Saturday, March 2, 2019

Behind the Scenes at Fife & Drum Miniatures

The Fife & Drum Miniatures "shipping center" - where it all happens.

I thought that I would share some pictures that I took of the Fife & Drum Miniatures Shipping Center. The picture at the top of the page is a view of the "Shipping Center" 😄 as one enters the room. You can see the packing table on the immediate right. Beyond that, still on the right, are the inventory bins for the "finished goods" products. I color code the bins by Country for the Seven Years War and AWI periods.

Finished Goods Inventory

A close up view of some of the storage bins for Hanoverians (orange) and British (red, of course). 

When I purchased the Minden figure range in 2013, the number of different castings was a bit overwhelming, so I decided to pre-package the figures by "command packs", "infantry packs", "cavalry packs" and single packs of artillery & equipment pieces. For example, an infantry command pack with 3 to 5 figures gets a bit tedious to pick and ship if the shipping department personnel have to hand pick each individual component that goes into each pack. Instead, they can simply go to the finished goods bins and pick the product code and get it shipped to the customer more quickly. What might have taken 10 to 20 minutes to pack can now be done within 5 minutes.

Blue bin labels represent the Prussian army product codes.

Green - Russians; Bright Red - British; Orange - Hanoverians, Dark Pink - Civilians; Yellow - Austrians; and Salmon - French.
The great advantage of using this open bin system is that it is easy to see how much finished goods inventory is on hand. If I see that an item is getting low in the bin, then I can make new figure packs and replenish the supply.

Loose Stock Components
The components bins, shown on the left side of the room, are where I store all of the different castings. Each casting has its own storage bin so that is a lot of bins on hand. Each casting comes from a unique mould ( we have over 500 moulds) , so the mould number is affixed to a label that I stick to the front of the bin. This enables me to easily view the component stock so that I can re-order casting inventory that is dwindling down. The idea is to order the castings and have them in stock before the finished goods packs are out of stock. SEE PICTURE BELOW:

The components bins (individual castings) are stored on the left hand side of the  shipping room, although the AWI finished goods can be seen at the front (with the red and blue labels)
I recently finished my annual inventory of every single casting and you can see some of the various color stickies on each bin. These tags show the year-end inventory count and the date of the count. I will eventually replace the stickies with a 3 x 5 inch card that records the stock information. Thus next year, when I do the inventory count, I can get an idea of how much stock moved during the year and helps with determining amounts of stock to order in the future.

Looking back towards the entrance door you can see some of the component castings bins with the orange and yellow stickies posted.
Whenever I order new castings stock, I write the mould number and the number of spins ordered onto the white board. I can readily see what has been ordered and how the stock situation is. For example, "did I order any FH4 Prussian Musketeers castings?" I can look on the white board and see that I did indeed re-order the castings.

Packing Table

The packing table where the orders are picked, collected and boxed for shipment.
There is nothing interesting or spectacular about the packing table, where the orders are boxed for shipment. Shipping supplies, mostly flat boxes and bubble wrap, are stored beneath the packing table.  Sometimes I use this surface for preparing figures that I use for painting my own figures, which explains why there is a cutting mat on the table surface. The guillotine, err paper cutter, can be seen on the right.

When an order is placed in the web store, I print out a copy of the customer's order and then pick the individual finished goods packs and place them on the packing table. Then I determine the size box that is needed to ship the order and pack the order. The the package is weighed and taken to the post office for mailing. 

Shipment Tales

You might laugh at this, but the U.S. Postal Service does an excellent job of shipping the packages and getting them to the customer within about 3 days for domestic orders and between 5 and 10 business days for international orders (these arrive closer to the 5 days end of the range). Did you know that I have NEVER lost a single package in international shipments. Once in awhile, a package will seem to be lost - I send out free replacement orders if the package hasn't arrived within 4 to 6 weeks. Several packages seemed to have been lost, but they have always been returned to me 6 months later, complete with lots of postal stampings on the box.

On two occasions, I have had a package to Australia and one to Greece go on a world tour. The Greek package first went to Australia for some reason. Then it decide to visit Dubai and then it finally made its way to Greece. The Australian package took the reverse trip of the on mentioned above: Dubai - Indonesia and finally Australia. I sent out a replacement box to Greece and it arrived before the original package was delivered.

Well there you have it, the tour of the Shipping Department of Fife & Drum/Minden Miniatures. Of course the "staff" consists of one person - me, but I have to wear many hats in this little enterprise. Now that I am retired I have more time to spend on the business and can ship the orders faster to my customers. When I was working, most packages went to the post office on Saturday, but now I can ship them every couple of days. There are some days when I spend the whole day packing orders and taking them to the post office, but thankfully this is not a normal day in the business.

I hope that you have enjoyed this little behind the scenes look at Fife & Drum Miniatures. We have come a long way since the business was started in 2011 and things take on a more professional look the longer I am doing this. It sounds like a lot of work, but it is fun for me. I particularly like the international orders as it is interesting to see the various destinations for the packages.

If you have any questions or comments, then please feel free to make them in the Comments box at the bottom of this page.


  1. Organised and efficient. And hopefully (certainly deservedly) profitable

  2. Very interesting Jim. Thanks for sharing the secrets of the F&D command centre

  3. Impressive Jim, a veritable hive of activity.

  4. Jim, you maintain a well-stocked and organized distribution center. Well done!

  5. You have a very Prussian approach to business!

    And yes, that is a compliment!!!

  6. Ditto all the reply's above Jim, an excellent insight.

    Willz Harley

  7. Very interesting to read about and see where my orders are realised. Keep up the great work Jim.


  8. Just echo the others and thank you for taking so much trouble to show us how it's all done. Glad you enjoy it.

  9. Thanks for this posting Jim. Very interesting and gives an insight into your operation. Not enough realise that a lot of the suppliers to the hobby are "one man bands" and do all or most on the work. Will be ordering in next couple of months. Regards, Ken