Why Model?

Written By Lev Brodsky. Edited by Patric G. Whalen

In the 21st century, do scale models really still maintain a viable place in the marketplace of photo-realistic renderings and virtual reality? Traditional models are costly, take considerable time and effort to build and require space to display. They are relatively fragile and therefore need to be protected from possible damage. In the cost-cutting and time constrained climate of the modern age, what are the ultimate advantages and benefits of scale models that justify investing in them and dealing with the challenges of transportation and maintenance?

Let’s start at the cost end. Computer generated 3D simulations can be cheaper than physical models, perhaps even more so if your organization has 3D programmers on a payroll. These simulations can give your audience some idea of your design, but the scope and scale of the design can be lost in on-screen presentation. A 3D simulation that will fully achieve the scope and scale of a design will typically be much more expensive and time consuming. Even with such investment in computer simulations, the desired impression is not a guarantee.

Years of continued attempts at replacing physical scale models with virtual simulations have resulted in the same answer. No amount of computer programming or special effects can replace the impression of physical scale models. There is a particular power that only scale models are able to harness. Believe it or not, models have a magic appeal. It is the model alone that has the power to wake up the childlike spirit in all of us. A well crafted model draws people to spend hours examining every amazing detail. It is the human sense for adventure that draws people into the magical land of the scale model. No matter what direction a person comes from, each one experiences something different and no one is left bored or indifferent. It is this magic that causes models to receive more attention than even real-life subjects at trade shows. Read more of this post

Product Development – Financing

This is a part of product development process that, unfortunately, being underestimated or even denied by most inventors. There are thousands of people inventing new toys, games, collectibles, consumer products, industrial products and medical devices. Many of them eventually starting to seek resources in order to develop the invention, prototype it and manufacture or sell the idea to a suitable established company. Even if if the inventor is not going to manufacture the product by himself, it should be developed to the stage of pre-production prototype (or appearance model) so the inventor could present it to an interested party and convince that party to buy his idea.

Most of the inventors have no idea about the product development process, they cannot draw or render, or fabricate. Many of them have only a rough idea represented by handmade sketch. So they take the idea to the professional, to the model maker, which in this case is a product developer.

Here where the problem begins. It will be right to say that in most cases inventor is a regular guy, living paycheck-to-paycheck. He has an idea of a product, and wants to see it come to life. He also already sees himself set for life and able to retire after the product will start selling. Often the getting rich idea prevails over the product’s idea so much that the person loses the ability to analyze the invention and to see its weak sides. But this is a different aspect of inventor’s psychology, which deserves to be described in a separate article.

Let’s go back to the financial aspect. An average inventor unfortunately does not realize that product development costs substantial amount of money. He has no savings, no investing partner and usually, no intention to start looking for a financing options. Instead, he is looking for product developer that will agree to work without compensation or for a hideously low compensation. Instead of looking for financing, most of inventors keep looking for a partner, promising a share in future rewards.

Fellow model makers, be aware that some of inventors might be quite persuasive and convincing. You have to set it as one of your core rules never to agree to a partnership offer, as I guarantee you that you will hear such offers very, very often, and each one of them will be presented as your lifetime opportunity. Be prepared that many inventors approaching you will be offended by your refusal. They will see it as a lack of believe in ingenuity and success of their idea. They will blame you that you are greedy, that you put profit before the progress and well being of human kind, that you are turning them down because they are poor and will lick the boots of rich… So brace yourselves…

Here is an interesting observation. Each inventor is utterly confident in the success of his product. However, from the inventors that approached me, not a single one risked life savings to fund his product, not a single one refinanced the house or sold his possessions, despite the confidence.

It is not a sin not to realize that it will be a cost to develop a product. What is sad and odd is that after the inventors that I’ve met learned that, non of them turned and went to look for financing. They went to look for another product developer that will work for free or for a bowl of soup. Countless times I tried to explain that a product developer that will agree to work on such terms will be low qualified, that it will end the product, that whatever little the inventor will spend will be wasted. Countless times I was pointing out that even if the inventor will find someone to develop the product for free or low pay, manufacturing will require funding as well, and no manufacturer will agree to produce the product in exchange for promises of future riches. My words were not heard…

From time to time I walk into a dollar store and just walk along the shelves looking at dozens of products – toys, collectibles, accessories, candles… Poorly sculpted, poorly developed, poorly manufactured. Poor, unprofessional, cheap work, products that where made cheap, were not sold, thrown on the shelves of a dollar store for the lowest possible price, and still, not demanded even for that price…

Dear fellow model makers, stand for your expertise, for your knowledge, for your right to be compensated and for the quality of products surrounding us. I saw very appealing product ideas that fail because of under funding. I saw much less appealing products that had funding and were developed and sold quite successfully.  Inventors have to understand that having a project funded is the key to success. It is a part of our job to point that out and to encourage inventors to turn and seek funds rather than seeking a cheap and low professional source.

Importance of a Customer & Inquiry’s Handling

There is a quotation that became more and more popular lately, about importance of a customer for every business and principles of serving the customer. In most cases the quote looks like this:

“What is a Customer?
A customer is the most important person ever in this company – in person or by mail.
A customer is not dependent on us, we are dependent on him.
A customer is not an interruption of our work, he is the purpose of it.
We are not doing a favor by serving him, he is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.
A customer is not someone to argue or match wits with. Nobody ever won an argument with a customer.
A customer is a person who brings us his wants. It is our job to handle them profitably to him and to ourselves.”

Some attribute this quote to Mahatma Gandhi, some convinced that the quote is by Leon Bean, the founder of L. L. Bean, some think otherwise. It is not important who said the words, the words are right. I couldn’t agree more that a customer is the most important asset of any business, including a model making business.  I agree that a business should revolve around the customer and customer’s wishes and needs. I said many times and will say it again: “I adore my customers!”.

Unfortunately we live in a world where principles of business management and business-customer relationships significantly changed if not to say degraded. We are surrounded by a bunch of businesses which provide bad services and bad products, don’t keep their promises, lie to us, overcharge us, showing total and utmost disregard to customers’ needs, interests and time. Every call that we make to quickly ask a simple question turns into a long torture of chopping your way through automated system, which endlessly demanding to choose from multiple options, press buttons, input various information, while telling you how important you and your call to them… Not to mention that in order to receive any type of service or product we have to agree with Terms and Conditions that serving mostly to set a provider free of any liability and often to simply  enslave a customer no matter how bad the product or service will turn to be soon. Today’s situation has very little to do with above principles of valuing customers and serving them.

With that said, it is important to acknowledge that customer-business relationships changed also. Customers, both corporate and individual, dramatically expanded in their minds the amount of consulting and quotation services (yes they are services, no less) that they entitled to receive free of charge, while reduced their responsibilities and obligations practically to zero. Such change affects model making companies as much as any other businesses, and maybe even more.

It is important for model maker to respond to every incoming inquiry. It is important to make every customer feel wanted and special. It is important to serve customers. It is right to follow all the principles above. Let’s just not forget why is it so important in the first place. Let’s not forget why do we do it, because valuing and serving a customer is a philosophy, a core principle of business management, but not an objective. The ultimate objective of every business, including a model making business, is to produce paid jobs and to make a profit. Is it wrong to say that along with his wants a customer has to bring funds to pay for the service, and his commitment to his part of the obligations.

The second part of the last phrase in the quotation is also just. It is a model maker’s job as an owner of the business to handle a customer, to determine a type of customer’s inquiry, to analyze its seriousness and to set boundaries to the amount of consulting and quotation (once again – these are services and a hard work).

Many customers are not familiar with model making services, they might not know that it is a costly service and this is not their fault. It is a model maker’s job to make sure that the customer is aware of the fact that model making is an expansive service. And it is not impolite to ask customer is he or she is ready that the project might cost a few thousands of dollars and if he or she has such funds available to allocate to the project. I want to emphasize this point once again: these questions should be qualified as merely delicate, but not as impolite ones. You may ask very delicate questions in a very polite way and with utmost respect.  A customer has to understand that by asking such questions you acting in his/her best interests, trying to save his/her time and avoid misleading or misunderstanding at the very early stages.

Know this: the moment you answered the phone or replied to an email, you already started to work for a customer. For free. Your main objectives will be to determine how serious is the incoming inquiry and what type of customer are you dealing with in order to reduce the amount of your free work.

Last years’ crisis in economy dramatically affected the buying power of businesses and individuals. As a result today’s customers expanded their eligibility for free consulting, research and quotation beyond any reason. Suddenly customer-business relationships in too many cases became a one way road with no obligations from customer’s side and no reward nor compensation for a provider. Suddenly it became acceptable…

Well, it’s not acceptable, it is not ok…

– It is not ok to approach a model maker with very little funds, or no funds at all.

– It is not ok to have a model maker to spend hours, putting together  a quote, if there is no funds for the project in the first place.

– It is not ok to involve a model maker into multi-hour consulting about a model or a product idea, have a model maker to come up with suggestions and solutions of how to design or produce it, offering no compensation at all.

– It is not ok to trick a model maker into such free consulting, mimicking it as “discussing a potential project” or as a qualification interview.

– It is definitely not ok to lure out of an experienced and highly comprehending model maker such ideas and solutions and take them to a cheap vendor.

– It is not ok to make an inquiry look serious and real, involve a model maker into several hours of consulting and quotation and than reveal that there was no even intention to order, a customer just was wondering how much can it cost.

– It is not ok to make a model maker walk through a few stages of quotation (again, several hours of research, planning, calculations, proposal writing), keeping a model makers on his toes and under impression that an order is a done deal, that the paperwork is needed only to accessorize properly a contracting process, and than to decide not to award the project.

– It is not ok to make a model maker think that there is no other bidders involved, customer is fine with pricing, an order is almost done deal, and (again, after multi-hour consulting, discussions, quotations, proposal writing) award the project to the lowest bidder (suddenly it turns there was a competition). I have to say that: every customer has right to shop around, compare prices and choose the vendor of his choice. No one is questioning customer’s rights. However, every vendor also has the right and reasons not to participate in a competition.

– In all above situations a phrase “Thank you for your time and participation” is not, and cannot be a proper compensation.

All that and many other situations are not ok, it is a time and a reason to say it out loud. Model maker’s time cannot be used for free as well as unique and rare professional model making knowledge.

Customer care, inquiry handling and related situations is rather big topic. It cannot be covered in one article – I will be coming back to this topic and cover its various aspects in other articles.

Gamla Digital Portal is Launched

After delays and additions my online portal dedicated to 3D modeling, rapid prototyping and cutting age technology, that changed the face of modern model making, is finally launched. Visit it at http://www.lifeinscale.net/Gamla_Digital-main.asp

Stereotyping of Model Maker’s Capabilities

Building reputation and long term relationships with customers is one of the primary objectives of model making business’ marketing.  Clients interested in model making services in most cases will become returning customers. Whenever a client is a museum, an architect, a product developer or a designer, it is unlikely that the project they commissioned you for was the one and only. By the nature, such businesses will do other projects in the future, where they also will be in need of model maker’s assistance. If you treated them right, followed the client’s requirements, provided a high quality product by reasonable price, that client will come back for more.

Depending of the type and nature of the initial project a client might, however, to form a certain opinion of your capabilities, which might affect your whole further relationships with that client. Despite model maker’s effort to present and market his universal capabilities, a stereotype, which limits these capabilities might be imprinted on your client’s mind after completion of the initial project or a series of initial projects. Read more of this post

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