Looney Labs Icehouse Mailing list Archive

Re: [Icehouse] Made in the USA?

  • From"Yves" <icehouse@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • DateSat, 28 Jan 2006 08:32:16 -0800
I'm glad to hear that Mexico has some environmental regulations!
Here are our 4 cents worth (Paula and Mine):

1) $9 is really a "magical" number... On our salaries (teacher and field researcher) we have to be careful about what we buy... we love games and have some disposable income. $9 is an amount that would not ruin our budget for an interesting looking game that we had never played before (even $10 pushes it over to the "let's think about it for next weekend instead of buying it now" category); which brings us to point number two.

2) It has to look interesting. We agree with Elliott that packaging with sprues would almost certainly decrease the cost. However, having worked in retail for many years, I can tell you that the first impression is very important. If it looks like it just came out of a mold, then the apparent value is of the plastic. This is true since we cannot assume the potential buyer knows anything about Icehouse. Additionally, retailers would almost certainly be more likely to carry a product that takes up less space and has good "eye candy" value. The stashes look like jewels in a box. On sprues they would look more like a model airplane... I can even hear (I try not hear too many voices) a child wondering if they need glue.

3) Packaging must look professional. If local employees assemble them poorly (i.e. crooked stickers, untrimmed pieces, ill fitting caps to the tubes, etc...) then, surprise, the product will not look professional. Thereby significantly reducing its price point potential.

In summary, we want Looney Labs to THRIVE. We are avid environmentalists, yet we know about business decisions too. Our four cents say go to Mexico where you have a chance of environmental enforcement, and high odds for quality work.

-Yves and Paula

----- Original Message ----- From: "Kristin Looney" <kristin@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: "Icehouse Discussion List" <icehouse@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Friday, January 27, 2006 9:39 PM
Subject: [Icehouse] Made in the USA?

Ok.  I've got a debate topic for the Icehouse list.

--On January 26, 2006 Kristin Looney <kristin@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Is it at all possible  to find a cheaper way to manufacture the
> pyramids without sacrificing your conscience?

Yes it is!  I can make the pyramids in the USA - it can be done...  I've
priced it out, and I can do it...  but to do it, we need to make a very
expensive high capacity mold...  and if we do this, we NEED to be sure we
are using said mold to make lots and lots and lots of pyramids - or the
whole thing makes no sense at all.

When I wrote this yesterday, I thought I had a plan. I thought I had a way that I could make the numbers work making the pyramids here in the US - as long as I was willing to keep making them a while longer at really short margins to build up enough demand.

Then today, I had another long talk with the VP of manufacturing from the NJ plastics company that already makes the tubes that I thought was my answer to how I was going to do it. Here are the notes I made after the call:

2006-01-27 at 03:37pm (kristin) spoke with Bill about assembling Treehouse. He doesn't even want to bid on the job, there is no way we can afford for him to do it... after factoring in good salaries and vacation and health insurance - he charges $35 per hour for his assembly folks time - and counting out these pyramids and putting on these little stickers would take LOTS of time. He told me point blank that the right business decision for me would be to just get the product made in China. Wow.

As most everyone on this list already knows, we have been trying very hard NOT to resort to making our pyramids in China. Here are past webzines for review:


But tonight, I am again questioning this decision.

I just put together purchase orders for all the parts that will go into the first run of Treehouse sets. (Pyramids, tubes, dice, stickers, cartons, and assembly) Even making a print run that is twice the size of what my current cashflow can afford - it will cost me $2 a set. And that's with rock bottom cheap assembly - from a sheltered workshop that is subsidized by the government - that does a decidedly crappy job packaging the pyramids. If we are going to greatly increase the volume, I need to move the assembly to someplace that can handle it... and I found out today the assembly will likely quadruple in price at a real assembly house. Ouch.

So I'm thinking we need to reconsider the Made in the USA question.

And I would like to make this decision now, not later, since if we are planning to keep trying to stick to our principles, despite the numbers I'm looking at, we need to price Treehouse at $10, as a minimum. I don't think we can go above $10, but I could probably get away with taking it to $10. But if we are going to give up on making future runs of these things in the US, I should go ahead and keep the price at $9. It's a better price, and a price I could certainly handle if I made the product outside the US. Maybe Mexico? Does anyone know if they have any environmental controls in Mexico?

Who wants to try to convince us to stick to our principles?

Who wants to try to convince us that we should listen to the numbers, and to everyone who knows anything about plastic manufacturing, including this VP of the company that I was trying to give this job to in the US?

You can't say I have not tried...   :(


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