John's Jottings

149. Cottage Manufacturers - November 2018

Posted on October 31, 2018 at 7:00 AM

At last week’s meeting we heard two stories about ‘cottage’ manufacturers – those one-man operations that manufacture small quantities of specialist items. The first received an order for one of his kits. He hadn’t a complete kit in stock, so he made one up from bulk stocks of various components. He parcelled it up and took it to the post office. It had just been stamped when he realised that he’d not included a bag of the smallest castings. He went back home, and put them a packet with a letter of apology. But it was too late to catch that day’s post.


A few days later he received an irate letter, pointing out the discrepancy and demanding immediate supply of the missing parts. He sent off a second letter of apology, explaining how the shortfall had arisen and the steps he’s take to rectify the situation. He suggested that the problem had been exacerbated by letters crossing in the post.


A few days later the manufacturer received another letter of complaint. One component was still missing. There were no calibration bars. The manufacturer sent a letter back saying that there were no calibration bars included in the kit because he had not seen anything with that name on the drawings and in the photographs from which he had worked, and didn’t know what they were anyway. He asked if his customer would kindly enlighten him.


Shortly afterwards, an explanation arrived, together with drawings, a copy of a photograph of one, and details of where they were fixed and their function. The manufacturer checked his own sources and, yes, he could just about make them out, now knowing what he was looking for. He altered his moulds so that they were included. He sent his customer a pair of the modified mouldings.


A little while later, there was yet another letter from the customer, this time thanking the manufacturer for sending the calibration bars. He was so delighted with the now perfect model that he included a cheque for another complete kit. The manufacturer took great care to make sure that this kit was complete and the instructions reflected the inclusion of the new addition.


“At the Salchester show I overheard a disagreement between one of the traders and a customer who was complaining bitterly that the toolboxes were missing from a kit he had supplied,” Jim told us.


“But there weren’t any toolboxes on the prototype, so there aren’t any included with the kit,” the trader replied.


“They’re in the photograph that accompanied the magazine review, so they’re missing from the kit. I want the deficiency rectified.”


“Yes,” the trader replied. “I read that review as well. In my copy the reviewer wrote quite clearly that the boxes were additions he made to suit his own use for the wagon. Your copy of the magazine must have been a special one-off print with that sentence omitted. Or perhaps you should air-brush the boxes from your copy of the picture,”


“Where would we be without the small independent manufacturer?” our chairman asked. “If we give them grief over perceived or actual mishaps, perhaps they’ll give up. Disagreements will occur, but politeness at all times, on both sides will surely be the best course of action?” And we all agreed with that sentiment.

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