I’m not quite a control freak, but I’m as near to it as one can get before crossing the line into bad behavior where my business is concerned. If there’s work to be done, I do not wait, I do it. I hate that sinking feeling in my gut that comes with procrastination. So if instructions need designed, customers need replied do, packages need packaged and shipped, I’m on it the day the resin arrives. However, I cannot exert that same mindset on my various vendors. I don’t want to be an asshole to them and ride their asses until I get what I want as that’s never good for any relationship. (I’ve had to do it before with excuse-ridden suppliers and it sucks) Plus, I know what goes into the different links in my supply chain. I’ve worked with/toured paper printing companies as a graphic designer. I understand that getting a good 3D print takes time to break-up the parts properly as well as printing and clean-up time. And I cast my own small batch resin stuff here at home for my own projects. Not as good as my vendor, but good enough for my own use, and better than most amateur casters. And my vendors all really know their stuff and do great work for me. This was not always the case, but I eventually got to a point where my having to apologize to customers was rare at best.
The past year has been a bit rough and pretty much out of my control in the casting department. A few newer designs for larger kits ended up pushing other things around as they took more time to cast. Then my caster not only had to move to a new facility in May due to environmental regs, the price of mold material skyrocketed causing more issues and work-arounds making the delays take longer. I’m used to getting a large shipment of resin from them every 6-8 weeks, but recently it’s not been as frequent.
This has caused me to start apologizing again for the recurring delays in our preorders. And I am truly sorry about them. I don’t like to start preorders more than 6-8 weeks before I expect to have kits in-hand to ship out. I am quite efficient, and if I start preorders earlier, it causes a lot of extra customer service related work explaining to customers that the ETA (estimated time of arrival) is just a glorified best guess on my part, but their kits should arrive shortly. Having to do this once sucks. Having to do this several times sucks infinitely more.
Please check individual item page for updated ETAs!
I just changed the ETAs on all the preorders to the end of July, 2019. (later for the Duchess as it’s HUGE and takes additional time, is causing other kits to be delayed) This is just an estimate however based on what my caster told me the past few days. (FedEx/US customs could increase that slightly, but resin production is now in good shape) I explained to him that I REALLY need my kits and “I can’t run a business like this”, and he came through with a detailed-enough status update to make that guess. I really don’t want to change that date again, so fingers crossed!
This isn’t all I’ve been doing to decrease delays either. I’ve been scaling back on releases that don’t sell well enough to justify keeping them in-stock/restocking. Some kits sell well for a while, then the interest wanes. Some new designs just never sell well and take forever to move a full run of. In both cases, kits sitting on my shelf is capital I could be using to design and produce cool new products that could be better sellers. Plus not producing designs that don’t sell frees up casting resources/time for those that do. Now this upsets some customer who are late to the parts, but I cannot justify re-releasing a kit with just one or two requests. But if a kit garners enough rekindled interest, then I’ll definitely try to do another small run. If the kit is on the site and it says Restocking or In-Development, then I’d be open to entertaining another batch. Let us know! If the kit is no longer in the shop however (Frankenstein) that means it’s never coming back. Sales were either incredibly dismal (Vampire, Centurion, Dustbuster…), or the master was damaged beyond reasonable repair. (Frankenstein, 1/20 Sasha)
I’ve also decreased the number of new releases. At one time I was releasing over a dozen a year. We’ve got a pretty large catalog now, so restocking and new designs are both competing for the same casting resources.
Finding reliable production is the trickiest part. I’ve used many casters and by far this one is the best. No kit is ever perfect, but customers for the most part have very little complaints. New production can open me up for new apologies during the testing phase. Plus finding the right balance of cost, volume, and quality is trickier than you may think. I’m quite picky as I am a model-builder myself. I don’t want our products to be difficult to work on. Modeling/hobbies is about relieving stress, not causing more stress!
So that’s it for now. I really appreciate that most of you have been so patient during this hiccup in out supply chain. Thanks so much for that! I look forward to putting the heartburn meds away soon! The issues should be resolved now and we can get back to making and shipping kits on a more reliable schedule.
–Michael Fichtenmayer (owner, designer, customer service rep, marketing, packager, shipper…)