Saturday, September 8, 2012

Et tu, Reaper? A politically incorrect rant of sorts.

  Just a general statement of how it feels to be an average blue collar American trying to swim against the surging tide of out sourcing.

  I finally broke down and bought in to one of those "Kickstarter" deals. It was for Reaper minis "Bones" promotion. I always loved Reaper minis and thought they were in Texas. It cost a bit, but it was a good deal and if I can help a fellow company out, great.

  Then I go this in an e-mail;

What we can tell you so far...

200 of the masters left for China yesterday! :-) We think that will give them something to do for a while while we get some sculpting finished up.

We sent in a big PO for the 29 Bones models that we can get, just so we have lots of inventory until the rewards castings come in. This also gives the Chinese factory something to do while they start making new molds too. Because you folks wanted to see what they were like and started buying them, we've run out of two models already!  "

Soooooo.  I sort of felt like I had been punched in the gut by that guy from Rocky 4.  I really should have researched this first, because I NEVER would have supported this if I knew it was to outsource production from Texas to China.

 I could write a hundred more paragraphs today about this, but it will not matter much.

  Let's just raise a glass to the memory of a workforce and an economy that is gone.  There are a couple ghosts and shadows still trying to hold on, but our days are numbered.



  1. Have you heard about 100 Thousand Garages? It sounds like a good way to coordinate decentralized American cottage industries.

    I don't like the China aspect, either. I'd prefer the work to stay here at home.


  2. One of the secondary goals of the Reaper Kickstarter is to move production of the Bones figures to their Texas facility. Maybe you should check back in a year or so and see if Reaper has managed to pull production back to the US.

  3. The problem, I assume, is that we don't have enough tool and die guys in the US to make it financially viable. People who make dies have never been plentiful (it was a HUGE problem during WW2)due to their work depending on a need for new production tools, but with all our other industries shipping overseas the need for these fellows has dropped significantly.

    No help for it.

  4. I don't think they're outsourcing the Texas facalty at all. But I don't think they have the equipment in the US to make them, at least at the moment. Like CTF said above, give them a year and we'll see.

  5. It's not outsourced to China. They never had any Bones making facilities to begin with in Texas, Bones were always produced in China (see the definition of outsourcing). The only difference is that because of our support their now accelerating the project where they construct Bones facilities in Texas. The reason why they still sent 200 masters to China is because the need to produce 200 metal molds and 5+ million PVC miniatures from those molds in about six months.

    Reaper has to expand the current Texas facility to house the new production line, that means build time. They need new machines to produce the molds, and press the PVC, that means delivery time. They need trained and expert personnel, that takes time interviewing, training, testing, etc. In China there is already a crew who knows how to do it right, as they have already done the previous Bones minis, so they can start right away.

    When the facilities in Texas are online, crewed by folks who know what to do and do it well, they'll ship the molds back to Texas so production can continue there.

    Without all that backing through the Kickstarter they would never have been able to finance those facilities all that well (if ever).

    The whole 'Made in China is bad' and 'Made in the USA is good' argument has never made all that much sense to us Europeans. And that is a pool of customers that's 40% more people then live in NA, while living on only 40% of the landmass. I'm very happy that a huge country like China can produce certain goods at such low prices, we'll sell stuff right back at them. At the current rate, we (the Netherlands) will export more to China within 10 years then we import. 33% of our national income is still generated by export. The US on the other hand is a consumer nation and imports more then it exports.

    In the mean time salaries in China increase, fuel costs and transport costs increase. Issue with US customs and imports from China. Lower wages in the west due to unemployment. Are all reasons why producing locally might be financially interesting. Reaper has already stated they want to do this locally, but they have obligations to the customers who already paid for products due March 2013, a lot of product.

    As a side note, I prefer a Dreamforge plastic Leviatian (US designer, Chinese manufacturing) to a Forge World resin Warhound (all made in the UK => EU). #1 It's awesome! #2 It's plastic! #3 Price, while the Leviathan is only 80% the size of a Warhound it's only 18% of the price of a Warhound.

  6. From Bryan Stiltz of Reaper KS:

    @Jay Nunes: Bob's right, but allow me to comment as well.
    There's "new Bones" and there's the Bones from the Kickstarter. What's the difference? we have 16 models released now, (of those 14 are in stock) and 13 more models that were part of Legendary Encounters Originally, and thus already have molds made. Those "new 13" and the restocks for the existing 16 will be in ...soon? We ordered them, and expect them to ship in a week or two, but there's transit over the ocean, plus customs, which has, for us, been anything from a 2 week to a 3 month process. I wish I could be less vague, but there's a lot of factors beyond our control*. If they aren't here by Christmas, though, I'll be very surprised. Halloween may be optimistic, though, but that's my hope...
    THEN there's the 270+ models from the Kickstarter, which will take until Late February to arrive, because molds are still being made for those. Luckily, they can make some molds, and begin production while the other molds get made, and cycle it so no machine sits idle.
    *this is a HUGE part of why we are bringing production in-house. As production manager, scheduling production runs is nigh-impossible without accurate numbers. Getting a 6 month supply ordered does no good if your order is delayed in customs/transit and you end up with an 8 month gap between orders, or ordering a 9 month supply and getting restocks in 4 months and having excess inventory... I'm not a perfectionist, but I don't like sloppy scheduling. On the "bringing production in house" front, we're making excellent progress on securing the equipment, and are bringing in a contractor soon to begin making modifications to the building to accommodate it.

  7. We'll keep things here by being better. I know the pressure is always on, and I worked with Chinese and Indian nationals in school who talked extensively about working for half a dozen years in the US at a Wall Street firm and being able to go back to India or China and be an outsourcing mogul.

    What we have here, though, is a lot of creativity and flexibility. It may never pay to make a billion widgets a year in the US. But I think we can keep the high value-added stuff if we try.

    Incidentally, my day job is at an auto parts manufacturer. All of the manufacturing, including electronic assembly, is done right here in the US. It is a choice, but not merely ideologically. We innovate so quickly that we need the production where we can tweak it. This kind of commitment is what will keep things here. We may just have to cede making sink strainers and golf tees to the rest of the world. New and cool stuff, not so much.