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Author Topic: new locomotives  (Read 11716 times)
CCSII

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« Reply #30 on: June 07, 2007, 11:56:18 PM »

A question that I have is:

We have all seen "Bachmann can't talk about it."

The question I have yet seen answered is "When the heck will they be able to talk about it?"

Anyone with an answer to that one?


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Steve Stockham


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« Reply #31 on: June 08, 2007, 07:04:01 AM »

Well, he would tell you when.......but he can't talk about it! (It's worse than the Govt. and Homeland Security!) Roll Eyes
« Last Edit: June 08, 2007, 07:07:47 AM by Steve Stockham » Logged
Skip

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« Reply #32 on: June 15, 2007, 07:10:19 AM »

One of the significant business decisions for Bachmann in this dcc or no debate is  warranty liability. Offering a loco without their own supplementary electronics, but intended to accept aftermarket equipment is devilish difficult to stickhandle from a cost control basis. If the marketing intention is offer a high end product with state of the art (always relative to price point), then the manufacturing decision has to centre around a stable product with as a low a mean-time-to-failure as can be reasonably achieved for the market value.  High warranty costs mean no profit, or a return on investment so far down the road as to not be an appropriate investment at all.

This is the danger of offering a bare-bones model, equipped with plugs for other things.  Few companies are willing to make the investment to exhaustively test all of the possible combinations that consumers might come up with.  Making simple warranty statements that your warranty is void if you do this or that, is not enough protection in most places. Legal wrangling over whether or not the combo didn't work, and whose fault the damage is, is very costly.  The computer industry learned this the hard way, and is why you get no help usually when you've mixed and matched.

The optimum situation would be a model with an electronics package that is independent of motor systems (ie not integral with the motor system), coupled with a design that gives room and board or plug access, and GOOD documentation as to the wiring and electrical characteristics of the motor system that is plug and play for the dcc users.  This model could be sold both with and without the electro package, and the package could be an option.  The key is engineering forethought for acccessibility.

  From a marketing/manufacturing perspective, the difficulty is how clear is your crystal ball - how many combo units will be sold, how many plain, how many add-on kits.  Add-on kits from your own house add A LOT to the support cost of the product, because you don't get to train the installers.  Most of these products are sold at deep discounts from MSRP - that means there's no extra cash for hand holding, and the offshore manufacturing deals that make it all possible have little provision in the business plan for fall back on the manufacturer to fix the current line -they can only retool for the next runs.  If the first runs return no investment, there may not be subsequent runs.

The reality for the makers of plug and play DCC trains is they are building for an entirely different market than most of you guys - In most hobby areas where modern computerized electronics are coming in, most buyers want ready to run - they have neither the knowledge, skills or time to be bothered messing with the hardware - they just want it to run reliably.  Same logic as currently exists with the family car- not many of us anymore spend much time under the hood if we drive anything made since 1990.

Then end result is fast becoming "disposable" hardware with a higher price point.  Meade did it with their ETX series telescopes and its happening in the ham radio area, and the current state of the radio control hobby reflects exactly the same thing.  The sad reality is the hobby tinkerer is no longer a viable market - the hardware sophistication has outrun the competence of most consumers.
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Tim Brien

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« Reply #33 on: June 15, 2007, 08:27:58 PM »

Skip,
       all very profound,  but the bottom line is no matter how complicated we make things,  manufacturers are really unable to service those items that do fail.  Many found out the hard way with the 3-truck Shay when they were shunted between Bachmann and Sierra when their sound system failed.   Bachmann was the only supplier of the sound board as it is unique to Bachmann.  Purchasers believed that they were buying a Sierra sound board,  not a corruption of Sierra technology.


      It seems to me that you are stating that a fully sound/DCC equipped factory supplied locomotive is going to be more reliable than a consumer 'optioned' model.  This I find a little difficult to swallow.  I do not want DCC on any model.  If a sound unit is supplied then I want it to be a quality sound board,  not a manipulation of another manufacturer's technology.


     Today's hobby is certainly more user 'ready to run' mentality and with the increase in complexity,  the 'modellor' (for want of a better word) is no longer able to rip a loco apart and do what he wants to it.  The production standards set by the current 3-truck Shay lead me to believe that with increasing complexity will come increasing unreliability.  Is this the route that modellors have chosen or are manufacturers trying to compete with the computer technology world of ipods, mobile phones, computer games, etc.?  It seems more of a technology ego-based trip for manufactuers and a downslide for the end-user.
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Skip

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« Reply #34 on: June 15, 2007, 09:47:36 PM »

Skip,
       all very profound,  but the bottom line is no matter how complicated we make things,  manufacturers are really unable to service those items that do fail.  Many found out the hard way with the 3-truck Shay when they were shunted between Bachmann and Sierra when their sound system failed.   Bachmann was the only supplier of the sound board as it is unique to Bachmann.  Purchasers believed that they were buying a Sierra sound board,  not a corruption of Sierra technology.

Being unable to service is the consequence of either a bad business decision, or economies of scale that simply didn't allow for sufficient reserve for the product issues.  I can't speak directly for Bachmann about the Sierra situation, but the experience is consistent with designing a product using third party expertise to to value add certain features within a target price point/manufacturing/distribution cost.   I would guess that customers were buying a Sierra sound board (don't own one myself), just not a Sierra retail board, but one custom engineered for Bachmann by Sierra, and likely to meet a lower price point for the overall package as compared to installing a retail package.  I have no knowledge where the boards are installed (or even made), but an engineering trade-off may have had to have been made if the boards had to be shipped to the manufacturing plant in China for installation by "unskilled" assemblers, or the cost of installation of the board separately into units arriving from offshore factored into the final pricing.  I doubt Bachmann has released the sales figures - its difficult to know if the overall satisfaction of the combo unit is better or worse than has been experienced within the range of satisfaction of some unhappy users.   

Quote
      It seems to me that you are stating that a fully sound/DCC equipped factory supplied locomotive is going to be more reliable than a consumer 'optioned' model.  This I find a little difficult to swallow.  I do not want DCC on any model.  If a sound unit is supplied then I want it to be a quality sound board,  not a manipulation of another manufacturer's technology.

 That is, or is expected to be, the situation in an properly engineered and executed loco within a certain price context, simply because the manufacturer has considerably more control over the design and compatibility factors in the product's manufacture.  Sometimes, the engineering doesn't get done. Reliability is higher, generally,  when the match-up of components has been carefully and properly done.  What has been eliminated are the variables of installation, and product performance due to unit variation. Of course, it doesn't always work out that way.  But from a manufacturing perspective, the failure variables of an in-house match-up can be better known, costed and accounted for, all of which is important to the company's bottom line during the product life cycle. Additionally, the value-added component that you install yourself and configure and set-up (assuming you want sound too), on a priced comparison is worth more at the manufacturing level, usually, than what the comapny is offering, not necessarily because they are trying to cut corners, but because the marketable price distribution requires a lower production cost than what your homebrew equivalent would be.   

Quote
     Today's hobby is certainly more user 'ready to run' mentality and with the increase in complexity,  the 'modellor' (for want of a better word) is no longer able to rip a loco apart and do what he wants to it.  The production standards set by the current 3-truck Shay lead me to believe that with increasing complexity will come increasing unreliability.  Is this the route that modellors have chosen or are manufacturers trying to compete with the computer technology world of ipods, mobile phones, computer games, etc.?  It seems more of a technology ego-based trip for manufactuers and a downslide for the end-user.

All of the above, I would say.  Reliability in the face of complexity is always a cost/benefit trade-off, and this is very difficult for manufacturers.  The most reliable product in the world is of no use if you can't sell enough of them to cover the cost to make them, so there are always value point decisions to be made based on the best guess marketing can come up with on who will buy it, and what it will cost to support the sales during the market cycle.  The exceptional interest in sound-mimic locos should be enough to convince you that that is where the market demand is indicated.  The part of the market that pays the bills (and its not the forum members here...Smiley continue to be attracted to funny noises and bright lights, in everything, and thus it has become the technology maker's nightmare to find the right mix for what is an increasingly short market cycle.  You'll note Bachmann's MSRP prices on their product website, and you'll note the huge difference between it and what customers frequently pay.  The MSRP is normally calculated to accommodate the manufacture, distribution, sale and support of the product during its life cycle, and leave a healthy enough margin of return on investment to absorb the indirect cost of doing business along with the direct.  But customers are not paying the MSRP, so products are often short cycled to move inventory at the expense of reserve profit.  Good deals for you and I, but not good for R&D - the part that gets you the better, more reliable product.

I agree with you that the plain unit should be the fundamental sales unit, to which you add the kits you want.  For Bachmann, however, I expect the bigger market in the shay, for example, wants a a no-fuss wannabe mimic that's plug and play.  Ultimately you have to ask yourself - what am I prepared to pay for the unit in the form I want, and can the manufacturer fund the production run from what I want?  For hobbyists, those two things often don't coincide, so in order to supply the hobbyist, the mass market has to pay the bills, and it frequently doesn't want what you want, at the price you're willing to pay.
 
« Last Edit: June 15, 2007, 09:51:51 PM by Skip » Logged
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