We're committed to manufacturing the GRIT Freedom Chair in the US. We think it's important for our country to have a strong manufacturing industry and want to do our part to support small businesses in the manufacturing sector. We also have extensive experience manufacturing abroad (our humanitarian LFC is manufactured in India) and are familiar with all of the headaches that can happen when your manufacturing operations are 7,500 miles away.
US manufacturing has a lot of advantages for a small startup like ours:
- It's local! Being able to drive to the manufacturer to meet face-to-face is invaluable. This helps us have a tight feedback loop, catching small issues before they blow up into big problems. We're also proud to be supporting our American manufacturing ecosystem.
- It has a culture of quality. Quality is always important, but for a small startup like ours, it's our number one concern. We simply can't afford any mistakes. Working with manufacturers who have mature quality control programs and a commitment to zero defects gives us a huge advantage over the competition.
- It's advanced. Manufacturing has taken a huge hit in this country over the last forty years. The operations that survived, however, did so by playing to their strengths. The vendors we work with use the latest technology (CNC machining, laser tube cutting, TIG welding) and we can count on them to meet tighter tolerances and faster turnarounds than we'd be able to achieve overseas.
However, there is one big disadvantage: manufacturing cost. We've worked really hard hand-in-hand with our manufacturers to eliminate inefficiencies and reduce costs. We utilized a number of strategies: tweaking dimensions to use material more efficiently, loosening tolerances where appropriate to reduce machining time, aggressively reducing the unique part count, and trying to simplify everything as much as possible.
Once we'd eliminated all of the low-hanging fruit, our biggest obstacle to reducing our manufacturing costs was volume. Put simply: it's more expensive to make a few of something than it is to make a lot of them. This is because manufacturers put a lot of time and effort into setting up the material to be manufactured (referred to as tooling). It sometimes takes just as much time to set-up the tooling as it does to actually machine the part. And time is money. So if you can use the same tooling to run hundreds of parts in one go, you get a huge cost savings.
So how do we get a reasonable price for manufacturing the parts needed for our chair? In an ideal world we'd have the cash on hand to order thousands of chairs at once and would be able to get a great manufacturing price (enabling us to lower our sales price, encouraging more sales, and increasing our volumes yet again). However, we don't have a few million dollars on hand, don't have the space for thousands of chairs, and don't think that's a very good idea anyway.
Ordering thousands of chairs all at once would lock us into that specific design and wouldn't allow us to be responsive to the needs of our customers. We're constantly tweaking and improving the chairs based on feedback from our riders. Examples of these tweaks: more mounting holes for straps, easier to install seatbacks, and a more comfortable seat geometry (on the 2.0). Having small batches makes it possible to incorporate these improvements quickly. We take our rider's feedback seriously! Each one of our accessories was designed based on specific requests from our riders.
So we're in a classic goldilocks problem: we don't want a production run that's so small that each chair is too expensive, but at the same time we don't want a production run that's so big that we can't afford the up-front costs and whose volume forces us to put off improvements. Since each batch takes around three months to manufacture, we try to size the batches and schedule the orders so that we always have a few months of Freedom Chair parts in stock (Note: we hand-assemble each chair out of these parts at our office on a per-sale basis). However, we weren't expecting how high demand would be this summer, and ran out of stock before the next batch of parts was delivered.
We're currently receiving the components for this batch of GRIT Freedom Chairs. We've streamlined our assembly operations and are already putting together the subassemblies (such as the quick-release drivetrain). The components look great and are coming together nicely! We are planning to ship chairs from this batch in mid-July.
We're generally able to ship new orders in 2-3 days, which is pretty rare in this industry. Customers have told us about waiting 8-12 weeks for other products they've ordered!
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The GRIT Freedom Chair is the most versatile chair on the market, designed from the ground up to handle any terrain. From trails to grass to snow, the Freedom Chair is built for you to push yourself. Born out of research at MIT, the Freedom Chair's patented easy-push levers reduce shoulder strain and put you in control of your mobility. Ready to hit the trails? Learn more about the GRIT Freedom Chair at www.gogrit.us