Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

New Zealand Trip Diary: Part 6

This will be the final entry before I hop on a plane back to the States.  I don't have many pictures for this post either, since my last day was largely spent wrapping up.  We recorded a short podcast for Radio Free Battlefront (or WWRFBD episode 1 if you will) which allowed a bunch of the guys to talk about their hobby with a relatively light focus on Flames of War.

We also recorded a brief discussion with the writers on a few pressing topics, which I think you all will find interesting.

My favorite part of the day, however, was sitting down with Chris and having him show me the software Battlefront uses.  As a professional, I have to admit that I was a bit blown away.  It's really quite robust and advanced.  There are two systems at work: a customer service platform and a custom built ERP system.  The customer service system was fairly straightforward- incoming emails are sorted and flagged providing users with a dashboard for issues.  You can see how long an issue has been outstanding at a glance, and issues not resolved within 48 hours are automatically flagged for review.  Customer service issues are distributed to the appropriate regional warehouse to be dealt with by the local team.

Candies to bring home
Their ERP system is really quite impressive for a company of their size.  They've clearly grown with it in mind as it's fairly comprehensive and subject specific.  At a glance they can see what stock is where and guide factory production accordingly.  As an example, Chris showed me the stats on the new Jagdtiger box.  First there's an entire screen with all of the product pricing information (across regions), description, images, etc. That is both tied into the ERP system and drives the data on the website (As an aside the website is not managed in house, but rather by an external company called Fourth Media).  Next, he showed me how many units were in the US warehouse, UK warehouse, NZ warehouse, and in transit or in production.

While I of course do not know specifics, they estimate between eighty and a hundred thousand codes are produced and shipped each month.  Some of those codes are army boxes, and infantry boxes meaning a staggering number of "bits" are packed and sent!  They can quickly see how many units have sold and in what regions which will drive production schedules and queues.  The ERP system continues to expand as well- currently a program is underway to add the weight of every single individual component to the system for more accurate shipping estimations.

Of course, new products can be difficult to estimate- the house subscription for example.  They forecasted a certain number and were floored to find that the demand was more than twice what they expected.  That presents quite a challenge since production lead times are so far in advance.  Battlefront is also a small company, so they can't simply overproduce everything by a factor of two and then have them sit on shelves.  While they were happy that they were so popular, that was completely overshadowed by frustration that so many customers were left wanting.  As wargamers themselves, they know the disappointment of not being able to get your new toys.  Their production bandwidth is only so high, and racing to get more houses produced means other Battlefield in a Box products will necessarily be pushed back.

In general, however, they've gotten very good at estimating which product will sell.  And so their release schedule for a new book is staggered over a few weeks with a mix of items they anticipate to be very popular, and items they release largely just to keep the range complete.  Production is by and large estimated accurately, and their commitment to quality control has lead to a decrease in customer service issues.

Again, their software is really quite sound and built with a lot of the right principles in place.  In my experience as a Data Management Consultant, I've not seen a company their size with such a robust system.  That credit goes largely to their IT manager Rob, but also to all of the end users who understand how important it is to enter the data that helps drive the business decisions.  This is a huge problem in the corporate world for many organizations, and Battlefront does an impressive job of utilizing their data.

Since this will be the last post I write, I'll take the opportunity to admit that the excitement at Battlefront HQ is infectious.  From Rob in IT to JP (who was giddy on Friday as his X-Wing ships arrived) to the designers and warehouse guys to Pete- these guys are wargamers.  They are united by their love of toy soldiers and the creativity in the studio is electric.  Management has done a good job of fostering that atmosphere while harnessing the energy to make a successful business.  Battlefront have certainly made mistakes and missteps, but every single one of them is open for honest discussion in the studio in an effort to improve.  I hope the coming series of videos can explore the inner workings far more thoroughly than these blog posts, and answer any questions you may have!

Thanks for following along -S

Popular Posts In the last 30 Days

Copyright 2009-2012 WWPD LLC. Graphics and webdesign by Arran Slee-Smith. Original Template Designed by Magpress.