Where’s my Hoop?!

I created this blog mostly to cover my personal projects and not as an official mouthpiece of the company, but this seems like as good a place as any to explain in a little more detail what’s going on with hoop lead times.

As you may have noticed, lead times on hoop orders have been stretching out pretty long. Answering inquiries individually is getting to be very time consuming and it’s cutting into time that could be spent building hoops or working on code, so if you got a link to this post rather than a detailed email, I apologize for the lack of personal response. If you’ve got any questions that aren’t covered here, feel free to ask us at info@hyperionhoop.com.

We’re a small company – just six people at present. All of our assembly is done in house, not by overseas contract manufacturers. All of our employees make a living wage and are here for the long run. Hiring temps to deal with surges in demand has never worked out very well because of the amount of training required for the bottleneck processes.

After the Hyperion Hoop was first introduced we had a significant backlog for a long time, but we found our stride and refined our processes and last year build times were down to almost nothing. A few developments last summer changed that.

The first was taking over support for the Phoenix hoop from SpinFx. There’s no way to sugar coat this: we really underestimated the amount of time Phoenix service would take. We had figures for the number of hoops in service and the number of repairs and routine service orders performed over the last few years and assumed failure rates and repair labor to be comparable to the Hyperion. Those assumptions were wrong.

The good news there is that we’ve identified some of the underlying issues with the old Phoenix designs, particularly the 2016 model, and we’re making modifications to every hoop we touch to improve reliability. That means more time spent on each Phoenix, no matter what it came back for, but it’s worth it in the long run and we’re already seeing a decrease in failure rates. We’re also sharing repair information with any independent hoop repair shops that want to take on Phoenix repairs to give customers more options for routine service, especially overseas.

The other thing that happened to set back build times was the introduction of the new Hyperion Phoenix hoop and the 5/8″ Hyperion Lite. The new Phoenix design has had a few snags – the battery strings that were going to be the only major component kept from the original Phoenix were not up to our quality standards and had to be replaced with a new design, for starters – and the greater complexity of construction means they’re slower to build, but overall it’s been going about as smoothly as could be hoped.

The Hyperion Lite has had a more challenging launch. We’d actually had working 5/8″ hoop prototypes for two or three years prior to putting it into production, but until build times for 3/4″ hoops were under control it didn’t make sense to take on another design with entirely different parts and tooling. When we did make the announcement, we almost instantly had a backlog of about 150 orders.

The Lite was designed as a simplified and scaled-down version of the Hyperion Gen 2, with all of the same core features at a lower cost and with simpler assembly. It met all of the feature goals easily, and I think that if it had been a 3/4″ design we’d have caught up with orders months ago. Some aspects of the 5/8″ design have been more problematic than anticipated, though. Manufacturing variances in the tubing are harder to compensate for than in the 3/4″ hoops, and everything is a tighter fit.

The Lite also introduces one entirely new element: the small ‘tail’ of 3 LEDs that runs over the battery and gives it the unique feature of being gapless while still having a removable battery. I’m very happy with that aspect, but that part doesn’t have the benefit of years of field testing and we’ve already had to make at least three significant revisions to address early failures in the field.

This early in a product’s life cycle, that sort of refinement is a continuous process. Sometimes that means stopping shipments for a day or two to go back over all of the in-progress hoops to apply some new design change. Sometimes a design change or adjustments needed to compensate for variations in materials will add extra steps and extra time until I’m able to build a new fixture, automate a process, or spin a new board revision.

For now we’re maintaining three separate build queues for the Hyperion, Hyperion Phoenix, and Hyperion Lite. We’re trying to divide production evenly between the three, but in practice it can vary if we have a gap in the supply of parts for one model or another. The repair and service workload is also rather unpredictable; sometimes we’ll go a couple of days with no hoops coming in, and some days we’ll get six or seven at a time.

And sometimes other things go wrong. We’re small enough that one person being out sick for a few days has an impact on the whole company. The CNC milling machine failed a few weeks back and required me dropping everything to get it running again before we exhausted our supply of machined parts. I’ve lost whole days in the last several weeks dealing with three different police departments over fraudulent orders and stolen hoops and four national postal services over missing or destroyed packages.

Our hoopsmiths keep plugging along and I can hear three of them actively building hoops as I write this. I’m in the shop 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. My own time is divided between directly helping out with hoop construction, building fixtures and tools and refining processes to speed up hoop production, working on new software development, and all of the other administrative work that needs to be done.

What is not getting done at all right now is maintenance of social media accounts. We’ve been nearly silent on Instagram and Facebook for months, except to answer Facebook messages. That’s not likely to change until we get the backlog under control. That’s a big part of my reason for posting this: if you’re not in any of the hoop groups where I occasionally post updates under my own name, it might look like the company has gone dark. We are in fact just very busy, and things like social media marketing and sponsorships have to take a back seat right now to building hoops.

If you’re waiting for a hoop, the best way to keep an eye on your order’s progress is through our queue status page. Enter your order number in the appropriate box and it’ll give you a rough progress indication that shows your relative position in the queue. It’ll move by jumps sometimes, and it might even move backwards if someone behind you in the queue cancels their order, but it’s the quickest and most accurate way to see what’s going on.

The build time estimates there we periodically update with our best guesses based on how things have been going. The larger the backlog, the less accurate our guesses are likely to be, for all of the reasons given above. A few orders have been promised in time for specific deadlines, so if you’re waiting on one of those orders rest assured we’re doing everything we can to meet your deadline, regardless of where your order is showing up in the queue, but you’re welcome and encouraged to check in with us a week or two from the required ship date to double check.

If you weren’t promised a specific date but have a deadline coming up and it looks like you’re going to be cutting it close, let us know and we’ll help if we’re able to squeeze it in, or if you can’t wait any longer we can cancel and refund your order. Otherwise, please hang tight and keep an eye on the queue status page and we’ll keep building hoops as fast as we can.

On behalf of the whole Hyperion team, thank you for your patience and understanding.


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