Your organization is working to improve its sourcing processes and strategy. Like areas of spend have been grouped together to determine what the organization spends annually. The department or division responsible for sourcing has identified areas of spend where savings can be realized.
But, as the organization delves deeper, they find that reducing outside drivers of cost isn’t the only hurdle they face.
There are materials and services within the organization that people have been dependent on for years, perhaps decades. Leaning these materials and services, or removing them altogether, will be a major culture shock. Senior management is even wary of cutting off these materials and services.
Senior management wants to save money, but the sourcing group knows that changing how materials and services are sourced, what will be sourced, and when will have a major impact on the organization’s processes as well as its budget.
Sourcing the material and/or service is just one part of the larger sourcing strategy. A lot of work goes into transforming the rest of the organization and how it does business in order for the wins in sourcing to have their full effect – one more part of total cost ownership. Process improvement in other parts of the organization are just as important as improvements in the sourcing function itself.
Total Cost Ownership
As discussed in a previous blog post, Total Cost of Ownership is everything that goes into before, during, and after the sourcing of a material and/or service.
Generally speaking, this includes administrative processing costs, technology costs, overhead, freight, the cost of lead times, if items are damaged, and rework that needs to be done.
Rarely do organizations look at total cost of ownership in terms of what their own organization is doing.
Does each project manager or department use the freight carrier they like the best?
Is there a service the company uses, but could be eliminated if project managers were held to better standards of planning?
Do employees make parts runs because favored suppliers “don’t deliver”?
It’s internal processes like these that need to be looked at in tandem with the improvement of sourcing the material(s) and/or service(s) and organization buys. They are as much a part of Total Cost Ownership as overhead or lead times on materials.
Let’s use an example from my experience.
The company I work for uses a freight service that only delivers between facilities in my company in the city we’re in. This freight service costs about $300,000 per year for them to move material from one facility to the other. We love this external freight service so much, their drivers park their trucks at our facilities.
Why do we use them?
Because sometimes project managers cut work orders associated with one facility, only to draw the material out of another. So materials needs to be shuttled around to ensure the proper materials are in the proper place at the proper time.
We also junk out some of our larger equipment, and this service transports the junked out equipment (they’re rather large) to our central processing facility here in town.
On the face of it, this is $300,000 expended by my company per year.
Immediately some will note that, if PM’s were held to a standard, and their work orders assigned to the correct facility, this would eliminate the need for this service. And can’t we use internal personnel (we have personnel qualified) to load the equipment and drive it to the central processing facility?
But it goes deeper than that. PM’s not assigning work orders to the right facility forces them to draw from that facility, which causes work in the warehouse, and then those materials aren’t there for jobs that are properly assigned to that facility, creating wait times as items are shuffled between facilities. Sometimes its time sensitive jobs that are forced to wait as the warehouses figure out where material went and what needs to be brought in from other warehouses. Sometimes people get lazy, and instead they just put in an order to have it bought from the supplier, costing the District even more.
So it’s not costing the company I work for $300,000. It’s costing them hundreds of thousands, or perhaps even millions, in additional man hours, rework, opportunity cost of inventory, and delays on projects.
Why do we still use this “shuttle” service then? Because we’ve had them for almost twenty years. Because no one has pushed back on PMs and other internal business partners to assign work orders to the correct facility. Because our warehouse personnel are doing the best they can within this system and the shuttle service is a Band-Aid that people have become comfortable with.
In this case, it’s not just a process – it’s a part of the culture.
Where to Begin
So where does a sourcing professional begin?
Start with the sourcing strategy.
The sourcing group has identified a need, and then they go and gather their facts. But they don’t just gather the facts on the surface. They have to dig deeper.
- What are like materials/services that can be grouped with the one being looked at?
- What vendor(s) provide this material/service and those grouped with it?
- What internal stakeholders use these?
- Why are they using them?
- Why are they using them the way they are?
- Are they still needed?
- What would need to be done to consolidate or remove materials/services?
- If this is done, how will it affect the processes and procedures of the different divisions and departments of the company?
These are just some of the questions that must be asked to challenge the status quo, especially if that status quo is costing the company substantial amounts of money.
And it has to be the group responsible for sourcing in the organization that must do this.
While part of sourcing strategy is definitely cost savings and value adds, it’s also process improvement around what is being sourced, and how it will affect the organization.
I caveat this with the organization should not mold itself around its sourcing department. The organization should mold itself around its overall strategy, and the sourcing strategy should support this. But if there are procedures (low level/tactical) changed by sourcing that will help the company achieve its goals, then these should be pursued.
As the sourcing organization moves to change the processes – and perhaps even some of the culture – of the organization, they cannot operate in a vacuum.
Any change initiative needs a guiding coalition, preferably upper management, and buy-in from managers at all levels. It will be up to the Director/Division Manager of the sourcing organization in the company to win that buy-in, and to communicate with upper management for their support.
This isn’t unique to sourcing. Any change initiative requires this. I would argue that sourcing needs it more since most people view sourcing or supply chain management generally as order takers, and resistance to change coming from this area may be greater.
The processes surrounding and effected by sourcing strategies within the organization for different areas of spend are just as much a part of total cost ownership as external factors. Sourcing professionals must take this into account when sourcing materials and services from a strategic level. Some organizations call these individuals Category Managers, and category management is a discipline all of its own with that broad focus. It’s up to the organization to determine how they will conduct their strategic sourcing, and they must do so with an eye to internal process improvement.
You, like many of your supply chain/procurement brothers and sisters in the United States, and probably around the world, have dealt with stakeholders in your organization getting cozy with the vendors you purchase from. This coziness leads to shady sole source justifications, or that vendor always being the preferred vendor even if they aren’t the low bid or the best service level.
Your vendors are selling your stakeholders, and your stakeholders are helping them out, usually by jumping at the latest shiny thing the vendor has to offer. Sometimes there’s even some tit-for-tat deals. Other times, your stakeholders, or even your very own supply chain organization, have become comfortable with the “demon they know” as opposed to the one they don’t.
In this post we will take managing your stakeholders and your vendors, and the many challenges that come with that.
Stakeholders and Vendors
I’d like to start off by saying that your organization and your vendors have a good working relationship is not a bad thing. It’s a great thing! It helps both the company and the vendor communicate candidly with one another about what’s going on in both of their organizations and their respective markets, and how the two are interacting with one another. A great working relationship with your vendor can ensure that any problems that come up are handled quickly and efficiently, and that both parties are kept generally happy.
A good working relationship can be an open door to work with the vendor’s key decision makers. Have you ever had a problem with your salesman, and a quick talk with the supplier’s head manager seems to smooth everything over? It can also ensure that head manager understands the importance of your account, how much you appreciate them, and keeps them updated on their own company’s performance. A quick word about a supplier’s lagging performance and, generally, that head manager or corporate office is digging into his people to shape up.
There’s a flip side to all of this, of course. Such a working relationship can also be open door for vendor to subvert you and your supply chain/procurement department. The worst case scenario happens, and one of your offices demands that you buy Product Z from Vendor C. No formal request for quote process. No negotiations. No pitting the vendor off against others. Their Division Manager or Director comes to tell you that, yes, you are buying Product Z, despite your protests to the vendor’s quotation and the fact that other suppliers could provide a similar product for less.
The vendor marketed “the latest shiny thing” and sold your stakeholder(s) on it.
But how do you prevent this?
There are several ways that your supply chain organization, and the company has a whole, can manage internal stakeholders.
Written policies go a long way to prevent the kind of supplier subversion so many buyers and contract specialists despise. Things like “single point of contact for RFPs/RFQs” and “formal bidding process requirements” can stop over-zealous project managers in their tracks. Having a review process/team that vets the business need and budgetary requirements can also help this.
Of course with policies comes the need to communicate said polices. In his book “Leading Change”, John Kotter states that the change agent must communicate the change vision (Kotter, 1996). Whether your polices are part of a change, or have been part of the organization’s policies for years, the supply chain organization, along with upper management, must constantly communicate these policies. Kotter provides an excellent framework: keep it simple; utilizing metaphor, analogy, and example; multiple forums; repetition; leadership by example; explanation of seeming inconsistencies; and give-and-take (Kotter, 1996, p. 90).
Along with this communication comes relationship building. You cannot have your supply chain/procurement organization sit secluded from the rest of the company. Constant interaction with your regular stakeholders, their management, and upper management helps build that open communication and flow of ideas so that written policies, new and old, are repeated regularly and don’t blindside people.
And any good policy needs enforcement. You can have HR include as much written policy on procurement activities and contracts as you want. It is for nothing if no one in the organization with the power to do so doesn’t enforce it. If that’s the case, your policies are nothing but a paper tiger. But, if senior management gets the directors and their staff to toe the line on theses policies, then such policies have teeth and those who break them can be dealt with. It’s not nice to think about, but those that break the rules, some that could hurt your company, must be dealt with.
Stakeholders aren’t the only ones that need managing. Your suppliers and contractors have to be watched, too.
First and foremost don’t give out an organizational chart of your company. Sure there are those websites that promise “the most accurate organizational charts for companies across the United States.” In my experience those websites are five to ten years behind, and you want to keep them that way. Giving a supplier an organizational chart is like giving the opposing team in football a list of all of your plays. Suddenly they know the vice president of the group that deals with the project they are bidding for and will work to bend his ear towards their cause. Such influence can hurt negotiations with them, or even other vendors.
Next, only put supply chain points of contact on RFPs/RFQs. Force the suppliers to only go through you for any and all communication. This can get tiresome, and your project managers and other stakeholders will get sick of it. But it keeps the suppliers from applying undue influence on the decision makers. If everything goes through you, all information from all bidders are given equal consideration, and information returned to them is consistent, as opposed to a stakeholder playing favorites with what information is given to which supplier.
There will be instances where the vendors already have key points of contact in your organization. Many times it’s just part of the business you do. Just ensure your stakeholders refer vendors back to the supply chain organization, and not make any decisions, written or verbal, without first communicating what’s going on with you first. (This goes back to that whole written policies and managing stakeholders thing.)
I cannot stress the importance of having key Directors, Division Managers, VPs, and board members on board policies and the need to distance themselves as much as possible from vendors. Having a VP that gets a call from the VP of the supplier organization telling them no, and routing them back to you speaks volumes, makes your job easier, and the supplier’s job harder – especially if that supplier is a bidder on a RFP/RFQ.
Back to communication, make sure that the supply chain organization and the higher ups are on the same page. I find it’s better to over communicate a little as opposed to under communicate. The more they know, the more informed decisions vice presidents and boards can make in favor of the company. It also ensures they are brushed up on the latest policies and support them. If they don’t support them, such communication can facilitate working out what their issues are, and addressing them before that VP becomes a liability to your, and the company’s, efforts.
In “Leading Change” John Kotter states that you need to create a guiding coalition for your change initiative, and the key de jure and de facto decision makers within the organization are key to that whether policies and initiatives are just being rolled out or have been out there for decades (Kotter, 1996).
What If You Get Derailed?
At some point in your career you will get derailed from everything you are trying to do to effectively and responsibly manage your supply chain/procurement department/group. A bidder snags the right ear in your organization and gets them on board with their offering. Someone in your company is absolute poison to any cost savings initiatives, but no one will fire them. So what do you do?
First to the stakeholder: – what happened, how it affects the organization as a whole, and why it’s a risk to the organization.
They just bought offer A without consulting anybody and signed the supplier’s very stringent, disadvantageous terms and conditions? Express to them how they hurt the budget of the whole company, and how if the company decides they don’t like the offering anymore there could be even more money lost, or how it could lead to legal proceedings.
Document it for your own records to cover your own skin, and as a lessons learned. Having documentation can keep you out of legal trouble. It can also serve as a guide for others in your company, new and old, if organized, published, and distributed properly.
Take it to upper management – yours and theirs.
Yours so that your higher ups know what’s going on and what you did to try to stop it.
Theirs for the very same reason. And, of course, it’s about covering your own skin as much as it’s about helping the company.
Sometimes, though, there’s nothing you can do. The stakeholder has more political clout than you, or the project is a “company initiative” and no amount of argument, numbers, kicking, or screaming will change it. That $12 million was a rip off? Well it’s gone now, and the board and VPs all approved it. (I have run into the “company initiative” issue a lot lately in the organization I work for, and it’s frustrating because I know we could get better pricing, but those at the top say “jump”, and we jump and ask how high later.)
Sometimes you can’t win. Don’t get down. Document it. And work harder on the next project next time.
Managing your stakeholder and your vendors is just as important as managing the master purchase agreements and contracts that keep your company running. Communication with those within your organization and those within the suppliers’ organizations goes a long way in deconflicting a lot of issues, but sometimes things get derailed and your company loses out.
Remember to keep building those good working relationships, consistent, regular communication, and to keep working your hardest to ensure that you are getting the best pricing and service for your company. You may not always win, but when you do it will be noticed and appreciated.
“Leading Change”, John P. Kotter, Harvard Business Press, Brighton, MA, 1996.
I can’t count the number of times in my career when I had stakeholders or team members come to me and say,”I need X done, and I need it done this way.”
A few “why” questions, and a little investigation reveals that, no, it actually doesn’t need to be done that way, it’s simply the way the individual thinks it should be done. What do they actually need? What is the overall end state that must be accomplished?
Once we have that figured out, we can then start researching solutions.
What is a need?
In this instance, the need is what the end state is. Materials, such a maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) procurement; a service, such as company-wide maintenance; or software for something like managing your supply chain. Identifying this to its simplest source can help you and your organization find the best solution.
What is a solution?
Here, a solution is the process or way that the need to achieved. There are times when a project manager or upper management says, “We must do this from A to B to C.”
A Solution Vs. A Need
But many times this is not the case. In my experience (this is anecdotal), more often than not the stakeholder/requestor/project manager has conceptualized a need, and has built a solution to fit it.
“We need program Y because our manager and department need it for work.” This is another sentence I hear very often. And, just as often, it’s not true. The IT department or one of the maintenance departments gets a visit from an account manager from a software company, manufacturer or distributer, and are sold on their offering.
The specific software or certain product is rarely what that department or business unit actually needs.
A need looks like the following:
- We need a work glove that is ANSI cut resistance five, is fire resistant, and made of a material that won’t melt to the worker’s skin in sizes small to triple-XL.
- We need a program that manages and integrates our procurement, contracting, warehouse operations, that talks to our current ERP system.
Those are model needs.
From these needs, scopes of work written and requests for proposal/quote can be created. Or, if working with an incumbent vendor on a blanket contract/master purchase order, your team can work with them to find the most cost effective solution from their offerings to meet your actual need.
The Role of Supply Chain/Procurement/Material Management
Here I call it “Supply Chain”, but your business unit or department may have a different title.
Regardless, it’ll be the job of you and your department or business unit to work with your stakeholders to identify their actual needs and not allow the latest shiny thing to derail good company and/or project budgetary goals.
This can be hard, as there are individuals within organizations who have de facto authority over others where they shouldn’t, and you will have to work with your manger, director, and perhaps even your VP and other stakeholders to overcome these people.
It’ll also be your job to make sure that all suppliers and contractors go through your department. I can’t count the number of times I have been getting a vendor to meet our needs at or near our desired pricing, when they get the ear of a supervisor or manager in the department I’m working with, and all of a sudden all of my had work is derailed. Time that could have been used completing the agreement is used getting everyone back on the same page, or renegotiating things that we thought were already locked in.
Working with your stakeholders, maintaining good relationships, and using the “5 Why’s” method (which is actually as many “why’s” as needed to get to the bare bones need) will help you and your organization identify these actual needs of your internal customers.
So I’m jumping from one nerdish topic – bodybuilding to be a Warhammer 40k Space Marine – to another one: space exploration. My ADD is kicking in. Let’s ride this train! WOO!
Okay so hear me out.
The US is having a hell of a time getting back on its feet. Manufacturing inside the US is down, unemployment is high, we’re lagging the rest of the developed world in education.
That said, according to CNBC today, jobless claims are down and durable goods orders are up: http://www.cnbc.com/id/49549215
It’s my opinion that this slight drop in jobless claims and increase in durable goods orders will be short lived, especially if we trip off the fiscal cliff, cueing $1.2 Trillion worth of spending cuts over the next decade, and an increase in payroll taxes (http://www.cnbc.com/id/49464221/).
This is bad, m’kay?
So how do we beat this fiscal cliff? How do we cushion ourselves from our ultra-bipartisan government’s (Reactionary Right AND Radical Left all included) inability to come up with a budget?
Legalize and tax marijuana!
Wait, no, that’s not what this post is about . . . though I think, while I do not smoke weed, this would be an intelligent decision, and then the government and businesses could treat it like alcohol (don’t drive or operate heavy machinery or weapons when you’re high, no showing up to work high, etc.). Plus think of the money the government would make on taxing it!
But I digress.
Let’s go to space! Seriously!
Seriously . . .
Why space, though, you may ask? Well here is my five points of why encouraging space travel, exploration, and colonization would save the US, perhaps even the world. (But the US first. ‘Merica!)
Want to create jobs? Going to space is the key! You need to design the space craft. You’ll need engineers and their staffs for that. Then you need to build the space ships. You’ll need laborers, welders, electricians, machinists, and other skilled and unskilled labor. Designing and assembling the engines for these things is a task in and of itself. You’ll need programmers and computer scientists to get the computers and systems in the ships working properly. You’ll need administrative staffs to manage all these people, their pay, and the contracts and purchases that support them. You’ll have to secure these manufacturing plants, so security personnel will need to be hired. You’re going to want to have a foothold in space, so you’ll need to build, launch, and assemble space stations – and you’ll need all the labor and support personnel for that, too.
Then you’ll need space ship and space station crews to man these ships and space stations you build. You’ll need pilots, technicians, mechanics, engineers, computer specialists, and scientists from several disciplines. They’ll need training, and you’ll need trainers to train them. They’ll need facilities to train at, and your daily operations will need facilities, which will require construction workers, facilities management personnel, IT personnel, and even janitors. If you want on-site catered meals you’ll have to hire those personnel, or contract those services out – either way, jobs are being made to fulfill this requirement.
Want to build moon habitats? Need personnel for that. Stuff to go to Mars? Even more people.
The list of positions and specialities is very broad and I’ve only barely touched on them. The point being: a lot of people are required to get all of this done. Jobs will be created.
And as people go to space, the amenities they love on Earth will be wanted in space, and so other companies will follow. I know I’d want my Starbucks in the morning before going to work on a space station or moon colony, and I’d want internet connectivity to stay up on my news (and LOLcats).
This leads me to my next point-
2. Increase in Wealth for the Middle Class
Here’s an economic plan we can truly believe in (I have zero trust in Obama and his administration; my political quip for this post).
The increase in specialized, high skill jobs will lead to greater wealth in the middle class. Going to be working around fuels and explosives? Or a nuclear power plant for the ship, station, or colony? There’s added pay for that. Just because people are in space doesn’t mean government regulations about work and pay go away.
This is where government SHOULD step in: ensure that workers are treated fairly and pay is equitable both on Earth and out in space.
And I’m sure the new space companies will pay hefty salaries and wages to those who train, certify, and qualify on all the areas these companies need to cover – certain welding certifications, training on certain equipment, experience in programming systems for air/space craft, etc.
Some companies may even pay applicants to learn a new skill and/or job. Of course, this may come with a five year contract with the company. But a five year contract, with benefits, and annual or semi-annual raises? Probably starting at or around $25 an hour? (That’s really good in Nebraska. If it’s not good where you’re from, think about an equivalent wage. $35/hour? $45/hour? More?) It sounds like a good deal to me.
I caveat this with: I don’t like unions, and the space industry should strive to keep them out of the industry, and to attract union members out of unions with better benefits, 401(K)’s, IRAs/Roth IRAs, and wages. Who needs a union or some government organization to tell us we need to take care of our people? Good sense, and maybe a single article from Harvard Business Review can do that a hundred times better.
3. Increase in STEM Education
All of these space companies are going to need well educated workers. We don’t need to go to India or China to get them. We can get them, right here, in the US. The drive to space will drive schools to make the shift to the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines we need. Where the schools fail, the space companies could make up the short-fall with their own programs.
“Corporate funded schools are evil!” you say.
Not really, says I.
This is another place where the government could do a lot of good: tax credits to companies that run STEM-focused (though not exclusively STEM, gotta get history, government, and economics in there, and what about art?) schools that are low tuition or free, and if there is a tuition then give out scholarships to students in low income/impoverished parts of the United States. Amazing! Tapping into the untapped resources that reside in our low income neighborhoods/Section 8 housing. There ARE kids in those areas that want to excell! This would give them that chance! How can Democrats and Republicans NOT agree on this? (I’m sure there’s a way . . . unfortunately.)
Companies could also work together to set up classes and courses to give quality education and certification to high school and college level students to fulfill needs. It could be extended on the job training (OJT) with pay raises and bonuses based on milestones met, or number of job areas mastered both on paper and with experience.
Just ideas. Lots of ideas.
4. Taxes: Defeating That Fiscal Cliff
And now for an area the government can truly play its part: taxes.
We wouldn’t want to tax these companies too much. They’d just be starting out, just beginning to take man to space and help rebuild the economy. And I’m all for low taxes to stimulate the economy. But taxes must be levelled, none the less.
The increase in the number of people paying payroll tax would fill the US coffers, along with the corporate taxes the organizations themselves would have to pay.
There would also be licenses. The government would be right in validating the companies that are building these things. I’m sure there are already regulations in place that determine what Space X, Armadillo Aerospace, Planetary Resources, and Bigelow Aerospace can and cannot do. This is an excellent place for government to be to ensure the safety of the workers, the general public, and the State(s)/country.
This does NOT mean the government decides it needs an influx of government workers. We’re supposed to be fighting the deficit, and by extension the fiscal cliff, not making it worse. I admit, a few, A FEW, government employees will need to be hired. It’s the nature of the beast. But not on the level that the government probably would hire.
“We need a thousand GS 12 and 13 level employees to oversee space!” They would scream.
Really? I mean . . . really!? No, no you don’t. *Rolls up a newspaper and hits the government on the nose with it.* That’s a bad government!
So the government would have to get a clue and be frugal about its hires, and allow the taxes that flow from these space companies to pile up. They would actually have to save money. They would be on an actual budget . . .
Craziness, I know.
5. Because It’s Cool and the U. S. of A. Rocks
Yes, this is really one of my legitimate points.
Going into space is awesome. Did you see the Space Jump the other day? You did? That’s awesome. Wouldn’t you like to do that? I DO! Wouldn’t you want to go to the Moon and Mars and explore places humans have never seen with their own eyes. I DO! Wouldn’t you want to see the Moon and Mars explored, colonized, and perhaps even terraformed?
I DO! I DO! I DO!
We all should. How cool would that be!? What an experience!
And we as Americans can do it. We have the ideas and innovation, the drive, and the vision to do it. We have the sheer number of people and resources to create these companies and put people into space. It is possible. It can be done. Just look at some of the companies out there: Space X, Armadillo Aerospace, Bigelow Aerospace, Planetary Resources, Virgin Galactic. I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch.
People like John Carmack, Elon Musk, and Richard Bronson took the risk to go into space and succeeded. Sure, they could have failed, but they never would have known if they could or not if they didn’t try! (Yes, Sir Richard Bronson is British, but Virgin Galactics Space Port is here in the U.S. . . . ‘Mercia!)
Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo aside (WHY!?), the USofA is still great. We still have potential and we can still do amazing things. But we as Americans must stand up (off the couch) and take action.
Writing this, I know I lack what I call for. I have no mechanical background. My STEM intelligence is low.
But I have the desire and drive to learn . . . and so far I’ve spent like $200 or more on rocketry books. Like one of my idols, John Carmack, I can teach myself. 🙂 And take some basic classes at the local community college.
My parting thought is that we are never too old to learn, and constant learning is part of constant self-improvement. And though I work hard to live by this principle purely for the sake of growing as an individual, in today’s world this is pretty much a requirement.
Until next time . . .
As many of you may know I love miniature war-games. Not that I play many of them these days – work, my Master’s program, and running around and creating havoc in Omaha and the Continental United States take up most of my time. I wanted to go to a local shop, Orcs 4 Hire, and play a rousing game of Warhammer 40k…may not happen.
But I digress.
In my love for tabletop wargames I have the desire to create my own. This is no easy feat. Rules must be created, play tested, rewritten, play tested again, re-rewritten. Miniatures must be sculpted and then mass produced, they have to be packaged, and then a distribution system, paired with a marketing strategy, must be created.
But most of that is down the line. Right now working on the game is that “miniatures sculpted” section. Hiring a sculptor is expensive. Currently the quote is $400 PER MINI. $8000 is where we’re sitting if we pay a guy. And for a small start-up that can be debilitating.
There’s another option that has become more and more viable over the past few years: 3D printing.
3D printing has really taken off in the last decade. Instead of companies using giant machinery one can now purchase a desktop 3D printer for $3000 or less, and the plastic material is $50 or so a spool.
I give you MakerBot. MakerBot manufactures some excellent, affordable 3D printers for companies, or for the average user. The MakerBot Replicator is a rather affordable $1,749. http://store.makerbot.com/replicator-404.html
It’s upgraded sibling, the MakerBot Replicator 2, is a bit pricier at $2,199. http://store.makerbot.com/replicator2.html
Whichever model, they are a much cheaper alternative to paying a sculptor.
But there ARE drawbacks. Instead of having a sculptor do all the work, one (namely me) would have to learn to use CAD or the MakerBot program, MakerWare. This is time consuming, and not prefferable if working to meet a certain deadline, whether that be a shopping holiday season or pre-convention.
Still a bit expensive though? There are some great Kickstarter Campaigns pushing small, very affordable desktop 3D Printers. Like this one here:
For a backing of $1,395 you can get a very nice, all metal 3D printer.
Creating your own miniatures, toys, or parts is more affordable than ever, and the entrepreneur-on-the-cheap that needs one for their operations can find a list of affordable 3D printers on the internet. It’s something I’m looking into, for sure.
Until next time . . .