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Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Steve Cole's thoughts on the game publishing industry in general and ADB in particular.
1. The most dangerous thing any small businessman can allow to take hold is the idea that if something can be done, then it should be done. Lots of things can be done, but there will never be time to do everything and the ones that are the least useful or productive may have to be at the end of the line.
2. We use a system where we stock only one rigid game box (the white one used for Star Fleet Battles, Federation Commander, and other games) and print different full-color sleeves that wrap around it. That way, we don't have to invest money printing the stocking large quantities of boxes (which gets expensive if the game in question does not sell through).
3. Someone recently tried to order Starline 2500 Fed CAs, noticed they were not on the shopping cart, and asked when they would return. Normally Leanna would handle such queries but she was out of the office that day and rather than leave the customer waiting I looked into the matter myself with the help of Warehouse Manager Mike Sparks. The answer seemed interesting enough that I repeated it here for you all to see. We have a lot of items in the inventory, some of which (including all of the miniatures) we get from outside vendors. All of those miniatures are handled in this way. Mike checks the inventory on any given ship whenever he pulls some for an order, and checks the entire inventory every week. Once a week, he orders a restock of anything we are low on. Normally, the restock arrives before we sell the last of the stock, but sometimes there is a surge of sales of one item and sometimes the casting house takes longer to produce and ship our orders. If any item runs out of stock, the company policy is to deactivate it on the shopping cart because we do not take orders for things we don't have. (Books ship to the wholesalers a week before mail orders ship so we have the books in stock when we take pre-orders for them. In some cases we might be out of a print-on-demand book but since we can print new copies in an hour we do not deactivate those on the cart.) This is what happened when we sold out of Starline 2500 Fed CAs; we deactivated it even though we had already ordered more. As it happened, the customer inquiry came in on the same day as the new shipment but it took a day to quality inspect the ships and reactivate them on the cart.
4. Someone asked when we could turn the Starline 2500 Fed CB into a Starline 2450 miniature. We could do that any time. The trick is to do it without losing money. The up-front costs of the ship include the 3d printing, a master mold, and production molds, then the metal-and-time cost for each ship. That's a good example of a difficult ship to do as it has a saucer, secondary hull, and a pair of engines. The casting house will insist on creating three molds (the pair of engines will go into one mold). Here's why. You could physically fit all three pieces in one mold, but the problem is that some pieces spin better at different speeds and/or temperatures. Doing it in one mold makes the job of the casting house much harder as they have to balance the situation so that they can get good parts of all four types. Then it gets worse. Over time, mold cavities break down and cannot be used, but the overall mold still can be. So when the mold has used about 50% of its life, two or three out of 12 cavities no longer work so to make 120 parts takes not 10 spins but 12+. (The number of cavities varies depending on part size; the secondary hull might fit 24 in a mold, the saucer only eight.) If all of the parts are in one mold, then one of the parts will burn out before the other parts. So when they cast a brand new family mold they get four complete ships. When they cast a mold with 50% of its life left, they get two ships and leftover parts that can only be melted down. This means that the casting house that wanted to make 100 ships out of a family mold used to need 25 spins and now needs 50, and has a bucket of parts to be melted back down. This takes up a lot of extra time, electricity, and natural gas, increasing the costs to the casting house.  So they quite rightly refuse to do the ship without doing at least three molds. That's a significant extra cost for ADB, meaning we have to sell more ships before we make any profit. It could take from 40-100 ships just to break even on the up-front costs. Some ships sell many times that number, while others never reach that number.
5. We are trying to become more efficient. When Jean remarked that she wanted Steve Cole to get busy turning out new ePacks of Federation Commander ship cards (because he had a hundred cards in the file and it would be "not that much work" to make the packs) he remarked that it was a lot of work because of the need to create the counters. While explaining to someone else about why the counters are such a time-consuming project, Steve thought of a way to simplify the process. (What took so long was searching through existing ePacks looking for a counter with the same base hull type that he could modify, then fighting through the fact that over the years the formats had evolved and every counter had to be virtually done over.) He took two hours and copied every counter ever done for FC into a single file, then took two more hours to bring one counter for each base hull up to the current 8-16 standard. When he needed to do the very first Federation Commander counters for the Carnivons and Paravians he didn't have to start from blank paper, but could start with an existing file format and just replace the ship with one from Star fleet Battles Module C6. While doing the two new ship cards for that pack, Steve Cole took an hour to assemble a master document with all Federation Commander movement cost tables, so it will be easier in the future to find the one he wants. (He only has to look in one place now.)

6. While trying to find just the right piece of interior art for Federation Admiral Steve took a few hours to create a document with all of the people art published since 2002. He had earlier created a similar document with all of the ship art. This makes it much easier to find just the right piece of art for any space. It's easier to find what you need in one big file than in a lot of little files scattered all over the hard disk.