Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Hello, Cartamundi...Goodbye, Milton Bradley

Cartamundi created a bit of an industry buzz by purchasing Hasbro's manufacturing facilities in Massachusetts and Ireland . Consensus thinking of business watchers seems to be it is good that the 1.1 million sq. foot East Longmeadow, MA factory and 350 employees are back with a management that has a "production mentality".

When I joined Milton Bradley decades ago, that recently opened MA "manufacturing" facility was an efficiently run operation with a great mixture of 1800 workers and state-of the-art machines plying ink to paper and chopping cardboard. In the '70s, then CEO James J. Shea Jr. took great pride in his "fully integrated manufacturing operation where raw materials came in Door 1 and left through Doors 44 to 64 as finished games packed in standardized shipping cartons". Such were the golden days of manufacturing at the world's No.1 game company.

In the mid-eighties, Hasbro acquired MB. A popular saying around the East Longmeadow office was "they"are marketers, "we"are manufacturers. I always thought that saying was a bit asinine. At the time, "we" were selling $500,000,000 in manufactured games. Didn't those sales require some marketing savvy? I felt that popular "we/they" saying could easily have been, "they" have toys and "we" have games thus eliminating the functional marketer/manufacturer designates.

There I was a member of the "manufacturer' team, albeit in the East Longmeadow office, but I didn't work in bib overalls and carry a lunch pail. Actually, company office dress code for male staff called for  button down shirts w/neckwear and wing tip shoes. On the other hand, many of our new owners/colleagues, the Hasbro "marketers" had relaxed attire of open collar business casual more suited to production line workers. ( I also recall some male "marketers" even sported fashionable facial hair barred in the East Longmeadow dress code.)

Fast forward to today. Hasbro, the "marketers" are masterfully piecing together toy and game brands into expanded platforms with strategic ventures allied with key entertainment licenses. The "manufacturers" in east Longmeadow will continue to do what they have done for so many years...manufacture the best quality board games and puzzles in the world, not as Milton Bradley but rather as Cartamundi.

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