DSG3. It’s hard to say if higher price tags would have even made a difference in the the past few months. The recent launch of Gen3 has been about saving a video synth company without video synths to sell! We’re just grateful we have a product series that we are able to keep manufacturing at all right now – many other companies aren’t in the same boat. It’s easy to lose sight of this, as we have no direct competitors for these products – but we could justify charging a lot more across the board, if you were to compare our margins to EuroRack industry standards. We’re aiming for a reasonable median – nobody here is getting wealthy, but we want to take good care of our technicians and ourselves at the same time, so that we can do good work. “Not price gouging” is a huge part of what we mean, when we say we care about the relationship between working artist and toolmaker. But we realize “things taking forever” runs contrary to our desire to serve the community as well. Improving on that is a process, and a difficult one in the current supply chain climate.

I’ve been informed this afternoon that half of the replacement knob sets pending are already in the mail, and we have unallocated FKG3 units in stock and ready to ship. Let us know what you think of the replacement knobs when you get them.

Thanks for listening.

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