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With COVID-19 supply chain disruption first starting overseas, we made the choice in January of shipping all the hulls and parts stateside to be assembled at 3 different locations in hopes of delaying Shearwaters by only one month. Some hulls required full assembly, some required partial assembly. Without stateside assembly, the boats would have been delayed until late June or July. Unfortunately, we did not foresee the mass layoffs, furloughs and shutdown hitting the states so hard and so rapidly.
This hit us hard in two main arenas. First in manpower for assembly, and later in shipping which we are still working through. With hiring freezes at the warehouses storing the Shearwaters and a 14-day quarantine required if our staff flew out to them, we bridged the staff shortfall through long hours, working through weekends and converting every able person at the various locations to an assembly line.
This worked for hitting the assembly deadline but once all 750 were complete and ready to go, the limited crew was unable to push outbound orders at the usual pace and our estimated shipping deadline was missed. Under normal peak season conditions, we know our outbound capabilities quite well. The variables of a skeleton crew for this time of year, available trucks to push out this much inventory at once during our current climate, and the recent weight of extraordinary kayak demand (depleting all non-Shearwater inventory) caused massive strain on the system. Delays in shipping and out of stocks means substantial extra customer service burden. Like assembly and shipping, resources were then diverted to customer service for assistance and deadlines were missed despite all our efforts.
Meanwhile, all around us, companies were backordering product into later summer months and changing shipping policies to 20+ days out. We were too in the trenches, diligently working to deliver on our promise that we didn’t see what was going on around us.
Supply chain and logistics is deeply intertwined and we’ve seen worldwide how easily it can be unraveled. The choice between doing everything in our power to make the Shearwater delay only a month versus three months was a challenging one. While I’m proud of the hard work our team did, I’m disappointed in the negative effect of the delay during prime fishing season coupled with the net effect of the finishing issues we’re facing by not having our seasoned and trained assembly crew available. It would have been far better to diagnose the world around us, extend delivery dates out into the summer and communicate that decision early on instead of trying to play hero and muscle through a problem much larger than us.
While all Pre-Order Shearwaters have shipped out as of last week, we’re still catching up on shipping the rest of the much awaited Shearwater accessories.
In the meantime, we’ve had several issues reported that our team has been diligently solving that we feel is important to bring to your attention.
Below is a summary of current issues reported:
Rudder Arm Broken (3 Reports)
We have 3 reports of broken rudder arms which has been back traced to where they are located in the rear tank well when shipping. The weight of a kayak on top was pinching the rudder arms and putting heavy vertical load on those arms, causing them to crack. The rudder has been repositioned to the side of the rear tank well to prevent this shipping damage.
X-Drive Pod Popping Loose (4 Reports)
The gap tolerance between two rotomolded objects in a pod slot of this size is rather high. We’ve provided an optional gasket that can be fitted to your X-Drive pod to make the pod exceptionally snug. From initial reports, we estimate that 8% (roughly 60) of Shearwaters made will perform better with the gasket installed whereas the remaining 690 perform better without it. If you did not receive the optional gasket with your X-Drive Pod and believe your Shearwater X-Drive Pod to be fitting loose, please reach out to Customer Service and we’ll get a replacement sent ASAP.
Access Plate Gasket (3 Reports)
We had 3 reports of access plate gasket issues which is important to prevent leakage depending on seat location, water and weather conditions, and weight load. To be extra cautious, we've changed the material and will be providing replacement access hatches and hardware for all of these 750 Shearwaters. Given the lesson we've learned from over-estimating our shipping capabilities during these times, we'll wait until they're in hand and a system is in place to ship those out in a timely manner before providing a ship date. In the meantime, if you have issues with your access plate gasket, reach out to our warranty department and they'll get you squared away.
Summit Seat Drawer (2 Reports)
Two seat drawers have been reported damaged. With it tucked away under the seat base towers this perplexes us as we did not encounter any damaged drawers during assembly. While it’s reasonable to assume it’s shipping damage, we still want to know how and why and prevent that damage from occurring in the future.
Hull Defect (1 Report)
We have 1 reported non-leaking hull issue that we’re diagnosing and we’ve seen one case of a leaking hull online but it’s yet to be reported to us for further diagnosis.
We’ve seen numerous reports of hardware not fully tightened or stripped slightly primarily around the access plates. This stems from not having clear torque setting instructions with the stateside assembly crew. We’ll be providing replacement access plates and hardware for all of these vessels.
Gravity Rudder Hinge (1 Report)
We have 1 report of a hinge being broken off. Warranty department will be reaching out to them next week to learn more about this.
Parts Damaged in Shipping (5 Reports)
We have 5 reports of parts damage from shipping from J-Hooks to Rudder deployment clam cleats. Please, if you have a damaged small part from shipping, do not refuse the shipment. We will send you a replacement part.
With Georgia and states re-opening around us, we hope to be able to return to normal operations in the near future and our warehouses can staff according to the summer volume. In the meantime, we’ll be changing our shipping policy in the near future to better reflect the lessons we’ve learned and the realistic timing we’re currently facing during these unprecedented times.
As a reminder, your Shearwater 125 comes with a lifetime manufacturing warranty and a 1 year manufacturing warranty on parts. If you have a problem with your vessel, reach out to our warranty department and we’ll get you taken care of.