COLIN BISHOP visits this well known British kit manufacturer
Choosing the prototype
Before diving into the production technicalities I asked Lawrie how he comes to choose the prototypes selected for development into kits. He replied that he follows his instincts and if the original vessel appeals to him then there is probably a viable market for it. There are of course practical considerations as well. Customers like models they can fit into a standard car and can be managed and launched by one person. Basic stability is also important, while building to a reasonably large scale means that most of the fittings on the original ship can be replicated on the model and are large enough to be robust when constructing the model and in practical use. There are less obvious factors too, such as the need for the box to fit in a standard international cargo pallet otherwise the shipping costs could approach the value of the kit itself – something which is very important given that around 80% of production is exported, mainly to Germany and the USA.
The production process
Fittings are cast or moulded in batches and stored in hundreds of labelled bins so there is always a working stock in hand. As bin contents start to run low they are replenished during the next manufacturing session.
These are a vital, but sometimes rather neglected part of any kit and can make or almost literally break a model. Model Slipway are well known for their comprehensive and clear instructions which continually evolve in response to customer feedback. The new Tamar lifeboat instruction book for example, has no less than 75 pages. Each kit comes with a detailed full sized plan with all the fittings and components clearly labelled. This is backed up by an illustrated construction manual. With many kits, you will often find that the text and the illustrations are separate, but the policy in Model Slipway is now to use the CAD facilities to associate 3D drawings with the relevant text which makes it much easier for builders to understand just how the kit goes together and reduces the likelihood of mistakes being made.
The company have a clearly set out and extensive web site: www.modelslipway.com which showcases their products and customer builds where you will find lots of information about both the kits and their full size prototypes together with a selection of reviews published in the modelling press. There is also a very useful tie in with ACTion R/C Electronics (see MB May 2009 issue) who have produced detailed r/c and power wiring diagrams for most of the Model Slipway range using ACTion products, although much of the information can be adapted to the requirements of the builder. Guidance is given on the recommended skill levels for each model together with practical hints and tips on construction. Kits are available in the UK direct by mail order or from major retailers advertising in Model Boats.
I have reported on a number of traders in this series and in each case I have been impressed with what I have found. All have been fine examples of how to run a successful operation and deserve to succeed in their particular line of business. Model Slipway is no exception to this rule and in many respects go that extra mile, fully justifying the enviable reputation they have built up for quality, attention to detail and customer satisfaction. I would like to thank Jackie and Lawrie for their time in showing me around and explaining just what lies behind the scenes of their attractive and deservedly successful range of kits.
Mailing address: Model Slipway, 77 Arundell Drive, Lundwood, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S71 5LE, United Kingdom.
The factory is at: Unit 8, Grange Lane Industrial Estate, Carrwood Road, Stairfoot, Barnsley S71 5AS, U.K. (Monday to Friday 7am - 3pm).
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