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gavino200

Kato production cycles?

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Can anyone explain to me how Kato production cycles work? When Kato release a new train, is there any way to know how long they will be producing it? How long they will be producing Assy parts for it? Do they announce this information? Is there any logic to it? Is it just based on how the train sells? Or do they stop production even when the train is selling well?

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I'm just making a wild guess here but I think they do a production run of a certain size, determined before production starts... and then either you get one or you don't. Judging by how I haven't seen C11s at any of the online stores I've looked at, I imagine that's one locomotive they could produce regularly and have it sell well... yet it seems like that's not a particular concern to them, and they're content to be out of stock for long periods... not sure I understand the logic of it...

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Most model train items, apart from track and power supplies which are usually always available except for low demand specialized items, sell out within 6 to 12 months of release.  Kato is a family business and has been known to produce less than market demand on initial release.  There are very limited or no warehousing of extra items in Japan because of limited usable land  and high cost after mountains and forests (which can"t be cut due landslide concerns).  

Edited by bill937ca

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I actually was talking to the owner of Bluford shops last night, and he was explaining how they choose what to run and how it's produced.  I have the outline from his talk if anyone is interested in seeing it.

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Gavin,

 

on the trains is a real guessing game. Kato and tomix seem to do larger runs of some trains that makes them stay in stock longer (or they just screw up on what they think the demand was), but stuff rarely stays in stock for years. Usually runs out within a year or so and the it can be fallow for a short or long time before a new run is done. The times all vary wth the different manufacturers. Microace and greenmax tend to do the shortest runs and after a few months many are gone and it can be years until a rerelease happens. Again there are no hard and fast rules here and a lot of variation with trains. So the general rule is if a train comes out you really like it’s best to order it and not wait as Murphy will come out and have it sold out right after release (of course the reciprocal Murphy can then happen!) and then trying to buy on the secondary or used markets like yahoo.jp or sites that have extremely high prices will be the only option...

 

as bull noted track and power packs are usually kept in good long term stock, but structures and accessories are variable. The newer individual releases of tomytec structures and vehicles are now kept around and seem to be rerun pretty often (may be oos 3-6 months), where as the big collections are almost never rerun. Greenmax structures use to be kept in decent stock, but it’s a little more variable since they revamped the product line and packaging a few years back.

 

its just not as an instock mentality us manufacturers tend to do, as Bill pointed out. Distribution is a bit different as well.

 

jeff

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6 minutes ago, Kiha66 said:

I actually was talking to the owner of Bluford shops last night, and he was explaining how they choose what to run and how it's produced.  I have the outline from his talk if anyone is interested in seeing it.

 

Absolutely!

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29 minutes ago, cteno4 said:

 

 

as bull noted track and power packs are usually kept in good long term stock, but structures and accessories are variable.

 

Should I snort and roar?

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yep you are either the one in the china shop or full of it! ;-P

 

sorry i read right thru those! 

 

cheers

 

jeff

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55 minutes ago, cteno4 said:

 

as bull noted track and power packs are usually kept in good long term stock

 

 

Even track is variable, there was a period last year when it was impossible to find Tomix double slips.

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As someone once said, "the best way to make a small fortune in model railroading is to start out with a large fortune".

 

One thing about Kato though even if the logic of what they produce and how much is sometimes hard to figure out is that once they do announce something usually does get produced and is on the shelves pretty close to the advertised date. Unlike some they don't announce a loco will be available in 2018 and we end up still waiting in 2028, if you put a reservation in for a Kato loco you can be pretty certain your paypal account will be debited and your loco sent when you expect it.

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3 minutes ago, westfalen said:

As someone once said, "the best way to make a small fortune in model railroading is to start out with a large fortune".

 

One thing about Kato though even if the logic of what they produce and how much is sometimes hard to figure out is that once they do announce something usually does get produced and is on the shelves pretty close to the advertised date. Unlike some they don't announce a loco will be available in 2018 and we end up still waiting in 2028, if you put a reservation in for a Kato loco you can be pretty certain your paypal account will be debited and your loco sent when you expect it.

Sounds like Hobbytrain.  :)

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On that basis we'll hopefully see more Swiss metre gauge stock, given how the EW1 coaches have already sold out at Kato and we're on at least the second production run of the Glacier Express. The standard RhB 4w boxvan would be an excellent candidate under the "lots of liveries to make the most of the tooling" criteria, packs of two in plain brown or the various advertising schemes would surely sell if priced around the same as their Japanese freight stock.

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I was wondering how KATO decide what to make as well. partly as I was having a discussion on Facebook the other day and a person interjected with (something I believe to not be ) "The owner of KATO is a very wealthy business man and makes what his friends want him to" 

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As Kato is a business and they probably want to stay in business in the future, they try to make what could be sold. It means finding and developing new products and determining how much to make from each product. There is a similar rule for reissued products, a rerun is made when there is enough production capacity for it and enough could be sold to make it profitable. It's a careful balance between making new products and the reuse of existing tooling and parts.

 

For actual market ressearch, there are enough info about that on the net (in japanese), including about the monthly meetings with sellers to determine what people want. One hard thing is how to compete with other manufacturers without compromising the profits of the involved companies. In this regard Kato does try to make what his friends want, but these friends are the customers, who buy their products. At least that's what i think based on the info i've seen on the net.

 

ps: On the other hand Takara-Tomy as a general toy company covers a far larger market, but somehow also manages to do well in the model train business, with (at least for me) very limited employee numbers.

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Posted (edited)

Tim,

 

i think this was the usual social media quality information, ask what proof they have of this. I’ve never heard this comment about mr kato before. He may be wealthy, but I doubt they are stinking rich to keep a company afloat by only producing what his “friends” want. I think kvp said it right that he may produce for his friends but his friends are his customers.

 

I think many folks get irked with manufacturers and they think them daft as they are not producing what they want! In japan this is even more possible as there is such a variety to produce due to the varieties in prototype and the whole spectrum of train otaku that will weigh in. To make sound business decisions it takes a lot of data on the market, competitors, licensicing, production costs, timelines, previous productions, future plans, etc and few modelers have little access to this data nor the business acumen to correctly analyze it, nor the desire to... but they end up saying anyway kato is foolish not to produce this! The hobby has a lot of passion to it so this can intensify this sort of thinking as well.

 

ive had to do this sort of business calculations in the past for products (education market) and it’s really hard and even then no gaurentee it’s going to work! I never realized all the little bits that need to be factored into each forecast until I did it and even with series things it’s not a perfect just fill in the same blanks.

 

companies also have their preferred ways of gathering and evaluating information as well. Actually mr kato gets out to a lot of shows, even here in the states and talks to modelers. 

 

Cheers

 

jeff

Edited by cteno4

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I must admit market research is how I imagined it be done as kvp says they are a business and probably want to be running for the foreseeable future. 

 

The reason the person believed he was right, and the other giveaway that he wasn't was that he "has over 350 kato trains" as if that apparently gives everything he says legitimacy. 

 

I am glad to hear that he goes out to the states and does the shows there too as I occasionally pick up American locos that Kato make  

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Well he says he has 350 kato trains. But even if he does, how does that give him any backing to his claim as you say! Having 350 kato trains puts him in the otaku corner and there opinion tends to win over fact...

 

katousa is its own beast a bit, but it’s always chafing some as it’s run a bit more like a Japanese company and a child of the mothership than as it’s own American company. But it’s been successful and drove quality back into the American market there when things were getting pretty unreliable and that boosted the overall hobby as well as making competitors to rise to the challenge. 

 

Mr kato seems like a nice chap. He saw the JRM club layout early on when Lee Monico broghtnhim by at a show. He was thrilled there were enough Japanese train modelers in the area to form a club. one of clubmembers went to several of his jam breakfasts where a lot of wants and wishes are discussed. We made him a set of JRM containers one year as a gift (of course I had to strip some kato jrf containers to make them as couldn’t use the usual unpainted tomix ones!)

 

jeff

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He might not be short of a yen or two but certainly a nice chap, I saw/met him briefly at a event at Kato HQ, none of your "rich people" airs, noticed him mooching around afterwards helping the other staff clear away the chairs. Not that that gives me any insight into Kato production cycles.

 

Also if you write a nice letter to him, he might consider producing something new.

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

From the articles I've seen featuring Hiroshi Kato, he seems to invest quite a lot of time promoting the company. I can't imagine that he does anything foolish, to jeopardize Kato.

 

But I've got a question for you guys about "Kato Kobo" customs. These are customized kato rolling stock made in small runs for a limited time. They're a bit more expensive than a regular release, but not much. So I doubt that there's a huge amount of money involved (on a corporate scale).  I had one model of a New Mexico "Rail Runner" that I bought when I lived there, I recently spoke to KatoUSA about these customs. I was trying to find an old Kobo model - the M-497 "Black Beetle". Well, I was trying to find out who these "Kato Kobo" folks were, to see if I could buy a model from them. 

 

The Kato guy on the phone said that the M-497 was made as a Kobo model by a friend of Mr.Kato as a personal favor for Mr.K, who just wanted to own a model for himself. I have no reason to believe or disbelieve this tale, but it did  (unofficially) come from KatoUSA. If any personally motivated decisions are made by Kato, I wouldn't be surprized if it's limited to Kato Kobo customs.

 

But to my main question for you guys: Can any of you tell me how the Kobo production cycle works? Is there a website where I can see what Kobo models are being produced/released/sold? How many Kobo's are produced in a run? If you know anything abut the Kobo customs, please share.

 

Are Kobo customs just a KatoUSA thing? Or do Japanese Kato Kobo customs exist as well. I'm not buying any more Murican trains unless they are equipped with jet engines. 

Edited by gavino200

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Posted (edited)

What is being produced is shown in the Release Schedule.

http://www.katomodels.com/distribution/schedule_e.shtml

 

EDIT: Kato Kobo is listed as Built-To-Order which means the production number is the number of people who anty up the cash.  There is no stock.

 

How many is confidential information and at best you will only get speculation.  Those figures would rarely if never be published.  I don't think a model train manufacturer is likely to be required to publish that type of information for regulatory purposes so it remains closely held.  I imagine there are few people in Kato who truly know.

 

Cycle runs April to March according to Japanese Corporate year end. New product cycle starts in May of the new year with the Shizouka Hobby Show and peaks after JAM in August leading up to the New Years gift giving season. By late fall the peak of the years new products should be on the market.  Trying to buy items already on the market is harder to do in the March to September period because of many stock outs.

 

Edited by bill937ca
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Squid,

 

thats is the same vibe I got from him, very down to earth and no airs about him. He also seemed to be interested in all going on and not making a big deal of who he is. When Lee first brought him by she just said it was someone from kato japan as I think he likes not coming on strong, but we figured it out after a minute.

 

i think Nariichi San used the word “engaged” to describe him at the retailer meetings.

 

kato does like having the bling so the kobo line may not make any money, but it probably keeps their quality custom and prototypes busy (keeping highly trained staff working is important!) as well as has some of those ultra weird things like the jet car as it’s great Press.

 

Jeff

 

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8 hours ago, TimWay4 said:

[...]

The reason the person believed he was right, and the other giveaway that he wasn't was that he "has over 350 kato trains" as if that apparently gives everything he says legitimacy. 

[...]

 

Well, clearly, that makes him a "friend of Mr. Kato." That does not mean that the reciprocal is also true.  :-)

 

Rich K.

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It is important to note that Kato Japan is actually two companies.  Sekisui Kinzoku Co., Ltd. is the engineering company and KATO Co., Ltd.  is the marketing company.

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