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Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Zealand Trip Diary: Part 4

Some BF guys play Napoleon at War.
The majority of my 3rd day at the Battlefront office was spent learning about production and the business side of things.  I really had no idea just how much went into the planning, timing, and execution of releases.  I'll leave a lot of the specifics to later material (I recorded an excellent audio interview with Jeff from Malaysia, with input from Chris and JP), but there's a few items I'd like to touch on.
First, I never really comprehended the unique challenges around packing a Flames of War blister.  When you buy a 28mm blister, there's 4 or 5 guys.  A lot of other 15mm manufacturers sell by type- riflemen, command, etc.  Battlefront have fairly strict platoon organizations- a LT, a few NCOs, Machine Gunners, riflemen of all poses etc.  That may not sound difficult, but consider how many blisters of different platoon organizations you can buy from Battlefront.

One of the "blues"
Again, the process will be much clearer hearing Jeff explain it, but I'll give a high level.  Essentially each individual pose is put in a huge bin, and receives a unique ID code.  Then for each "product code" (blister) there is a board with the actual bits that go into the blister glued to it with a note detailing how many go in.  For a T-34, for example, this board would show the physical resin hull, each track, turret, hatch pieces, commander, and any extra doodads.

When a specific code needs restocking, someone finds the board, gathers all of the appropriate bins, and begins assembling.  Then they are randomly QAd, and if any of the products are found incorrect, every single one is quarantined and rechecked.  Finally, once they're packaged up and prepared for shipment, a few are again opened and spot-checked one final time.

At the customer service end, Battlefront has a company-wide system for tracking incoming requests.  Weekly reports are run to identify any issues that were not resolved within 48 hours, and investigated to find out why.  When possible, the regional warehouses are instructed to open other product to replace missing parts.  Patterns can be detected relatively quickly via a report in their system, and the factory can quickly turn around any specific issues.
One of the ID boards
Studio Meeting

Because Battlefront ships so much product to the states and the UK, they have to book space on ships months in advance.  I am seeing the end of the new Vietnam book being produced, but the lead time is huge.  The target to have them on the shelves is (I believe) April.  Of course the problem with planning that far ahead is that any hiccups in production can cause huge delays.

I witnessed a studio meeting where WI articles, FoW releases, etc were planned months in advance.  Time was devoted to discuss current issues being aired on the forums, and really no stone was left unturned.  If there's one thing I want to make sure I convey, it's that the studio is populated by creative, enthusiastic people.  Battlefront management does a great job of fostering that while still keeping the team focused.

Editor:  Looks like Steven and the crew got some gaming in after all....

Mike's Imperials dominating Victor's Rebs

This game- is it unpopular with any group out there?

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