IET logo
 
IET
Decrease font size
Increase font size
Topic Title: anyone a small scale manufacturer?
Topic Summary: planning ahead
Created On: 17 May 2010 06:30 PM
Status: Post and Reply
Linear : Threading : Single : Branch
Search Topic Search Topic
Topic Tools Topic Tools
View similar topics View similar topics
View topic in raw text format. Print this topic.
 17 May 2010 06:30 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



Zs

Posts: 2904
Joined: 20 July 2006

Hello,

Right, cut to the chase. I don't have a pension, it got lost in a divorce. As such I'm not planning a retirement. I'm 47/24 by the way. That makes OMS a toy-boy. Now, looking around the industry I reckon I've got about five years of good strong bones and muscles. The cables I work with are getting bigger, the ceilings of the buildings higher, the floorboards more often huge slabs of t&g chip board. All is well right now but I'm giving some thought to the future and have started to have 'meetings' with some quite dull people who have nice pens and ties!

My options are pretty wide but there's one of these that I'd really like to persue. I'll save it til last.

Option 1, the lowest on the list: Set up an electrical contracting firm. I sometimes bring in enough business to have a crack at that and I give it away at the moment. Not all the time though so the low spots would be a difficulty. Problem is the clients don't always want to be given away. This would take some massive funding and to be honest, not sure I can be doing with being responsible for others' work and all the hassle. That sounds like a desk job to me.

Option 2, In the middle and the least risky: Develop more into I&T and lighting scheme design. I'd imagine just a question of re marketing locally. That's already growing and I've stopped doing alot of my own remedials and am giving them away at the moment (the hassle factor, I guess I like a quiet life).

Option 2a and on the same level; Teach.

Option 3, my favourite; I came into this with a view to making light fittings. Became a jobbing spark by accident, and then a 2391er and so on. The lights are really weird, one-offs. made of broken glass, melted glass and steel. I also have a C&G in fabrication and welding hidden away. To date I've only dabbled with prototypes and haven't been hitting the spot with the glass joins. But suddenly the cool temperatures of LED make UV bonding of the glass in a light fitting a possible. It melts at high temperature you see. I've been looking for an uncluttered join and here it is, right in my shed. So I have signed up for a course in glass blowing just to learn about the qualities of glass from that end of things, and have begun to play with kiln fired glass. Kiln fired takes days, I'm concious of delivery times.

That's where the heart is. Bespoke design it, make it, install it. The whole service.

Are any of you involved in the more artisan side of manufacture of electrical goods? How is it and is it in fact more of a pain from your side of the fence than my rosy view of it?

Where do the component parts come from? I'm currently using collingwood and pulling other fittings apart. Do you have a BS kite mark? Do you have to get every new line kite marked so does that limit you?

And so on.....

I have plenty of time and am planning this changeover slowly. In a year I must present a full business plan to someone who has agreed to help fund, provided I can match their offer with another. I'd like to avoid that but we'll see.

I'll show you the few prototypes in a few weeks but I want to hang them and set them up nicely before they come out from under wraps. Still tinkering.

But I guess the first thing to do is decide on what the business plan will be for. Whatever, If I don't start to concentrate on it a bit then same old same old will keep me plodding along until one day this installation lark starts to hurt and it will be too late to take action.

Interested to hear from anyone who has reinvented themself within the confines of the electrical industry.

Zs
 17 May 2010 07:02 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message


Avatar for rocknroll.
rocknroll

Posts: 8846
Joined: 03 October 2005

Zs I know you quite well and I think after all your wonderful experiences and knowledge you have gained that you should seriously consider option 2a, there is a shortage of good mentors out there and I suspect will be for some time to come.

regards

-------------------------
"Take nothing but a picture,
leave nothing but footprints!"
-------------------------
"Oh! The drama of it all."
-------------------------
"You can throw all the philosophy you like at the problem, but at the end of the day it's just basic electrical theory!"
-------------------------
 17 May 2010 07:06 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message


Avatar for OMS.
OMS

Posts: 19668
Joined: 23 March 2004

Afternoon Madam - toy boy indeed - I've been called many things but never that. At least the threat of a wet hanky seems to have abated.

Option 1 - easy to do and you don't need to employ many if at all - just subby the works to a few tried and trusted cohorts - think of it as a loose affiliation of like minded individuals. It can work well - I did it for a number of years as a one of a number of self employed associates to the principal. (This was design rather than installation BTW). You tend to take on as much or as little as you want depending on what else interests you at the time.

Option 2 - to have credibility you probably need some qualification for mainstream lighting design - without doubt it is a combination of art and science - I've no doubt you have the art but could you prove the design in terms of lighting by the numbers. If not, be prepared to go and do something like the LIF advanced certificate course or get yourself down to the Bartlett and hop on one of the courses there (I would favour the former as it's more rigerous in terms of understanding photometry etc) I can recommend either however. The down side is people really don't want to pay for lighting design - most peple still believe design is just selecting a few fittings and pointing them in strange directions. - if you add colour then the design must be better


Option 2A - Presuming you can jostle a few of the new breed grads out of the way then teaching is a good move - allows you to jump back into the pension scheme and claw back what the divorce lost you. You could always do private tutoring as well (ohh er)

Option 3 - is there a market and can you compete with cheap overseas manufacturing. We used to by a lot of bespoke metal and glassware for certain of our clients - the trouble is that they only tend to buy a few and then keep them for many many years if they are good quality (which is where you need to be to warrant the money).

Personally, I believe there is a market in good quality bespoke luminaires - particularly if they are truly unique and sit well in the space but they aren't going to be that high in demand. You could of course design them and then sell on the design to overseas manufacture for mass production (look at how many peple have copied the "artichoke" over the years)

I would avoid getting into mass manufacturing personally - lots of risk there.

Have you thought about a combination of all three (or 4 options) possibly in partnership with other like minded individuals - I can see the costs for equipment for the metalwork and the glassware becoming expensive - perhaps just concentrate on the glass side creating unique items for other people luminaires could be an option coupled with a bit of part time teaching, house doctoring and running the electrical business.So start thinking about teaching, use the glass work as a hobby and consider what you were good at in a former life and would you want to go back there

Not sure if that helps at all but there you go - this old age lark is going to be a bugger for a lot of us I suspect



Regards

OMS

-------------------------
Failure is always an option

Edited: 17 May 2010 at 07:21 PM by OMS
 17 May 2010 08:57 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



deleted_2_tony30

Posts: 1680
Joined: 16 August 2005

Zs,

Its never too late to start a pension!!
get off the tools asap, the only thing wrong is the weight gain!
Have a look at university or other public bodies, some pay a 21% pension for you. while you contribute 3%

teaching, too many little ***** for my liking,

what about diversifying into other areas away from domestic, more commercial and industrial, lots of people sub contracting out there

register with some agencies, get some work off them do a good job, 9 times out of ten the company will ask you to come on the books if your decent, the agency will get a finders fee for this

good luck

tony
 17 May 2010 09:25 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message


Avatar for davyn1.
davyn1

Posts: 2850
Joined: 01 August 2004

go for option 3 you know it makes sense at your age have you thought of making fittings with fibreglass resin ,buy some from halfords and give it a go ,a bit messy to start with but can get just about any shape you want?? could also get into making moulds to attach to car bodies and have 12v lighting?

davy

-------------------------
just because i'm paranoid doesn't mean theyre not out to get me
 17 May 2010 10:41 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message


Avatar for FizzleBang.
FizzleBang

Posts: 936
Joined: 05 January 2007

Hi Zs,

If I was presented with your options list I'd opt for the teaching.

It was something I took tentative steps towards just over 10 years ago. By then I'd spent 13 years working for the same shopfitting company and seriously wanted out.

Redundancy resulted in me changing tack - out of the frying pan and into the fire!! I started my own firm. Good money and great sense of achievement. When it ended I promised myself that I'd never employ another person ever again. I have only ever met a very few people (employed) who share my work ethic!!

To cut a long story short, here I am wishing I'd stuck with the OU 10 years ago. By now I'd have been teaching for a number of years and maybe even got a few rungs up the ladder.

I've done manufacturing for many years though only in bespoke shopfitting fixtures. Unless it's on a very small scale that you can staff on your own it will drive you insane! People always wait until the worst possible moment to let you down.

The lighting does sound like a nice niche. My wife went to night school to learn stained/leaded glass craft. She made a few nice pieces, one of which was a lamp shade. Great result and she could easily have sold that kind of work. It's the scale it would need doing on to make a good living is where the problem lies.

Good luck.

Paul

-------------------------
"I learned very early the difference between knowing
the name of something and knowing something". - Richard P. Feynman
 17 May 2010 11:18 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message


Avatar for sparkingchip.
sparkingchip

Posts: 6040
Joined: 18 January 2003

Twenty five years ago I worked with my father in law on two of these shops before starting the business John Nevitt workedfor the CEGB ( Central Electric Generating Board), a favourite story was about him climbing a pylon to inspect the painters work and being told he was supposed to stay on the ground with a pair of binoculars!

Despite not having a background in lighting he based the business on selling quality products rather than selling cheap, a winning formula.

You look in places like B+Q, Homebase etc and you will not find quality lighting, as a lady put it to me "it would be better if these lights cost half as much again and looked like they did as well"

It is a major step, but I am convinced a quality lighting shop in the right location would be a winner.

Add onto this custom made lighting going beyond Tiffany Shades and I think you could make a go of it.

As an aside I took down the Waterford Chandeliers in the Royal Brierley crystal and Royal Worcester porcelain shops when they closed, now those are really a league above the stuff generally available, but would really test your marketing skills.

Andy
 17 May 2010 11:27 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message


Avatar for sparkingchip.
sparkingchip

Posts: 6040
Joined: 18 January 2003

I had a tour of Green Lighting which is part of Snaplite the market they are in it costs over a hundred grand to bring a product to market! Definitely a team effort required there.

Andy
 18 May 2010 10:01 AM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



Zs

Posts: 2904
Joined: 20 July 2006

Thank you for some feedback. Your responses are so different from the suits I've been speaking to, and indeed to the family response. They don't want me to do option 3 but they all want me to make them a light before I ditch the idea. How's that for a mixed message? They are all option 1. Except my Dad who is firmly in the I&T slot, but then he studied electrics way back so he's more like us lot.

The family watched me struggle but survive as a self employed artist and writer for ten years. The things I put them through. They are horrified by the thought of another change. This is just future planning though, it has to be and there's no rush. a sixty year old electrician is one thing but a sixty year old lady electrician might just be a bit too much of a freak!

The lights, I should add, are made using broken windscreen. You know the tiny little turquoise cubes you get? I think it's gorgeous. Kind of in your face modern chandeliers and a long way from tiffany! Actually, the current batch is the bus stop from outside Tesco....the local hoodies smashed it up. Of course I love those last two posts. How often I shout ' too much design and not enough engineering' from the top of my steps whilst trying to put up some fancy fitting that requires three hands.

OMS might have it with a combination, I'm going to give that some serious thought over the coming months. I suppose it isn't out of the question to link two or three but the reason I have to give this some thought is fear of the knees giving way or the back going so I'll try to remember that. The older electricians all seem to have stiff hands or something.

My google home page has my horoscope on it for fun. Leo. would you believe that today it says something about stopping building castles in the sky and using my common sense . bah humbug eh Davy?

Might phone JP to get the low down on teaching. I find that scary but I wonder.

Thank you....still looking for a small scale manufacturer to talk to. Will you keep your ears open and let me know if you find one? There was a bloke chatting me up at the wholesaler christmas do. Gave me his card with a wink, usual stuff. I must look for that, if I kept it. It was definitely something to do with lighting. Think it was JCC or Hamilton. He might know someone.

Zs
 18 May 2010 04:54 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message


Avatar for OMS.
OMS

Posts: 19668
Joined: 23 March 2004

OMS might have it with a combination, I'm going to give that some serious thought over the coming months. I suppose it isn't out of the question to link two or three but the reason I have to give this some thought is fear of the knees giving way or the back going so I'll try to remember that. The older electricians all seem to have stiff hands or something.


As my auld granny used to say - you'll make no money with your jacket off - which loosley translates into if your selling labour then it has a shelf life - you will get too old and slow to compete. You need to use your brains when using the brawn is no longer an option (and preferably before)

Personally speaking I would treat making the fittings as a hobby - it may give you some pocket money but you are trying to get into an established market that doesn't value art for arts sake. Open a shop selling yours and other fittings for sure but selling just your own creations is iffy.

A few more suggestions - renewables and environment is going to be big business over the coming decade - how about setting up a "green energy" business or consultancy installing all the range of suspects (particularly with FITS and RHI on the agenda)- you would have little option other than to subbie the non electrical bits so that may also assist you in thinking "off the tools" and more into managing the business.

You could complement that with such things as becoming a Code for Sustainable Homes assessor and/or a BREEAM assessor. To give you an idea I've just finished a BREEAM offices scheme circa £15k fee for providing some up front advice and collecting the evidence that designers and contractors are complying with the credit criteria - easy money for a week or two's work.

I would also seriously consider teaching (if only part time)

Regards

OMS

Remember indoor fireworks can burn your fingers, and bring a tear if the smoke gets in your eyes

-------------------------
Failure is always an option
 18 May 2010 06:27 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



ketmx

Posts: 118
Joined: 30 July 2006

Zs -

Regarding teaching - I don't know about further education colleges, but teaching in a school is a graduate only profession for sure.

Regarding your lights -

The wife of someone I know was in the fortunate position to not have to go back to work when their kids started school, and, as a hobby she bought a weaving machine and started to make scarfs and shoulder thingys to her own designs, using high quality wool that she imported from Australia.

With the aim of earning enough money for the hobby to be self funding, she took a stall at a craft fair every few months or so to sell her wares. She is now in the position where she could, if she wished, turn it into a decent money making business. She has independent clothing boutique owners knocking her door down to take her goods faster than she can produce them.

She had no artistic, weaving or garment industry background when she started - I think she worked for a computer company.

Before you open a factory or listen to "dull people who have nice pens and ties", it may be a good idea to knock up half a dozen of your lights on your kitchen table and test the water in a similar way.

"... wherever your heart is, that is where you'll find your treasure." (Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist.)

Regards

ZDW
 18 May 2010 06:35 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



pjcomp

Posts: 391
Joined: 28 June 2004

I think you've already answered your own question - you prefer option 3. Go for it. Otherwise you'll wake up one day in 20 years wishing you'd followed your heart when you had the chance. What's the worst can happen? It doesn't work out, but you'll have the satisfaction of doing it. Just stay in touch with the forum and let us know how it's going, and where we can order the lights.

PJ
 19 May 2010 02:13 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



AJJewsbury

Posts: 11462
Joined: 13 August 2003

I think you've already answered your own question - you prefer option 3. Go for it. Otherwise you'll wake up one day in 20 years wishing you'd followed your heart when you had the chance. What's the worst can happen? It doesn't work out, but you'll have the satisfaction of doing it. Just stay in touch with the forum and let us know how it's going, and where we can order the lights.

My heart says I've got to agree with that!

- Andy.
 19 May 2010 04:59 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message


Avatar for davyn1.
davyn1

Posts: 2850
Joined: 01 August 2004

. would you believe that today it says something about stopping building castles in the sky and using my common sense . bah humbug eh Davy?

keep building them castles ,your a long time dead, today may be the first day of the rest of your life but it could also be your last??
davy

-------------------------
just because i'm paranoid doesn't mean theyre not out to get me
 22 May 2010 11:59 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message


Avatar for davyn1.
davyn1

Posts: 2850
Joined: 01 August 2004

so what did you choose to do then ??
davy

-------------------------
just because i'm paranoid doesn't mean theyre not out to get me
 23 May 2010 07:05 AM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



normcall

Posts: 8130
Joined: 15 January 2005

Leave the poor girl alone. That needs a decision and takes time the older you get.

My problem is that people keep reminding me of things I wrote about years ago. (years being relative).
A chap came to see me on Friday from 'up norf'.
He looked at me and said ' didn't you used to write a column in ***** ****'. 'Yes', I says. 'I really enjoyed them', he says. It was only 20 years ago!

A decision about castles in the sky could take longer.

-------------------------
Norman
 23 May 2010 06:23 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



NozSpark

Posts: 47
Joined: 14 May 2007

Surely it's better to regret trying something than to regret not tryiing something??

As others have said go for option 3 as a part time hobby - selling at craft sales - and seeing if quality lighting retailers would give them a go

and if it works out then expand it into full time..

Don't give up on your dreams!
 24 May 2010 10:48 AM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message


Avatar for OMS.
OMS

Posts: 19668
Joined: 23 March 2004

The only trouble with dreams is they won't pay the mortgage, keep you warm or pay the food bills.

If you are thinking of making bespoke fittings then is there a market for them - have you researched it - how much do they cost to make (including your own time) and what margin is available. As I said, the lighting industry dosn't tend to value art for arts sake so you also have to compete with overseas production rates. This is even more important if what you are trying to sell is not mainstream:

The lights are really weird, one-offs. made of broken glass, melted glass and steel.


Beauty will be in the eye of the beholder - some people will see them as just some tangled metal and broken glass at an inflated price

I have a strong suspicion that the business plan won't stack up and if long term security is the driver then throwing good money at the problem still won't make it a successful business.

It's a nice hobby for sure - but you should focus your business head on something more viable and don't let your heart lead you into poverty.

Regards

OMS

-------------------------
Failure is always an option
 24 May 2010 11:48 AM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



chrishaworth

Posts: 247
Joined: 08 March 2003

I patented a design for controlling dual fuel heating in 2000. I designed the PCB, sourced a manufacturer in Taiwan, made a test rig so I could do CAT, made jigs for manufacture, wrote a manual, designed a web site and knocked off my first fifty. Ten years on and I still have twenty five of them sitting in my workshop. The moral of the story is that if the market isn't there, then you are wasting your money. On the bright side, our local plumber is over 70 and still going strong.

Cheers
Statistics

See Also:



FuseTalk Standard Edition v3.2 - © 1999-2014 FuseTalk Inc. All rights reserved.