Re: Cocoa Beach Prototype Rails - Low volume "manufacturing"
Aley, Jeff A
FWIW, here are my two cents.
First of all, it's a hobby. That means that folks will do things as "a labor of love" that don't make economic sense. For example, making patterns for an obscure part, "because I wanted a few for myself".
Let's look at what it takes to produce and sell detail parts:
1) Research & Make the Part
2) Advertize the Part
3) Manufacture the Part in some qty over some period of time.
4) Collect $$ and Ship the Part.
1) Research & Make the Part [the "master" in the case of cast-resin].
No problem. This is part of that "labor of love" I mentioned. Parts will get made either because some Craftsman wants to make them, or because a Craftsman thinks there's a market for such parts.
2) Advertize the Part.
No problem. In this day of instant Internet communications, advertizing can be as simple as an email to a few friends, or a posting to a few Yahoo!Groups, both of which are free. More formal advertizing in e-zines or paper magazines is optional. Remember that we're talking about low-volume, limited-run stuff.
3) Manufacture the Part.
On one hand, the part could be manufactured by the same Craftsman who produced the original part. Tom, for example, is extremely capable when it comes to resin casting. The obvious downside is that the Craftsman may not be interested in spending his time making parts.
An alternative is if the Craftsman has a "buddy" who can do the manufacturing for him. It's a small hobby, and many of us "know somebody" with this kind of capability. Of course, one must convince that buddy to actually get involved.
A third alternative is for the manufacturing to be done by an existing company (e.g. Funaro & Camerlengo). Here again, one must convince the existing company to do the work.
In the latter two scenarios, the Craftsman has the added burden of ensuring his master is compatible with the manufacturing process (e.g. no undercuts, etc.).
In all scenarios, there is probably some give-and-take over how many parts should be made, over what period of time. For example, "10 pieces per month, until demand falls below 5 pieces per month, then the product will be withdrawn". Or whatever [insert your own numbers until you're happy].
4) Collect $$ and Ship the Part.
Here again are several alternatives. If the Craftsman (or his buddy) are doing the manufacturing, they may do this themselves. Or they may want to ship to a retailer (e.g. Andy Carlson) who will handle the transaction with consumers. Obviously if an existing manufacturer (e.g. F&C) is doing the manufacturing, they will already have the capability to collect $$ and ship parts. An existing manufacturer has the advantages of "economies of scale". As Steve Funaro said to me, "I don't have to go to the Post Office to ship product! Every day, the Post Office comes to me."
I don't see any "showstopper" problems in any of the above. Items 3 & 4 have to be worked out, to mutual satisfaction, by the Craftsman, and each Craftsman will choose differently. The fact that "this can work" is clearly evidenced by the flat cars recently advertized by Clark Propst, or by the decals advertized by Jerry Glow. I doubt anybody's getting rich, but it will might allow you to buy a few more Reboxx wheelsets.