|Getting Models Right |
Editorial May 2005
The topic this time concerns something of relevance to the serious collector. Namely how can model manufacturers ensure that the models they produce are as good as they can be within the financial budgets set for the model.
The question arises because of the number of models which get released for sale which have errors or problems which it would seem could have been corrected before production. We are not talking about manufacturing defects here - that is a quality control issue which should be corrected at the factory. What we are talking about are examples like the following:
Instructions either not provided, unclear or even incorrect...........
Scaling errors such as wheels that foul wheel arches when steered.......
Omissions on the model........
Strange colours, or colour combinations.........
Firstly we need to remember that it is the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Liebherr and CAT who commission the models. Part of this process involves the model maker producing prototypes for approval before the model goes into volume manufacture. Despite this process, it is too frequent that models get to market with problems like those described above.
Why does this happen? We can only suppose that the review process by the OEMs is not always thorough. Perhaps it is left to the marketing department and they just do not have the passion for the accuracy of the product and so things slip through. Also it could be that by the time the prototype is reviewed it is too late and costly to correct matters which may seem relatively minor. Fundamentally of course it is the model maker who is responsible for making an accurate model and for this he is reliant on information provided by the OEM and maybe here is a part of the problem, particularly when the full size machine is also new to market.
The scale model market is also a little different from other markets. A manufacturer of a consumer product knows that the customer is the purchaser of the product - the buyer of a TV for example. In scale models, the model maker's main customer is the OEM, and the collectors are one step removed, so do their views really count?
An alternative way forward for the progressive model making company is to have a more active relationship with collectors. After all they are going to be most passionate about models being as good as possible. Would a model maker be brave enough to invite select collectors to review a model at the prototype stage, similar to the focus groups used by manufacturers of consumer products? As an example the instruction sheets sometimes provided do not appear to have been 'tested' on anyone because if they had they would surely be made clearer and better. Also a more active approach to getting feedback from collectors would provide input to improving future models. The websites of the major makers such as NZG and Conrad request comments but are they ever acknowledged and do the comments get fed into future products?
The best long term future for a model maker would be secured by making high quality models that result in collectors that are really happy. They should engage collectors more.