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Old 14-11-2016, 08:59   #1
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Seacocks

Some friends of mine are thinking about doing some manufacturing of bronze ball valves, through-hulls, strainers, and other such hardware.

They have access to some very good manufacturing capacity which is capable of doing various types of these.

What do you guys think -- tapered cone type seacocks are such a narrow specialty item, that these are probably not worth messing with, right?

He has in mind making some premium bronze ball valves with PTFE seals, but with grease fittings, winter drain plugs, and the possibility of taking the valves apart for cleaning and service. He says that he could get them to market at a considerably lower price point, than Groco and similar valves, even while giving a lifetime warranty. He also wants to sell through-hulls with the proper threads and flanged adapters.

He asked me for advice, but I don't know anything about this business. Anyone have any opinions about whether he is moving in the right direction?
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Old 14-11-2016, 09:24   #2
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Re: Seacocks

We looked into this about 10 years ago when a friend and former partner identified surplus capacity in the Midwest with a business that makes industrial high cycle and reliability actuators and valves.

The volume needed is generally with production boat volume builders and they've almost all transitioned to composite now.

It is a tough market and I doubt there's enough demand to sustain razor thinmargins .

Marleon seacocks aren't perfect, but once the industry graduates to Teflon impregnated ball valve or ceramic ball valve inserts, bronze would be effectively only used by luddites with more money than sense.

The best composite seacocks will basically be designed for extreme neglect of not being cycled, as long as once a year, not require lubricated servicing and still be costeffective .
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Old 14-11-2016, 10:30   #3
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Re: Seacocks

Watch Maine sails videos . He tests the plastic and bronze sea cocks side by side . Bronze is far superior . I have had both . The boat I have now are all spartan bronze . I really like them . They are original . If I ever have to change one I would go bronze again . So maybe there is a market , be it small . So best to run this out of your garage .

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Old 14-11-2016, 10:55   #4
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Re: Seacocks

How small is small? In today's world with some initial advert campaign it can all be done online only so that even a few thousand (tens of thousands?) units can be sold with minimal overhead or middle persons.

If you recall there was a fad back in I believe in mid or late 80s for leather bags made from leather remnants. The story behind it is quite interesting. Some guy bumped into a leather/textile plant owner at some social event or may be at a BBQ. The plant owner was complaining that due to competition from imports his plant was running at 50-60% capacity and he had at least all of the night shift vailable plus evening at huge discounts. So this guy (who had some industry background but not involved since immigrating to US) visited the plant, talked to the operators, etc and found out that they were throwing away small leather remnants, a few inches by few inches in size. So he contracted for dirt cheap a full night shift, had some machines retooled and hired a bunch of operators looking for 2nd income, got more leather remnants for dirt cheap, etc. Before long he was producing those remnant handbags at under $5 a pop, significantly under, and wholesaling them for $10-15. The fad did not last long but long enough to make him a millonaire.
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Old 14-11-2016, 11:01   #5
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Re: Seacocks

Huge difference between consumer goods and durable components.

The market analysis made it a really challenging proposition. If a bronze seacock properly serviced lasts 30 years, it is basically a once a lifetime purchase. Let us suppose that the average boat has four seacocks - without the support of new boat builders, it's really hard to justify the cost to enter the market.
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Old 14-11-2016, 11:07   #6
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Re: Seacocks

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Huge difference between consumer goods and durable components.

The market analysis made it a really challenging proposition. If a bronze seacock properly serviced lasts 30 years, it is basically a once a lifetime purchase. Let us suppose that the average boat has four seacocks - without the support of new boat builders, it's really hard to justify the cost to enter the market.
Agree. That's why I was asking how few items can be sold and still make this profitable/desirable? If one can net $20 per seacock (after all the expenses, etc.) and sell 4,000 in a year (1,000 boat owners worldwide) would one be happy or unhappy to make that add'l $80,000?

IMO today's online sales potential makes many old marketing strategies/approaches obsolete.
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Old 14-11-2016, 11:11   #7
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Re: Seacocks

I will let you know on how small the market is . I will be launching my marine refrigeration systems in the next months . First I am installing two on Rick Moore's boat (check YouTube if you don't know him) then I will be at the Annapolis spring boat show .
So time will tell how small of a market it is . For now I am doing this in my own space , so there is no over head . Also will sell online like Technautics. Market test coming up .

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Old 14-11-2016, 12:15   #8
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Re: Seacocks

Dockhead I would suggest that you approach the higher-end boat builders with a product prospectus and see what they say. I think trying to introduce a product like this on the general retail/consumer market would be a serious challenge. If you can get into some high end boat builders, that would provide a platform for ultimately expanding into other channels.

As for market demand, it's obviously there, but as for how long with development of new materials, hard to say.

I arched an eyebrow when you said he could provide all that value at a substantially lower price point than Groco. Is that just the production costs? Marketing and sales network costs are going to be high. Groco is a good sized company, with a fairly broad product portfolio. Their price point is either due to market share or indirect costs, dunno which, but it's probably not represented by per unit production cost. I would proceed carefully with your wholesale cost analysis.
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Old 14-11-2016, 12:39   #9
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Re: Seacocks

I like this thread , although I'm retired I have a manufacturing back ground ( machine shop ) my dream was to produce a product and sell it . Every time I came up with a idea Ms.westi would say are you kidding some one will kill themselves with that and we will loose the farm . I was getting tired of her wet blanket approach , so I just went for it . Long story short I started producing wood shell turning blocks . Fairly quickly it was apparent , I wasn't making a profit . Because my hart was into it I kept going . One day I was reading a article in Lat. 38, a guy with a schooner was talking about these wood shell blocks he bought . I thought this is great I'm getting publicity , and then he started describing how a block failed and the rig came down , I lost my water . I kept reading , the guy that sold him the blocks agreed to pay for the rig but first he had to sell the farm . ( True story )
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Old 14-11-2016, 12:50   #10
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Re: Seacocks

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I arched an eyebrow when you said he could provide all that value at a substantially lower price point than Groco. Is that just the production costs? Marketing and sales network costs are going to be high. Groco is a good sized company, with a fairly broad product portfolio. Their price point is either due to market share or indirect costs, dunno which, but it's probably not represented by per unit production cost. I would proceed carefully with your wholesale cost analysis.
Groco is selling them for as much as they can get. Who knows how low they could go if they had to. You can bet their marginal cost to produce one is not much more than the cost of the bronze raw material.
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Old 14-11-2016, 13:01   #11
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Re: Seacocks

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Groco is selling them for as much as they can get. Who knows how low they could go if they had to. You can bet their marginal cost to produce one is not much more than the cost of the bronze raw material.
That's exactly what my marine pro buddy said when he was holding norseman or stalok in his hand and I told him that in US it retails in vicinity of $100 each. He was a boat builder back in the Old Country and is very familiar with manufacturing of all things boat related. His take on it was that such an item was under $10 to manufacture, probably even under $5. The rest of the retail price is whatever you want it to be - dealer mark up, profit, marketing cost, etc.

One more tidbit which may be interesting in this discussion. Another friend was refitting his boat so he visited a machine shop but of the larger variety, almost like a plant. He inquired about aluminum rails with holes and was directed to some stacks. There he found what he needed and asked how much 100ft of the stuff was? He was told about $1/ft so he asked them to cut 2 50ft pieces (his boat is 46'). After paying and while bringing the pieces out of the shop the shop owner asked what they were for. After he found out that they were to be used as toe rails on a sailboat he was visibly upset and blurted out that had he known that he would have charged my friend a "boat price". Priceless.
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