Friday, May 24, 2013
Our policy is to make at least one factory visit a year, but last time was over 2 years ago. Currently, AZL products are made by AFFA and SDK in China. A small portion is still made by Bowser in Pennsylvania. This trip was to AFFA who made our recent Big Boy and the upcoming light and heavy Mikado.
Oslo Airport Train
What a way to start the trip to Hong Kong by going by train, that being the Oslo Airport train. Not going to bore you with travel details, so fast forward 13 hours to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Island
The owner of AFFA, K.K. Ku picked me up at my hotel early Monday morning. More trains, first a commuter train to the HK – China border and from there a high speed train to Guangdong about 90 miles north of HK. The areas of Guangdong and neighboring Shenzhen is probably where 80% of all U.S. model trains originate. I am guessing, but there are probably about 6 to 7 companies devoted to model train production with at least 20 factories. SDK – Kader being the largest has 13.000 employees. AFFA currently has 600. The industry is not small!
Before we got down to business I toured the factory. There are no surprises, AFFA has it all, drawing room, tool makers, tooling machines, injection machines, photo etching, paint shop, die-cast equipment, CNC milling machines, tampo plate printing machines, jigs left and right, mail department and 2 assembly line floors and all the rest. Quite a few of the processes are automated and there are more to come. Not one department sits idle, products in various stages of production will soon be arriving at dealers in Europe and the U.S. Having dealt with many MR manufacturers, AFFA is among the best. If we have product delays, there are good reasons, not excuses.
K.K. Ku and plant manager W.H. Whhuang sweating over all the new products we have asked AFFA to develop and produce
Now, where are the Mikados? In Production!!!! We had a last minute change from Delrin gears to metal gears, which cost us a couple of weeks. But look at the photos of the Mikado on the assembly line (finally). I tried to help, but was quickly removed. Even I can get carried away.
When are the Mikados shipping from AFFA? Around June 1st and we do not intend to sit on them. I spied Pennsylvania, Nickel Plate and Southern on the assembly line.
I will not reveal any news in this blog except that we are making 50 more Big Boys. They will all have new roadnumbers. I met with Ms. Lai H. Ling which is almost solely responsible for constructing and assembling the Big Boys. It was very nice to meet the person who created the masterpieces. AZL is the only brass customer at the moment and I will be sure to send her an AZL Cap. And we hope to keep her busy.
I lost track of time, but reruns, existing and new products where discussed for 5 hours straight. As much as we want to make everything at once, it is simply not possible. But we have a lot in store in the years to come. That includes previously announced products like the EMD F3A and the EMD SD45.
I got back to HK around midnight tired, but in good spirits. There is plenty of work on our part as well. Countless of hours of research and product specification awaits us. We love details and do not feel that we should cut corners only because we operate in Z scale.
Hopefully we will be able to share some more details during NTS in Atlanta. I will be leaving Hong Kong tomorrow, but I am already looking forward to the next visit.
Category: Hans' Blog