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Wessex Quality Improvements

Postby Wyvern » Thu Nov 29, 2018 9:10 am

I posted a lengthy reply about Wessex quality on Facebook, you may find interesting, so copy below;

Thank you for the nice comments on Wessex tubas, and apologies to those that have previously got an instrument of lesser quality than they would hope. This will be a lengthy message, but I would like to fully explain the situation and what Wessex is doing to improve.

When I started Wessex Tubas just 8 years ago it was from my back room selling a relatively small number of instruments, made by 4 factories in China and arriving on pallets at a self storage unit. In those days Wessex was like most other companies, just ordering from the factory in China and trying to mitigate any quality issues before shipping out to customers, but there is a limited amount that can be done at that stage if the finish is not good, valve caps won’t thread well, or even a crack in knuckle from valve block. I mostly only had contact with factories by email, so was difficult to get the standard required.

I did my best in those early years and when after 4-years the Wessex business had grown to the size that I was now receiving complete containers, I decided I must take proactive action to improve quality further. By then I had settled on using the Jinbao factory (the best of those I had tried) and started the system of visiting the factory every quarter to quality assure at the factory before accepting the goods. When I first started the quality assurance, I could not be over demanding in everything being perfect, or we would have nothing to sell. But instead pointed out problems, tried to get rectified at factory and obviously rejected the worst cases, and with every visit raised the standard of acceptability - but could not raise too quickly or would not have sufficient stock to fulfill orders. It has been an ongoing problem deciding if to keep customers waiting and risk loosing orders, or accepting instruments with small defects and hope the customer will be satisfied. Customer demands vary tremendously - some are happy as long as the tuba plays well and are not worried about finish, while others worry about the smallest scratch, or imperfection.

Two years ago I welcomed Chuck Nickles to Wessex Tubas as Chief Designer and Technical Advisor and he has been coming with me on every quarterly quality assurance visit ever since. Chuck has a lot more knowledge of tuba building and repair than I and has in effect been acting as consultant to Jinbao in improving their quality, with better soldering, improved tooling and greater use of jigs, etc. So over the last two years quality has continued to improve, probably for all brands coming from the factory, if they have been applying the lessons to other production.

Knowing Wessex team is going to be there for every order quality inspecting and being ever more critical, Jinbao have been working particularly hard at improving the quality of Wessex to the extent that for example they spend 6-times longer polishing every Wessex tuba against other brands.

Jinbao had already established a High-Grade department which were making boutique trumpets for some other company to German quality standards and when Wessex decided to develop the Chicago-York 6/4 CC tuba it was decided that this tuba would be manufactured by High-Grade to the best standards possible. The quality of this tuba was way beyond anything previously that had come out of China. Chuck Nickles and I have been working with Mr.Qi, the High-Grade production manager to raise standards further, including such things as better valve cap threads, which has always been a difficult area to get entirely right, but with the latest production I think we have at last got fixed.

Over the last year there has been an increasing realisation from both the factory and I that manufacturing Wessex in High-Grade is the way forwards to produce the quality that Wessex and our customers rightly demand. High-Grade production is completely different from regular Jinbao production. Regular production is by means of a production line with workers carrying out one process and passing on to the next, with no-one apparently taking full ownership for the production of that instrument. It is a process to make as cheap as possible, which is what is demanded by most companies getting instruments made in China. In High-Grade every instrument is built and assembled by a skilled craftsman, or craftswoman who takes full ownership for the whole process, even lovely polishing when finished. That is the way Wessex wants our instruments made. There are obviously cost implications - it costs about 30% more to make a tuba in High-Grade, but regardless I have made the decision with Jinbao Management that during 2019, all but student Wessex production will be transferred to High-Grade. This has got to be done over a period, as the High-Grade team has to be trained and grown and we are taking over 3-floors of the factory for just Wessex High-Grade. All new models are being made in High-Grade from the start and already manufacturing of Wessex other professional tubas has started to be moved across, so all Wyvern CC, Viverna BBb and Grand BBb are now made by High-Grade. The difference is tremendous - they look like they have come from a different factory! These are tubas of which I am personally proud.

But we don’t want to remove economically priced tubas for students and schools from the range, so will continue with some regular production, but these will be branded ‘Overture’, so it will be clear to customers where the tubas have been produced. We will still try to make ‘Overture’ as good as possible, but the process will not allow them to quite come up to High-Grade standards. During 2019, the range of each model will be clearly marked on website.
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Wyvern
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Re: Wessex Quality Improvements

Postby Three Valves » Thu Nov 29, 2018 6:51 pm

There are plenty of nay-sayers out there, but this seems perfectly reasonable to me. Keep up the good work. See you in Ft Myer again soon!!
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