In order to more effectively communicate shipping and fulfillment information to you, we're introducing a new Shipping Status Card!
You will be able to find this card in all of our upcoming updates regarding shipping and status.
What does the card mean? Here's some details.
The left side contains our six usual shipping zones. These are the local fulfillment centers we engage to do fulfillment in the USA, Canada, Europe, UK, Australia, and Asia. Under each of these is information on the Ocean Vessel we've booked (where applicable) and the location of the fulfillment center.
Along the left are the different phases of fulfillment.
This is where it starts. Production Complete means that a game is assembled and ready to ship. Often we will build up our fulfillment plan or book ocean freight before production is complete, so you might see some things happen even before this box is stamped.
This is the moment when we lock in quantities of games that are going to different destinations. We also estimate the size and weight of these shipments so that we can begin booking for Ocean Freight. Once the plan is in place, we can't take further orders for localized shipping, so we have to lock down pledge managers or Launch 99 events.
This is where we book boats. This part is usually handled by our logistics agency. When there's not a pandemic, storm, strike, holiday, or other natural disaster, this part goes quite smoothly.
Like booking, departure is usually a smooth process. However, sometimes ships get overbooked or are forced to depart late, forcing other arrangements.
Crossing the Pacific Ocean usually takes 15-30 days, and cargo ships may have several ports of call. Once a ship arrives at port, unloading and sorting its considerable contents is a separate process.
Unloading & Customs
Cargo is unloaded and, if necessary, checked by customs. There are no guarantees of a timeline where customs are involved. Once cargo is released, we can begin shipping it to our fulfillment centers.
In the USA especially, but also in some other countries, our fulfillment centers aren't located especially close to port. In this case, we use truck (or rail, for large multi-container loads) to get your games from port to the fulfillment center. This can take 1-2 weeks as well, depending on the distance and the congestion of overland freight lanes.
Arrival & Inventory
Freight arrives on big wooden racks called pallets, often stacked eight feet high with outer cartons containing multiple games each.
When the overland freight arrives, our fulfillment center breaks down the incoming pallets and counts the number of games they've received. They also remove any which were damaged during shipping. These numbers are then reported to us.
Once we're ready to begin shipping, we upload your information to our fulfillment centers. It's important to do this at the very last possible moment, so that we capture any address changes.
Most fulfillment centers also require pre-payment for their services at this point.
Fulfillment centers also double-check the shipping lists against their inventory to see if any items are missing. If we've done our fulfillment plan correctly, and there weren't too many freight damages, this shouldn't be the case. Making projects simpler and with fewer SKUs is also a big help here.
This is the moment when our fulfillment centers box up your games and ship them to you via local post. It can take about 1-2 weeks for games to arrive in some areas (especially Asia, where our fulfillment center forwards to other local hubs).
Returns & Missing
At this point, we ask fans to submit a support ticket for any missing games, and reach out to resolve any courier returns we received. This can take a while to resolve, since missing parts often have to come from our headquarters in Albuquerque, NM or from fulfillment centers in the USA, where we keep the bulk of our stock.
Finally, we resolve any missing parts tickets or customer service issues which have arisen from the fulfillment of the project. This step is usually messy, but brief. We print out each ticket, then take the stack to our warehouse to break apart un-shipped games and harvest spare parts for replacement.
I hope you've enjoyed this in-depth look at shipping!