Words for inventors who dream about creating new playthings
Friday, January 20, 2012
Milton Bradley's Footprint
Milton Bradley, the man, lived a long life in Springfield, MA. Today, if you had need to locate to that city and were in search of a downtown apartment, you might choose Stockbridge Court. By watching the rental facility's promo video, you would learn that the "distinctive apartments" were once a thriving industrial complex and the headquarters for the Milton Bradley Company. Such is the change of urban land use from a place producing board games, art materials (including the famous "No Roll Crayon) school furniture, and guillotine-like paper trimmers to the distinctive Stockbridge apartments in the heart of downtown Springfield. Indeed, the MB has had a long and storied place in western MA.
When I joined Milton Bradley in 1969, the company had already moved much of its manufacturing from what was known as Park Street (aka Stockbridge Court) to neighboring, suburban East Longmeadow. No longer hampered by "loft logistics" for work in process, production was done in a 1.1 million sq.ft. highly efficient and profitably run facility with a great mixture of several thousand humans and state-of-the-art machines. In the 70s, then CEO James J. Shea Jr. took great pride in running "a fully integrated manufacturing operation where product components came in Door 1 as raw materials and would go out Door 44 as finished goods packed in standardized shipping cartons". Along the way from start to finish, all those games were printed, mounted, die-cut, molded, assembled, inspected, and packed off within timed standards. Game components changed with the coming of Simon and other magical electronic games which diluted the "made in America" imprint to in some cases "packaged in America"-- with components from some distant sources in Singapore, Taiwan, or China.
The footprint of Milton Bradley Company" presence certainly remains in western Massachusetts today though some merely in bricks and mortar. In addition to the Stockbridge apartments, another tenant does business on the 26th floor of Baystate Tower (now known as Tower Square) which was the location of MB corporate office in the 70s. Later, those corporate offices were moved from the "tower"to a dedicated ground level building ultimately transitioned into an elementary school after Hasbro acquired Milton Bradley in 1985.
And what about that sprawling 1.1 million sq.ft. fully integrated manufacturing wonder today? Yes, it is still on the corner of Shaker and Denslow Rds. employing hundreds in East Longmeadow. If you ever happen to journey to Springfield, MA, perhaps to see the Basketball Hall of Fame, you might include a ten mile trip from the Hall for a drive-by view of the wondrous facility. The size of the plant might give hint to why James J. Shea Jr in days past gave an executive order to "make those games in America"! Will those days ever return? Perhaps. There's that old adage: "where there's a will, there's a way".
Ron has spent over forty years of his career heading development departments and managing processes to transform ideas into new products for a variety of industries, including toys and games. Twenty- seven of those years were spent at Milton Bradley and Hasbro. During that time he headed MB’s Education Division, product managed game lines, including Yahtzee, and served as Director of R & D at Playskool. He rose to vice president of Inventor Relations for Hasbro Games, where he met with hundreds of inventors. Ron currently does contract development work and consults to the industry.
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