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> ROCO Quality Issues
Phil Loughlin
post 28 Sep 2020, 21:06
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All,

I don't know if I am the only one that is dealing with ROCO quality issues but I just want to warn everyone the issues they may encounter with their products. Once they moved a good portion of production to Vietnam, I received freight cars with couplers installed upside down, improperly install coupler springs, bent or broken pieces (not a packing issue), and like a fellow member of this forum I too had a brand new BR80 which had it's drive rods fall off because the screw holding it place was never tightened. I actually gave up on my BR80 my after having horrible performance issues (constantly stalling) once I fixed it. After waiting a year, I thought I would try ROCO again. I purchased two newly released CSD era VI 1/100th scale coaches (one 1st class and one 2nd Class). I thought the 1st class coach looked funny. I discovered it was missing the interior fittings!

Now living here in the states, it will be nearly impossible to get ROCO to provide the missing parts and I would most likely damage the coach trying to open and install the interior. I understand that every manufacturer has mistakes but these are ridiculous! I have written ROCO off. They were a great manufacturer during the 1990's but no longer.
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34C
post 1 Oct 2020, 11:45
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QUOTE (Phil Loughlin @ 28 Sep 2020, 22:06) *
...ROCO...
Once they moved a good portion of production to Vietnam, I received freight cars with couplers installed upside down, improperly
install coupler springs, bent or broken pieces (not a packing issue), and like a fellow member of this forum I too had a brand new
BR80 which had it's drive rods fall off because the screw holding it place was never tightened. I actually gave up on my BR80 my
after having horrible performance issues (constantly stalling) once I fixed it. After waiting a year, I thought I would try ROCO
again. I purchased two newly released CSD era VI 1/100th scale coaches (one 1st class and one 2nd Class). I thought the 1st
class coach looked funny. I discovered it was missing the interior fittings!

... I understand that every manufacturer has mistakes but these are ridiculous! I have written ROCO off. They were a great
manufacturer during the 1990's but no longer.

Probably best to 'sit it out' and wait for improvement based on that evidence. Are ROCO the pioneers among Western model
railway brands in the move to Vietnam?

That's an informative preview of what the near future may be like in RTR OO. Vietnam is making trade overtures to the UK, and
has signed a post-Brexit deal; and Hornby have had an extended relationship with ROCO, buying in their well proven HO technique
to improve OO product. Even with a very low power crystal ball the possibilities of what this might lead to are obvious...

(I can quite distinctly detect that China is running out of road at the lower cost end of outsourced model railway production, and
the hunt will soon be fully underway for opportunity that exists in alternative industrially developing countries with low wages.)

I would expect ROCO to pull around; their core customers are in the German speaking lands, and expectations of product being
'right' are high. It's corrective action time...
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dwb
post 1 Oct 2020, 15:37
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QUOTE
their core customers are in the German speaking lands, and expectations of product being 'right' are high

It would be worth checking out German model rail forums if your German is up to it. Mine definitely isn't.

I have quite a lot of Roco stuff and am likely to buy more so your unfortunate experience has put me on my guard.

David


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TheAndrian
post 1 Oct 2020, 19:03
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Hi,

Modelleisenbahn München Gmbh (Roco & Fleischmann) has basically moved everything to Vietnam these days from China as already discussed. I have heard grumblings about Roco's quality control issues from other quarters and the preference to purchase Piko these days. So far I personally have not had issues with Fleischmann's recent products although I have heard grumblings about quality control like bent/banana shaped freight wagon chassis etc.

I suspect the problem is most likely training a new work force for an area they are not familiar with and someone to monitor and ensure quality control standards are met. Remember things could be a bit upside down due to the pandemic so things could have slipped a bit, not a valid excuse but ...

Cheers

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Phil Loughlin
post 1 Oct 2020, 23:22
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All,

I received the following response to my report of the problem from ROCO:

Thank you for your interest in our product and please accept our apologies for the inconvenience.

Reg. 54169 we had an initial planning problem, but the interior fittings fill be produced in a few weeks and will sent to our customers.

Our specialized retailers will receive information about it asap. We kindly ask you to send your claim including this mail to the shop where you bought the item.

Thanks you and kind regards, "

So it sounds like they are blaming the error as "an initial planning problem". That makes me suspect their is no quality control in place as the response infers that all of the coaches were produced with this error. That also tells me that no one on the production line even looks at what they are assembling. Gone are the days of quality ROCO items.
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Phil Loughlin
post 1 Oct 2020, 23:30
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QUOTE (TheAndrian @ 1 Oct 2020, 15:03) *
Hi,

Modelleisenbahn München Gmbh (Roco & Fleischmann) has basically moved everything to Vietnam these days from China as already discussed. I have heard grumblings about Roco's quality control issues from other quarters and the preference to purchase Piko these days. So far I personally have not had issues with Fleischmann's recent products although I have heard grumblings about quality control like bent/banana shaped freight wagon chassis etc.

I suspect the problem is most likely training a new work force for an area they are not familiar with and someone to monitor and ensure quality control standards are met. Remember things could be a bit upside down due to the pandemic so things could have slipped a bit, not a valid excuse but ...

Cheers


I would agree with the pandemic except that my others issues noted in my initial posting started well over a year ago. ROCO is owned by an investment group. Investment groups are only concerned about short term profits (there are rumors that ROCO is up fro sale again). Piko is lead by a former employee of LGB. He understands the business and products.
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Graham Plowman
post 1 Oct 2020, 23:56
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Those of us who remember the model railway scene back in the 1980's when manufacturing was moving to China will recall that we had these same issues at that time during the transition of running up new manufacturing facilities, processes, training and quality control.

I am of the belief that going forward, we will see more of this as the world progressively 'unhinges' itself (a good thing in my view) from having all its eggs in the 'China basket'. Although very annoying, it will only be temporary.

For me, couplings which are fitted upside down is a trivial matter given that these days, we have NEM pockets. Silly problem, yes, but easily resolved. Parts missing, well, so long as the manufacturer supplies them to me, I can fit them. Annoying yes, but not the end of the world.
When it comes to fundamental manufacturing problems like Mazak-rot, well that's a whole different show-stopper.

I wouldn't write Roco off. They are obviously making changes for a reason by moving to Vietnam. For anyone who has ever had to do business in that part of the world, it is a far more friendly process in Vietnam than what it is in China!


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34C
post 2 Oct 2020, 10:52
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QUOTE (Phil Loughlin @ 2 Oct 2020, 00:22) *
...So it sounds like they are blaming the error as "an initial planning problem". That makes me suspect their is no quality control in place as the response infers that all of the coaches were produced with this error. That also tells me that no one on the production line even looks at what they are assembling...

Alternative view, I would see that as a reasonable statement. They have acknowledged their error, and in the text above the extracted quote are putting in place a corrective action. Hopefully, behind that there will be root cause analysis to understand and systematically drive out that error. It's not ideal, but way better than some manufacturer's past 'head in the sand' responses of 'There are no problems with our product'; despite many on line reports of the same defect.

I am of the same opinion as Graham. This is very typical of the 'start up' phase. The assembly operatives and their immediate supervision are inexperienced and will assemble the parts put before them, without questioning the absence of components missing from the 'Bill of Materials', (or whatever is the current jargon for the component list delivered to the assembly operation); provided that what is missing doesn't make the assembly impossible. They will have had drummed into them that productivity is an essential, get organised fast and assemble those products! In time their supervision will learn: missing component? Do not start assembly until rectified.

Getting manufacturing operations up and running with a workforce having no prior experience is a challenge, not to be underestimated. Been there and got that T shirt.
Once it is all humming along with a well trained cadre of supervisors and lead workers it all looks easy. Getting to that point, assuming general education of the recruits to a high school level, needs about three years to attain stability. After that it 'flies', provided your trained cadre can be retained in sufficient numbers to train their replacements, and add to the cadre as the business expands. Major problem then is 'poaching' by other new starts, needs a good pay structure to reflect experience and reward it before the poachers hove into view.
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Phil Loughlin
post 3 Oct 2020, 18:04
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Hmmmm... Start up phase that has been going on since at least 2016 (when the first time I bought the a ROCO item made in Vietnam). That is a very long time to be having quality issues.
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Julian2011
post 3 Oct 2020, 18:48
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Someone elsewhere and far more intimately involved in the procedures involved in developing a successful production process in Asia, claimed that it takes a minimum of 3-5 years to refine the production. Having got the first workforce trained, the problem then develops into getting enough additional workers trained to cope with the additional expansion in demand for your successful products.

It would seem to be a sensible assessment, much in line with most production developments in any industry. I hope that ROCO will be there soon.

Julian


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34C
post 4 Oct 2020, 08:31
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QUOTE (Phil Loughlin @ 3 Oct 2020, 19:04) *
Hmmmm... Start up phase that has been going on since at least 2016 (when the first time I bought the a ROCO item made in Vietnam). That is a very long time to be having quality issues.

I could drone on about the obstacles in the road, once the operation begins to succeed by local perceptions, in a command and control state. Demands for more in-country management to be appointed, directions to source parts and materials from named contractors and suppliers with no prior experience, key trained people 'siphoned off' to other operations, recruitment restrictions for no apparent reason, and the list goes on at length.

All this and more depends on the relationship with the government bodies that control the terms under which you operate. Political shifts in these government bodies may suddenly mean that your once favoured enterprise doesn't now get the easy ride it once enjoyed; and there's no choice in this, dancing to their tune is the dance you are in. Heaven help you if there is an internal conflict between or within the government bodies; you have no say about which direction they are rowing the boat and just have to wait it out until it is settled. In another such state look at Kader's troubles.The government closed their largest factory in advance of schedule, in a planned redevelopment. Cannot argue, they hold all the power, the business just has to get on with it and make it work.
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Phil Loughlin
post 4 Oct 2020, 11:04
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All,

Regardless of the situation or cause, I will not risk anymore of my hobby money on ROCO's products. I (like many of us) have limited expendable funds for hobbies.
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Graham Plowman
post 5 Oct 2020, 02:26
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QUOTE (34C @ 4 Oct 2020, 18:31) *
I could drone on about the obstacles in the road, once the operation begins to succeed by local perceptions, in a command and control state. Demands for more in-country management to be appointed, directions to source parts and materials from named contractors and suppliers with no prior experience, key trained people 'siphoned off' to other operations, recruitment restrictions for no apparent reason, and the list goes on at length.

All this and more depends on the relationship with the government bodies that control the terms under which you operate. Political shifts in these government bodies may suddenly mean that your once favoured enterprise doesn't now get the easy ride it once enjoyed; and there's no choice in this, dancing to their tune is the dance you are in. Heaven help you if there is an internal conflict between or within the government bodies; you have no say about which direction they are rowing the boat and just have to wait it out until it is settled. In another such state look at Kader's troubles.The government closed their largest factory in advance of schedule, in a planned redevelopment. Cannot argue, they hold all the power, the business just has to get on with it and make it work.


I am in complete agreement with this - although my business is in the tech space, I experienced all of the above when trying to do business in China. The final nail in the coffin was the complete lack of regard and therefore, theft, of IP.

Which makes me wonder why we even bother trying to do business in places like 'China' when there are so many more 'friendlier' places to get things done.

The present situation should be a wakeup call to all organisations outsourcing overseas, particularly to China. While I agree that there is a place for manufacturing overseas, I think there are plenty of situations where we should be making things at home and not offshoring our own jobs and creating unemployment. All the 'globalist' model does is redistribute wealth and jobs to other countries. We should look after our own first.


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Graham Plowman
post 5 Oct 2020, 02:28
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QUOTE (Phil Loughlin @ 4 Oct 2020, 21:04) *
All,

Regardless of the situation or cause, I will not risk anymore of my hobby money on ROCO's products. I (like many of us) have limited expendable funds for hobbies.


Probably an idea to sit on the side-lines and observe until the situation improves - which it will. ROCO is a well regarded manufacturer and I can't imagine for one moment that they would want that reputation trashed because of poor manufacturing quality. I am sure they will be doing everything they can to improve.


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34C
post 5 Oct 2020, 14:52
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I have done a lot of sitting on the sidelines these last near 20 years on potential RTR OO loco producers.
Hold off on Heljan until they make a loco I can use that's the right shape: turned out very well in the end.
Hold off on ViTrains, until others had bought their OO product and found out where it was at - reclassified 'no purchase'.
Hold off on Dapol, until others had bought some OO product and found out where it was at. Took twelve years until a (very good!) purchase...
Hold off on Hornby until it was clear that they had found their feet after the messy divorce from Sanda Kan and 'Design Unclever'. All now well.
Hold off on DJM - when incompetent mechanism construction became evident - reclassified 'no purchase'.
Hold off on Oxford Rail until they had worked out the loco mechanism bugs on their first two loco products.
Hold off on Accurascale until they show commitment to accurately dimensioned wheelsets.

There's also Hattons, Kernow, KR Models, Rails of Sheffield, where I am waiting for something I can use, as the evidence from what they have made so far is sufficiently positive, to be worth a punt.


And I too will be cautious with the first RTR OO items known to be from 'somewhere else': i.e. outside China. This will be where it gets edgy for the brand(s) concerned. I bought a quantity of the new Bachmann Blue Riband from 1999, no hesitation. They were shooting at an open goal, with dire Margate Hornby and Lamer the only uncompetitive competition in RTR OO. But now I have 20 years good purchases running on the layout, and I bet there are many more like me. Yes, I will buy any of A5, B16, J6, J17, J69, K2, N1, P1, and a better Brush 2 if they look and run right: but that's a pretty small target to hit...
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