The Complex Burden of Accuracy
Dana and I (Joe) started ANOVOS as fans with a passion for making costumes and props at a professional level. In the early years of the company, we relied on experience gained from time spent within the fan community and applied it to our business, focusing on craftsmanship, quality, and accuracy. We were small, nimble and able to react quickly. For us, passionate fans to the core, our greatest struggles have been finding the appropriate balance between creating a highly accurate replica and the time it takes to make that replica as accurate as we want it to be. The “complex burden of accuracy” has caused us an immense amount of pain, largely in the form of compounded delays.
We are fortunate to have access to original assets at an unprecedented level. We have leveraged that access by investing in a first-rate, research team who use the best technology to capture every nanometer in efforts to bring you the most exacting licensed props to exist.
With that access comes a tremendous amount of expectation, from our licensors, from you, and from ourselves. Our focus on accuracy is relentless, but that focus has come at a number of costs. To keep costs reasonable, we utilize overseas manufacturing partners. This is a challenging process because we create highly specific (nearly bespoke) products, in a mass-manufacturing environment.
The challenge becomes compounded by the complex nature of our products (different materials and specialized techniques) and the need to use multiple vendors. To arrive at a counter sample (their version of our prototype) all vendors have to be choreographed in schedule and task. With more vendors, comes an exponential increase in variables. If multiple prototypes are required, delays occur and in extreme cases, vendors substituted, running the risk of starting the production timeline all over again. Unfortunately, this has happened more times than we’d like to admit.
This process has caused delays, costing us time and money. We could simply allow a product to go through as-is, but that isn't who we are and that isn't the product we want to place into your hands. While it is hard to put a true percentage on accuracy, we like to say a final product is around 90–95% as accurate as the first prototype. The complexity of working with multiple vendors to produce our required level of accuracy creates a web of management that includes a constant dance and orchestration of input and feedback, all of which takes time, causing delays. Again, this could all be avoided if we simply accepted "good enough" product, but that is not who we are.
In early 2018, we were forced to come to terms with the fact that we were no longer keeping up with our promised delivery dates. We discovered what I have relayed above: our delays were largely due to our overwhelming commitment to accuracy sometimes sending back production samples as many times as 4–6 times until it was done correctly. Thus, until we had a clear path forward to mitigate our need for accuracy and the hiccups it was causing, we hit the brakes on pre-orders just after May 4, 2018.
Our first step was to make dramatic shifts in both our thinking and approach.
Simplify : First, we had to admit we can’t do it all. It was a painful acknowledgment, but with the size and scope of our offerings, the sheer volume and complexity that comes with managing the web of vendors per project was overwhelming. It has led us to realize that we have to protect our timelines by being more careful about which product pathways we choose now. Thus, we are shifting our focus to products that can be manufactured with as few factories as possible, streamlining our product and reducing the possibility of delays. This seems simple, but the implications are vast. As a result, while you were unlikely to know why, you may have noticed a simplification of the type of product we have brought to pre-order in 2019.
Bringing it Home: Second, we are bringing a select number of production runs here to the United States. While we can't do large volume here due to cost, small runs of product that demand a skilled artist's hand are viable for stateside production. The quality of our US team's work is impeccable, rivaling the quality as seen in the originals! As I type this, we are moving more product lines, including some prop collectibles, to our US manufacturing teams. This effort not only upholds our commitment to accuracy, but also creates a more dependable timeline for delivery to you.
Delivery Expectations: In the next few weeks we will be updating our expected delivery dates. After an exhaustive analysis of the past five years, we now have a more accurate assessment of how long the average product takes to manufacture. While this won't correct past issues, it does help ensure that your expectations are properly set when you purchase an item from us. Secondly, because we will also have parallel manufacturing in the USA, we are able to better ensure a shorter timeline for more products.
Internal Growth: We remain proud of our products and are equally proud of our project managers who have evolved along with this process. They have continued to respond admirably to the ever-changing demands we placed on them and have seen us through the worst of times. They are working hard to constantly upgrade our procedures, and we have already seen huge improvements in all aspects of our production schedule. Many products that have been long delayed are finally starting to ship to you. Our faith in them has never been more steadfast.
I sincerely hope by cracking the door and allowing you a glimpse into our process, it has provided a bit more understanding of both our current strengths and past weaknesses. More importantly, I hope I have conveyed the absolute resolve we all have to get it right despite many challenges.
Your continued feedback has been a huge source of inspiration. Thank you for giving us the chance to be better. We are listening. We are improving.
Joe Salcedo, CEO ANOVOS Productions LLC
Dana Gasser, COO ANOVOS Productions LLC