Ad Magic in China – Get Your Game Made 001
As most of my clients know – because I put a rare away message on my gmail account – I went to China a week and a half ago to oversee and discuss some aspects of a few little jobs I have been working on like Cards Against Humanity, Exploding Kittens, Poop the Game, and others that my staff and I have been involved with for a while.
It was not my first trip – but it was my first trip in a quite a while – and it was the best trip ever. For one thing – I was prepared. I had been there before and had some idea what to expect of course- which helps – especially with bringing small appliances and electronics :). For another – my plant has grown to four times its previous size – is so brand new that I have never seen such a clean manufacturing facility and also, because everyone was very happy to see me. That alone really could have been enough. But – the most exciting thing – on top of all that, I was actually able to bring my people from three separate manufacturing facilities together in one place in China for an extraordinary meeting of the minds in order to create something truly unique – which I will be able to write about at a much later time once it is complete.
I do enjoy making incredibly difficult things. (Some might call that masochism:). I prefer to try to manufacture items that make people scratch their heads and say – really? I love the challenges posed by my job and I love making those challenges into realities for my clients. But the trip and the custom items are only a part of it – because without the machines – the lines and the people to run them – I would not really have any products to write about, manufacture or create.
I love machines – I’m not sure if that has been obvious in my previous blog posts – but machines drive me. I love to see how they work – I love to see the final product and I enjoy the interaction between the people and the machines even though that can be frustrating to all of us sometimes. It started when I got a job for my then – ex – father in law – Richard Nigro. Richard Nigro was my mentor and my work hero. Not because he was a mergers and acquisitions guy – because I am not that. But because he let me have the run of the plant that I worked in for him. It was a secure facility that manufactured – of all things – credit cards. Mastercard, Visa – Amex – with holograms and all – not all THAT long after they started using holograms on credit cards. It was a HUGE Facility – with multi color presses – laminators lining an entire wall – hot stamp / letter press machines – an art department – a FILM department (remember those?) a silkscreen department – a finishing department with all kinds of round corner machines – dies – and eyelet machines and an embossing department for putting names on the credit cards and then encoding the magnetic stripes and mailing them out. It was huge. The machines were addictive to watch. Fascinating. I was hooked on printing forever.
This may be a long read – so if you are strapped for time – you might just want to browse the pics and videos. Anyway – going to the plants in China – of which I was only able to visit two this trip (as every other day we had to do an excursion – one provided by each host) and numerous breakfasts lunches and dinners of course so time got eaten up pretty quickly. The first stop was my main card and game manufacturing facility – a few hours outside of Shang Hai – well closer to three and a half hours outside of Shang Hai – but who’s counting. In China a 5 hour ride is considered a piece of cake. For me it is a trip to Boston and I am not returning home that same night. Anyway – this plant is very machine oriented – but there are still “lines” – the long tables of people doing hand work. I think that clients need to realize that games are made by both machines and people. One cannot work with out the other when it comes to creating these particular products. There will always be handwork – some things can be automated – but some simply can not. A good example are game boards – if the game boards are a standard size they can be automated. But if they are not a standard size – they require a custom production line made up of individuals who – combined – create the final product. Experience in working together – and in teams is a huge strength of the people we work with in China. There is a noticeable spirit of cooperation in China that I have never seen replicated. Even the Chinese (translated) words – “we want to cooperate in business with you” – instead of the American version “We want to do business with you” – rings with a distinct difference in my ears. The ability to work as a team is what separates the great from the good in my opinion.
Here is a sample of a game board that could not be automated.
As you can see – the paper gets printed – then cut and then adhesive is applied by a roller – fed by the first person in the production line. Placing the board is a key position in the line – and in many of the videos I will be posting – you will see people meticulously placing things onto adhesive that is moving down a conveyor. I am pretty sure I would not do too well in this job as I have tried it and it is so much harder than it looks. After the material is applied – the board is scored and the final piece of material is applied to the face. At that point we wind up with a folding custom sized, completely finished game board.
Just a note about this – and something to think about. It takes a whole line to finish this one custom size board. Imagine the setup time involved to get people in just the right positions and put the correct number of people on each job based on that particular job’s deadline. It is a daunting piece of production scheduling to make one game – let alone dozens at one time.
Kick starters: Next time you promise your kick starter backers something – tell them to bear in mind – there are hundreds of people involved in the production of each game. Those people are scheduled – moved around and working just about as fast as they can – in order to meet your deadlines.
Backers: I hope that actually seeing the process will make some of the people who are backing kick starters just a little more understanding and not so demanding on the people that they back.
Back someone and then trust the manufacturer to do their job. If you plan on hassling someone later – please – don’t back them to begin with. It takes time and people and a lot of cooperation and skill to make a game properly. Complaining to the person you have backed is not going to do anything to speed up or improve the process. It will only make them – and their manufacturer miserable. And don’t even get me started on the situation at the docks for the better part of the past year. That is a discussion for another time.
Next post – more production videos.
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