Keyport Slide - What's Next?
Posted by DAVID COOPER
It has been almost a year since we sold out of Slide 3.0s. We are very sorry that the Slide has taken a backseat to the Pivot 2.0 and OmniFob over the past several months. Behind the scenes, we have been working hard to get Slide production back on track. But it has turned out to be more like laying a whole new set of tracks and then designing a bullet train from scratch. We sincerely apologize for the delay and want to bring you up to speed on where things stand today.
Slide 3.0 Derailed by COVID
Back in early 2020 as we neared the end of our Slide 3.0 stock, it was our intention to place a small order for Slide 3.0s to get us through the design phase of Slide 4.0. Then COVID hit. About five months into the global shutdown (around August '20), our primary factory for the Slide went out of business. That factory has all of our complex and very expensive tooling along with exclusive know-how on how to hit our tight tolerances and ensure the quality we demand.
We started to explore alternative factories. After interviewing several, our contract manufacturing partner identified a new factory, but because of the steep learning curve, they required us to commit to a significant volume of units. This posed a problem for us because of the following:
- Financial commitment - We are still a small company with multiple initiatives in progress at the same time. We didn't have the up front cash it would take to start a run over double the size of the initial production run we envisioned.
- Even after a large investment, it was still going to take another six months to get back up and running with a new factory. The complex production line includes multiple extrusions, deep draw dies, progressive dies, and multiple complex machining operations.
- We would have significantly more inventory than we originally wanted. This is a big deal because we are the only seller of Keyport Slides due to the complex Key Blade fulfillment. So, it would be impossible to sell excess Slide inventory to another retailer or distributor.
We had to explore other options.
In parallel, we began design on the Slide 4.0. The primary design parameters for Slide 4.0 are:
- Increased durability
- More robust D-ring to attach large auto fobs
- Works with our existing modular system (Anywhere Tools, OmniFob, etc.)
- Improved Module attachment and removal
- Simplified assembly process
A few secondary ideas we're looking at:
- The ability to build in various materials; like a highly requested titanium version, and a more affordable hybrid metal/plastic version similar to the Slide V.01
- Stacking 2-Port Module
- Fit rare longer keys, like some Honda and Kawasaki motorcycles
As we started to review different design options and talk to prospective distributors and partners, they all wanted us to be able to utilize the Keyport Key Blades in other products like the Pivot and even on traditional keychains.
As you may know, our current Key Blades don't fit in the Pivot because the hole is too small. Even with an enlarged hole, they are not optimized for the Pivot (or a traditional key ring) because they weren't designed to withstand the torque required to open a rigid lock outside of the protective ports of the Slide.
Key Blade 2.0
After much back and forth (and even the occasional yelling match), it became apparent that we need to re-design the keys for a more unified and ultimately more sale-able everyday carry system. So, we are designing Keyport Key Blade 2.0 (name to be determined) to ensure that they fit key organizers like the Pivot as well as traditional keychains. We also need to make them easier to manufacture, and we have a few ideas on adding new Key Blade features we think you will like.
So Where Does That Leave Us?
We decided not to move forward with additional Slide 3.0s since the overstock would be difficult to handle and we did not want new customers to be purchasing old Blades. With such a large key Blade inventory, we want to avoid mixing them as much as possible.
Our Focus Is Squarely on Keyport Key Blade 2.0 and Slide 4.0
We have put together this initial timeline to give you an idea of what specific steps we are taking to bring Slide 4.0 to fruition. Please note that this is an estimate, and things can and will come up that will cause this schedule to move at times. We will keep you posted on our progress every step of the way.
Update - 10/27/21
We removed the original timeline as we are having to make some major changes to our development plans.
We have struggled to keep up with our current commitments due in large part to the global supply chain issues. First, the chips we use in OmniFob are sold out, and the backlog is more than six months. So after ramping it up, we have been forced to put the next production run on hold. Even more painful, several of our current product shipments were delayed for months and forced us to spend considerable resources on shipping product much of our inventory via air for the holidays. Together these two issues have eaten up a significant amount of what was our development budget.
Here are a few articles on the global chip shortage and shipping crisis:
This crazy shipping crisis, explained via Yahoo News
What the shipping crisis looks like at a US port via New York Times
Understanding the global chip shortage, a big crisis involving tiny components via Popular Science
When will the global chip crisis en via India Today
You’ve Gotta Be Shipping Me: Amazon and the Supply Chain Crisis via Path to Purchase IQ
At this stage in the development cycle, we need to spend time at the factory with the manufacturing team to review designs, test samples, and make significant tooling decisions. However, not only are we unable to visit the factory, but the factory’s General Manager, who has been our primary contact since the beginning and who is based in Taiwan, is unable to visit mainland China either. To make matters worse, China is suffering from short staffing across the country along with limited work hours due to weekly power outages. This has resulted in the factories getting behind on orders and focusing on their largest client orders instead of new product development.
So, rather than just push out the date (especially when some of these issues are not going away in the foreseeable future), we have decided to hold off on a new timeline just yet and are researching a wide range of alternative solutions to bring Slide 4.0 to fruition as quickly as possible. This includes but is not limited to investigating a new manufacturer outside of China, producing a hand-crafted limited edition run built in the US, another Kickstarter, strategic partnerships, and additional investment. We will do our best to update you as we navigate these complex waters and chart our new course.
End of 10/27/21 Update
We understand how this is disappointing news for you. It is disappointing for us too. The Slide is our flagship product, and besides the financial pain of not having it, we sincerely appreciate all those who have made the Slide a valuable part of their everyday carry and love that you all are so passionate about it. We are very sorry for the inconvenience this has caused. But we feel that you would ultimately be more frustrated with a longer time to the Slide 4.0 than our current path.
How will Key Blade 2.0 be different from Key Blade 1.0?
The primary difference will be that we want Key Blade 2.0 to fit and work well in any key organizer or keychain.
What are the new Key Blades going to cost?
We anticipate that they will cost around the same at current Key Blades - $4.99 per unit with laser cut (auto key) Blades at $7.99. We will be offering an upgrade program so existing Keyporters can upgrade to new Blades at a discount.
Will I be able to convert my current custom (high security) Blades to 2.0 Blades, or will I have to purchase completely new keys and have to send them in for custom conversion to 2.0?
We are working on making them backwards compatible by sending them in for new Skulls, but the process still needs considerable review and refinement. We will update you on our progress.
Will I still be able to get original Key Blades for my Slide V.01, 2.0, and 3.0?
Yes, original Standard Key Blades are available now at half price and will be available by special request after the new version is released. If any phase-out occurs, we will give you reasonable warning.
Got Questions, Comments, or Suggestions?
If you have any questions that aren't covered in the FAQs above, please add a comment below.
There are a few other ways to get a hold of us as well:
Keyport on Discord - This is probably the best place to engage in conversation with us and your fellow Keyporters. We have a special channel specifically for the Slide, and we will do our best to update it regularly with our progress.
Email us at email@example.com.
Hit us up on social @thekeyport on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.