How SURVIVE! changed its luck by becoming a full manufacturer
In this video, we take a look at some GSO-3.5 surface grinding Guy was working to fix. These provide some insight into one of the many reasons we decided to become our own manufacturer. It is a good example of some of the issues we’ve ran into that folks may not consider if they don’t have manufacturing experience. While some production issues have affected the knives directly and caused delays with finishing and assembly, mistakes like the one in this video are also very detrimental. By completely taking over our production we are able to establish more sound practices moving forward and all but eliminate the careless mistakes that plagued us in the past.
There was a really great comment on this video from Whispy Woods asking, "Have you been a magnet for bad luck? How do [other companies] avoid such catastrophic issues with knife blanks?"
To answer the question directly regarding those other knife companies, we don't really know their business. We do know that they've been established a long time and have their methods well refined from years of experience. They may have gone into their venture with more financial support or technical knowledge. Many of the large companies were founded before the internet and when money systems were very different. They would have had slower growth, less public scrutiny, and more financial options.
On a product level, some materials are easier to work with and lower alloy steels like 1095 can be purchased already rolled to thickness, avoiding the step of surface grinding. Quality can be very different among companies and product lines. Look at fit and finish as well as piece to piece consistency and you may be able to find some compromises being made within production. Sometimes the size of the production run is simply large enough that they are willing to absorb a certain amount of loss.
Also, a lot can happen behind closed doors that you're not aware of. We've chosen the path of transparency, to share our struggles getting to where we are, in the hopes of helping other entrepreneurs avoid the same pitfalls and understand the tremendous challenges. For perspective, Buck Knives almost went out of business some years back and they're a household name that has been around a very long time. Making something from nothing and doing it for a living isn't always easy, especially so if you have high standards.
As for SURVIVE!, while Guy has worked in manufacturing environments, he isn't a machinist by trade. Because of that, up until now SURVIVE! has been relying on manufacturing partners or subcontractors trying to produce a result. As you guys can see, the results have varied widely along our journey to where we are today. While it has been rough, each set back has been a learning experience, a valuable lesson, as we've worked toward a better, more productive future.
Coming to Boise and essentially moving in with Millit, a company touting themselves as a high quality OEM, was a real eye opener. In the beginning, not knowing much about heavy machining, we were very hopeful with the situation. As time rolled on and we watched deadline after deadline get missed, other OEM projects go horribly wrong, parts we paid for get ruined, and quality standards fall short of what we had expected, we knew something drastic needed to happen. At first, we did everything we could to help Millit with equipment deficiencies by investing in our own new equipment for them to use, hoping the issues were just a machining capacity issue because of other work they were bringing in. When that wasn't working and Millit was facing some difficult decisions, we took over the building lease and bought out some capital assets to help lighten their load, in the hopes they could regroup and get things back on track with production. After 3 years, 16 months of those carrying most of the overhead, things still weren't getting better. After a long conversation with the DeMills, the owners of Millit, we finally all came to the conclusion it was time for them to move on.
We've learned a LOT along the way and made some great friends while we've been here, so we felt confident in taking the leap to being our own manufacturing company. We're very happy to report that other than some equipment and set up delays, as we've basically established a new machine shop, things have been going off without a hitch. We're getting caught up faster than any of us could have imagined and our quality is better than it has ever been. As we work through the last of some lingering production setbacks, you're going to see another dramatic increase in our shop output on top of our already dramatic increase in output. In 80-90 days all the oldest orders will be delivered and a few months after that any recent orders will be in people's hands. By next year all of this will be remembered like that time at band camp or that especially hellish camping trip that we all hated but can now laugh at as we look back on it.
Please know these delays were never our intention but instead the byproduct of refusing to compromise or stray from Guy's vision of what he wanted for SURVIVE!. Because of this people have called us liars, thieves, a ponzi scheme and things far worse. That's all fine and we've taken the hits and personally absorbed the massive amounts of loss along the way because we've always known what we've been working toward. Now that we are here, those supporters who hung in there with us during all this are going to receive the knife they paid for, at the quality level they expect and deserve.