Archive for April, 2010
Round 2 Models is so excited about the progress of our NASCAR 2010 Chevrolet Impala Snap it model kit – that we just had to share it with you!
Over the past month our staff has made leaps and bounds, seeing assembled and unassembled test shots of this “Car of the Future” AMT model kit, which overall, look great (check out the photos and see for yourself). Our assessment thus far: the model feels great, has a crisp detailed body, chassis and interior, and it rolls beautifully. However, just like any new model kit, there are still tweaks to be made in order to meet our high expectations and yours too. For instance, we’ve conducted our “assembly review” of the NASCAR Snap it kit, checking for parts that need slight adjustments (and there’s always a few that need tweaking) in order to make sure everything snaps together precisely. Once all the test shot corrections have been made, we will pass on our feedback to the factory, where the proper adjustments can be made. Once that’s completed, the factory will send us pre-painted bodies and sticker/decal sheets (we are offering both options with this kit) to review.
The same process basically holds true for our packaging. The initial layouts are developed by our creative staff. The designs are then sent to the licensors for any changes to be made and final approval. Once all the changes are made and approved, we send the electronic files to the factory to be printed, assembled, filled with product, then wrapped up and sent back to us for distribution.
On the creative side of things, we have been making great strides on our packaging for the NASCAR kits as well! So far, both the Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. package designs have been licensor APPROVED, and are already at the factory to be printed – with instruction sheets soon to follow. In fact, we’re so happy about the progress – we’ve included a couple “sneak peeks” of the packaging and instruction sheets for you to check out! The Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin package designs are also well on their way and looking good.
We should be wrapping things up soon and can’t wait for the NASCAR Snap it kits to hit the shelves. Thanks for all your support, and happy modeling!
I’ll lay my head down in China (Hong Kong actually) for the last time tonight and I’m actually a little bit melancholy about it. I never really had any idea what to expect from this trip. I took it as it came and I never would have come if not for my job with Round 2 Models. Seeing the other side of the world has really affected me and I didn’t think it would. I can’t really say how I’ve changed but I can feel it. Maybe I feel a bit more adventurous. Maybe I just feel the kinship of people from a totally different culture that I still know very little about. Maybe it has been because I’ve made friends and it is time to say goodbye to them. I think that is the biggest thing.
I’ve spent the majority of the last two days sightseeing Shenzhen, China and Hong Kong with Joseph Yuen who is a key part of the Doallser staff. He has been a very fine host and we’ve had a lot of great discussions. He has the perfect personality to draw me out of my shell and into a great conversation. (Most of my good friends and my wife do a great job of that) We spent yesterday at the China Star amusement park with the three customer service girls that handle the products I work on. We had a great day walking around seeing shows about old customs from different Chinese cultures. The park’s main attractions are miniatures of China’s historic landmarks. I almost felt like a giant walking around the great wall, etc.
Today, Joseph escorted to see another manufacturer in Guangdong who had several factories to show us. I got a good feeling for the “real” China. By that, I mean the areas away from the bigger cities. It felt like quite an adventure at some points.
After that, we made our way back to Hong Kong. Once we checked into our hotel, Joseph showed me around a bit of Hong Kong. We covered our fair share of territory in the few hours we had. I bought a few comics at a news stand and we had a couple drinks in the cool pub area. We didn’t stay out long enough to get rowdy though. I had heard this is a great city and it lives up to the hype.
I get on the plane back home in about 12 hours. The trip has gone very quickly. I hope to be back again some day maybe. As with most trips, you just run out of time eventually. Oh well. We got lots of important business done and we’ve really strengthened some relationships I think. For anyone disappointed for a lack of production coverage, never fear. I plan on putting together some great posts real soon that shows how the magic happens. I’ve taken so many photos and video that I haven’t had time to sort through it all and I have no way to edit it all right now. I think I’ve got it all covered and hope to share real soon. Before I sign off, I’d like to thank Tom Lowe for sending me, Craig Lundquist for guiding me through everything, to Bob and Terri for holding everything together back at the office, Andy for posting these for me. Special thanks to Mr. Wong, Eric Wong and Raymond Wong at Heap Shing, and Dasam Hsu, Amy Hsu, Joseph Yuen and the girls, Beckie, Fay and Grace at Doallser to all for making me feel very welcome in China. I need to thank one other dear person who has been waiting patiently to come back home since the moment I left, my wife Georgette. I hope to show you more of the world some day. I know you want to see it.
Signing off from Hong Kong.
I’m starting to write this one a little earlier and I feel well rested and ready for the day. The next two days will be spent at Doallser. Like I said, I am more familiar with the people here. This factory produces our Round 2 Models kits and Peanuts Forever Fun product. It seems to be an excellent company to be partnered with.
The owner, Mr. Dasam Hsu, takes a genuine interest in the well being of his employees. He has begun team building and wellness programs for them. He wants them to care for one another and work well as a team. They even take a break every day at 4:00 for dancing and back rubbing. It is quite a thing to see with line workers lined up front to back each rubbing the back of the worker in front of them. I saw training to use a fire extinguisher today. At first I thought it was kind of odd but then I thought about it. We take for granted that having a fire extinguisher nearby is good enough. I can’t recall ever trying one myself though. It seems like good practical training to me.
I was honored to meet our customer service staff- Grace and Fay, who communicate with me daily about model kit progress; Beckie who keeps us updated about our Forever Fun products; and Cola, who handles our die cast product (I think) with our guys back at the office. They seemed very interested to meet me but were quite timid. I was told that they might be shy but that they would be able to overcome this. Each greeted me in English. They fear that they don’t speak English well enough, but I understood everything they said (in English) the great majority of the time. They understood me most of the time and they have always written very well. They were intrigued by (but too timid to touch) my “whiskers”. They giggled to each other at the prospect. They were very proud to point out our product as we saw it on our initial tour of the factory and they were very anxious to talk with me directly about our projects. I have been looking forward to meeting these young ladies. It is always easier to deal with people where you can put a face to a name and email chatter. I started to sweat when they asked about learning Chinese. I had told them I would try to learn a little bit before I came. I had listened to a couple quick lesson on the internet the other night and I made up a small cheat sheet with me and received a couple more giggles because my notes weren’t written phonetically well enough. They set me right though and taught me how to say “China” and “watermelon” in Chinese. I wonder what I will learn tomorrow.
The facility is organized with a lot going on. Recent upgrades in technology in different areas have really raised their capabilities. We had been recently informed of their new CNC milling machine and electrostatic clean room for decorating high end collectible products. They have also purchased a larger format injection machine to inject our model kits.
Right now, they are running the new 1:32 scale 1966 Batmobile Collector’s Edition Tin, Double Dragster and K-7 Space Station kits. They have one final assembly/ packaging line that is devoted to our product. It was fun to see stacks of Batmobile boxes and bins full of bagged parts waiting to come together like a Reece’s peanut butter cup. Mmm… yummy model kits. No sooner had my camera let me down but then the batteries completely konked out on me. It was late in the day before I got more pics. I did take a video of some of the production lines. I’ll find a way to quickly edit them and put them out once I get back.
Dasam showed me some very special projects they are working on and they are AMAZING. Unfortunately, I am sworn to secrecy. I can say precision die cast fans would be impressed. The biggest one is a limited commercial project so I’m not sure if the majority of the public will ever get to see it. I hope so though.
After a long day at the factory, we ended up at dinner with the whole crew. I think besides knowing about the working conditions, I would expect everyone to be curious about real Chinese food. This was the third night in a row for me to eat Chinese. I was hoping to have something else but I think I liked tonight’s meal the best. I’m not sure if I could say why though. I have tried everything on the table and was complimented tonight on my bravery by Dasam’s sister, Amy. Along the way, the dishes have ranged from tofu dishes to BBQ pork, fish with the heads and tails on the dish and almost everything in between. I figure why not, the least that could happen is that I wouldn’t take a second bite of something.
I think the strangest thing I ate was last night and that was a red bean dish. I think it was served as a desert. It was the consistency of a soup and was somewhat sweet. The impression it left me was that it was kind of like a soup version of red velvet cake. It took me a few bites to decide if I liked it or not. I finally decided that I’m not a fan.
The best thing was probably last night also and it was a vegetable similar to a fork sized celery stalk almost like an elongated cabbage. I can’t remember what it was called. It was served in a buttery sauce. There have only been very few dishes that I would say I didn’t like and even then it is kind of a mild dislike.
All in all, it isn’t “crazy” food. There is a lot of variety. Compared to Chinese food at home, it is a bit more subtle. The tastes don’t really bang you over your head like at home. There aren’t many dishes with really spicy hot or sweet sauces. It is a more mellow food. Chinese dishes are brought to the table one after another until they have all been delivered. You start with what is first placed on the table and then eat the other dishes as they arrive every few minutes. Dishes are placed on a lazy susan so everyone can reach it. You eat from a tea cup sized bowl and you take just a few bites worth from the center dishes. It is difficult to really know how much you have eaten yourself. It is a very different way to eat with no sense of urgency what so ever.
I’ve eaten everything without asking what it is. Most times I was told first but not always. I’ve eaten so many different things and understood so little about what was in it that I can’t tell you everything that I’ve eaten. I’ve been a brave little monkey on this trip and I’m sure I’ll be ready for a hamburger once I get home.
Day three has come and gone and I’m pretty tired. We finished our meetings with the folks at Heap Shing in the morning and we feel good that they will be able to improve on last year for us. At mid day, we were taken to one of our other manufacturing partners, Doallser. I had not met the kind folks from Heap Shing before but I had met the guys from Doallser several times back home. I was anxious to see their facilities and meet some of the customer service reps that we email with every day.
Since I’m really dragging, I’m just going to keep this one bit simpler with a few photos and some explanation about them. I saw quite a lot today and I just can’t cover it all. I’m tending to think I may decide to do a factory walk-through article and post it on our Round 2 Models kit website a bit later on with more detail.
…well, I just looked at my pics and it looks like my settings got shifted a bit in my camera and my images are pretty crappy… Ugh. The more I look through them, the more disappointed I am. Oh well. I’m posting a couple pics that turned out somewhat clear. I think everyone will find them kind of cool model kit and Forever Fun fans alike. More tomorrow…
(The below has been written to the best of my understanding. I can only speak to what I have seen first hand and what I have been told through broken English.)
(and as you’ll see, my favorite punctuation mark is the parenthesis)
We had our first meeting today and it went really well. The meeting today was with one of our suppliers for our Forever Fun product line. To be painfully honest, they let us down with the quality of our Forever Fun product last year and this was the primary reason for me making the trip. They also work on our die cast products and do a very good job with that line. I’ll meet with our Round 2 Models kit manufacturer later tomorrow afternoon.
The meeting was very constructive. I’m here because I know the answers to the factory’s questions and I know what we can and can’t live without. We were able to walk through all of the new product that has been set so far for this year. I was informed about difficulties the factories have with workers. (I’d say they are good problems for them to have. More on that further on down.) I was able to find some solutions to a few problems they were having too. Thanks to the benefit of the internet, I was able to “discuss” our meeting with my compatriots Bob and Terri back at the office via aim once I returned to my hotel. (there is 12 hours difference in time zones) We were able to hammer out a few details I didn’t want to nail down without their input. I also went on a brief tour of the factory…
I think this is the one aspect everyone seems to be most curious about. What are the working conditions like? My impression is… not terrible. I’ll be upfront and honest; the idea of working in any factory day in and day out gives me heeby-jeebies. Many people, including some I know and love, do this every day. God bless them for it. There isn’t anything “wrong” with it. It just isn’t for me. With that said, as factories go it wasn’t much worse than any others I’ve been in during summer jobs during college, print shops or RV plants I’ve spent time in.
It was dirty, loud in some spots and smelly in others not unlike those I’ve been in at home. I did pick up on things like the lack of eye protection and such. I definitely saw no sign of children which we would all fear. The Chinese government has made worker rights a priority in the recent past. This is part of the reason why you might have noticed price increases in products in the last few years. They are paid for over time (though I honestly don’t know how many hours they are to work before considering it “overtime”) and they are to receive Sunday off.
Workers also hold an upper hand because even though the population of China is huge, it is aging and younger workers are pickier about where they work and what they do. There are jobs that no one wants to do even at higher rates of pay. Spray deco which our Forever Fun uses quite extensively is a job people don’t want because they don’t like the smell (it smelled no worse than an American screen printing shop to me). Younger workers would also rather work in a better environment like the booming service industry. Southern China’s manufacturing districts grew because people were willing to move there for work in addition to the large concentration of people already in the area. With other areas growing in population, people are staying closer to home. In the past, people would move away from home (along with their immediate families in many cases) for years at a time to work at a factory. Areas in Northern China can now attract workers with better wages. This is a flip flop from the past. These are all factors plus the fact that land owners share their wealth with their extended families so people of working age in the area don’t necessarily need to work to feed their families anyway. (Land in China is very valuable and increasing in value)
I asked where most of the factory workers lived. (as I recall, they employ 400 between two facilities) I had heard that most will live in a dorm at the factory but I had seen many apartments in the area as well. I was told that many workers are family and that they stay at the factory. (I didn’t see the dorms. If I did, I didn’t know it.) They work from 8-12, 1:30-6 and 7:30-9. If this artist’s math is right (fat chance) that comes to 10 hours a day. I work close to that 5 days a week. Add in my commute time and I would be spending the same amount of time away from home.
I don’t mean to put too much shine on a turd here. The area the factory was in is dirty. It was raining today but I was told that even if it wasn’t, we still wouldn’t see the sun for the smog. If you spend time out in it, I understand you end up pretty gritty. The office area was dingy compared to those at home. Again, I’d say the smog has something to do with that. We spent most of our time in an air conditioned conference room but the rest of the office was ventilated by open windows.
… At one quiet moment, I asked Eric, the gentleman I spent most of the day talking to (and young son of the owner), “what do you do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies?” and he said “No, not really. Just spend time at home”. I’m not sure if he fully understood my question or if he didn’t want to go into it. Sadly, the look on his face backed up his answer.
Is this the best place on Earth to make a living? No, not compared to options we have. Are we as Americans demanding about the product we buy? Yes. It has to be good quality, safe and inexpensive. That’s hard to achieve and some times when it is achieved, it is at the expense of another human being(s) somewhere else in the world. No one person (that I know of) is to blame. It is what we have grown into. By the same token, people are making money and getting rich in China too. Things aren’t terribly different a world away. I think this coin has more than two sides and they aren’t all as equally shiny. Take that as you may (or will… or whichever is grammatically correct.)
(See what I meant about the parenthesis?)
L to R- Eric Wong, Jamie Hood, Raymond Wong at Heap Shing/Signature Models factory, Dongguan, China
(Due to a lack of access to facebook from China, these blogs will be partly for friends and family and partly informational for fans of our Round 2 Models kit product. I hope everyone finds something worthwhile in them.)
I’m sitting in my underwear (there goes worthwhile out the window) at 11:30 in the morning and I’m getting ready to go to bed… Well, it’s 11:30 a.m. at home but it’s almost midnight here. I’m not real tired and I’d blame my internal clock for that. I didn’t get much sleep on the plane some I’m running on about 4 hours sleep out of the last oh… 28 or so. I have faith in myself that I’ll fall right to sleep.
The trip has gone fine so far. I was blessed to have no one sit next directly next to me on the plane. I had a window seat which was nice. I can confirm two things, the polar ice cap is still there and someone deliberately created this world of ours. Nothing leaves me in awe more than flying over the mountains of Eastern Asia or seeing Cumulus clouds… from above. Amazing sites. My only disappointment was not having my camera on hand at the time.
I withstood the plane ride fairly well. The movies sucked so I read Crisis On Infinite Earths, a twelve issue series that forever (until a couple years ago) changed the DC comics universe. It is held in high regard by many comic fans. I had always remembered it very fondly as I had read it when it came out… in 1985. It is still the greatest comics crossover ever, imo. It was so epic and complex story-wise that I doubt another crossover can come close to it though many have and will try.
After landing (in Hong Kong), we met up with a couple gentlemen from one of the factories we do business with in China. They brought us to our hotel. The ride was nice. Hong Kong was foggy today and it was nearing dusk so it seemed overly grey. The city of Hong Kong (what I’ve seen thus far) reminds me of the Smoky Mountains, very green with low mountain tops and foggy. Imagine the Smokies with a major city nestled among them and that’ll get you close to what I saw.
The Goodview Hotel is very luxurious with pretty much all the bells and whistles. It is located near the factory we will visit tomorrow. We had a nice Chinese meal. Here, the meal is served as dishes one at a time until the table is full. We eat a bit of each dish as it arrives. I used chop sticks and managed not to embarrass myself. We had orange shrimp, BBQ pork, a dish very much like steak fajitas but without the wraps, another pork (I think) dish and shrimp fried rice. It was very good. The flavors are a bit more subtle than the take out we get.
Well, those are the highlights for today, hopefully, more tomorrow. Have a good lunch. I’m hitting the hay.
Hi all. I know I’ve been pretty irregular with blog posts lately. The main reason has been we have started a system to really keep us on track with our release dates. This has caused us to have to do a whole lot of work up front to get a jump on everything. I hope to have some interesting stuff to write up real soon. It is just a matter of getting over this hump. I hope to be able to do the ten-day lead up to Wonderfest again this year.
One of the other reasons I have been so pressed for time is that besides getting everything on track with our deadlines, I’m also making a trip to China. I may even be on a plane by the time this blog gets posted. I’ll finally be able to see Round 2 model kits being made first hand. I’m wondering if there is anything you guys would like to see some pics of. I’ll definitely be hanging out in the factory for a few days. I hope to do a little blogging while I’m there. We’ll see how it goes.