Designed Clever? Some thoughts, illustrated by cabs…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It has been a month since Hornby announced its 2013 range.  The reactions to the range have been many and varied, particularly due to Hornby’s change in tact.  Hornby has for some time become famous for paving the way of British super-detail models.  In many ways, Hornby have lead their field in terms of detailing and specification.  The area where this is perhaps summed up best of all has been in the cabs (just look above!) Models have also benefited from many other advancements including many separately fitted details and not to mention other advances that include all wheel pick-ups and 5 pole motors.  It is also fair to say that they have generally had higher RRP’s than their Bachmann competitors.  This is not to say that Bachmann models have been poor – far from it – but their model’s specification have had to catch up with Hornby – which largely they have – just look at C class and S&DJR 7F (below) as evidence of this.  RRP’s have increased across all brand’s, but Hornby models significantly so.  In a bid to reduce these costs Hornby have announced a “design clever” technique; the idea is to make a compromise between detail and price.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In a previous life I worked in the manufacturing industry and their were solutions to problems of production costs, but they often lead to making compromises.  Let me explain a little better; occasionally an advance in technique can make producing something both better and cheaper at the same time, but on the whole if you increase the specification of a product, you increase the production cost and vice versa.  In the modern “Computed Aided Design” world we often presume that robots build everything; but in my experience this is not the case and it seems that the production of Hornby’s remarkable ready to run models still rely a lot on labour.  By using older but much improved production techniques (particularly injection moulding), Hornby has found a less labour intensive production technique that will reduce the cost at a minimal cost of model specification.  They are calling it “design clever”.  Is this a good thing?  Does this mean we are heading towards blander cabs?!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Well yes, probably so!  It is good and indeed of vital importance that Hornby sort themselves out financially.  If “design clever” helps them; then that is a good thing.  Having a less detailed model is not necessarily a bad thing; if it has a good shape, finish, runs well and is cheap – it will make a reasonable model.  However I have a few doubts.  For starters, Bachmann seem to be able to produce models of a high specification without impacting (as much) on cost.    Just look at the SE&CR C class – it is beautiful with an RRP barely higher than a Hornby Railroad model.  If Hornby are struggling, they may wish to look at how Bachmann are managing to do this and if necessary rethink their entire business model, as the firm did when they first moved production to China.  Let’s hope that “Design Clever” is a good technique that genuinely reduces costs at little compromise to the quality we have come to take for granted.

As for the cabs; if the worse comes to the worst it is possible to improve them yourself (see below).  Hornby – if you are listening; an easy way to save money is to choose your detailing subjects wisely!  The effort’s you’ve put into detailing BR standard loco cabs are pretty pointless – when can we actually see inside a closed cab?  But for open cab’s like the LSWR T9 or SE&CR C class it makes sense to make the effort.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Finally, what are your thought’s of new lower-spec but cheaper models?  Do you have any concerns?  Feel free to add your comments!

Advertisements