The Mech Touch Chapter 1074
1072 The Candyman
"Frankly, I'm disappointed." Ves said as he crossed his arms.
Chief Cyril brought him to his office to discuss the matter of product quality as it was a sensitive topic.
The situation facing the LMC for a long time sounded very simple. As the company's profit margin narrowed due to a combination of inflation and rising cost of raw materials, they came under pressure to cut costs wherever they could.
The manufacturing floor became the focal point of the LMC's attempts at cutting costs. If they could manage to streamline the production processes and cut the total cost of producing a mech by one percent, then that would have quickly resulted in a ten percent increase of the mech's meager profit!
Chief Cyril remained unapologetic for that reason. "Pursuing quality above efficiency is fine when times were good and when we only had access to a single production line. Yet now we've ballooned to the point where we are working with seventeen production lines at once and shipping out hundreds of mechs a month. Every cost-saving measure we can squeeze out of our current processes directly helps with keeping the company afloat during the hard times."
"The LMC's reputation has declined. Is that worth the cost?"
"Reputation can be regained. It's not as if we're the only mech company that's been cutting corners during these times. Besides, I think you're overstating the quality issue. With all the tests we've been carrying out at our testing ground, none of our finished mechs are shipped with defects. The complaints mainly come from repeat customers who ordered one of our earlier products. Only then is the difference in quality noticeable, but it's only some minor issues that they really complain about."
"Repeat customers are our most loyal and valued customers." Ves stated. "Mech buyers who keep coming back to us for more need to be rewarded for their dedication to our products."
"We didn't have the luxury to think that far ahead while we were flailing in the water trying to keep the company afloat."
As much as Ves didn't wish to admit it, Chief Cyril made the correct decision in helping the Production Department streamline their operations. The fat profit margins the company enjoyed before the war granted them the luxury to pursue excellence. Now that the Blackbeak and the Crystal Lord models only earned a ten percent profit margin on average, the company needed to tighten its belt as much as possible.
Ves reflected on the malaise affecting the company. If he wanted to turn the LMC's fortunes around, he needed to address several points.
First, he needed to work away some of the huge pile of debt the LMC had incurred.
If Ves wanted to increase the company's production capacity, then he might have taken the opposite decision and borrow even more money to purchase more Hanover production lines.
However, he did not plan to invest more money into expanding the operations of his company for the foreseeable time. Operating seventeen production lines at once was more than sufficient to meet the current market demand for their existing mechs.
Ves believed he possessed enough means to earn enough money within a year to work away most of the debt. His personal fortune, which mostly consisted of various royalties and dividends he earned, could be used to lighten the burden enormously, but he didn't intend to touch that fortune.
Instead, he already had a plan in mind to earn a quick infusion of cash. Although it was a bit of a harebrained scheme of his, he nonetheless believed he stood a good chance at earning a couple of billions of credit in quick order.
He'd have to send some feelers to the Clifford Society.
Still, the main source of revenue would have to come from the core business of the LMC, which was selling mechs. The Blackbeak and the Crystal Lord models may be enduring successes to the company, but it was obvious that they couldn't be relied upon to shoulder the burden forever.
The company needed to release a new mech model.
For the next couple of months, Ves planned to work on the joint design project with Professor Ventag. NORA Consolidated would take over most of the production once they published their new design. The LMC would not be burdened with meeting market demand other than to supply the occasional gold label mechs handcrafted by himself to showcase the full potential of his new design.
Second, he needed to change the structure of the LMC as a whole. The company grew from nothing into a respectable major mech manufacturer with sector-wide sales. Yet this growth came so quickly that the company hadn't entirely followed the best plan to operate at this scale.
The company would likely resume its growth now that Ves returned to take the lead. If the company ballooned in size while retaining its current structure, he couldn't rule out the possibility of dysfunction and waste.
In order to smooth the way for the LMC's rise, Ves wanted to shake the company up and prepare it for a new era.
Ves also recalled that this would be the time where the influence of the Ministry of Economic Development on his company would be replaced by Flashlight. The murky intelligence agency may not be the most reliable partner to work with, but he didn't think they would mistreat him now that he earned a measure of their trust. The transition could happen at any day now that the war had formally ended.
Ves had other items on the agenda besides these two major ventures, but he didn't think he should bite more than he could chew. He still had an obligation to work on the joint design project, after all, so he couldn't be babysitting the company all day.
He turned his attention back to Chief Cyril. "For now, I'd like you to write a report that summarizes the current state of our manufacturing processes from your own perspective. Depending on your feedback and my own judgement, I might decide to introduce some changes."
"That's fair. It's your company to do what you will. However, the new shareholder won't be pleased if they think you are detracting from the company's profitability."
Ves smirked. "We'll see."
He spent a couple of hours touring the new production lines, paying close attention to the new Hanover production lines. He called up their parameters and memorized the key points so that he knew exactly what they brought to the company.
Since they cost 8 billion credits each, Ves wanted to be sure he got his money's worth out of them all!
Once he spent enough time inspecting the company's manufacturing efforts, Ves decided it was time to check up on Ketis before she felt neglected.
"Since I brought her on in an attempt to groom her into an asset to the LMC, she needs to become more useful first."
Ves already made some preparations in that area. He sought her out and found her at the testing ground distance away from the Mech Nursery.
The testing ground the LMC initially set up had expanded in scope and size. Each mech required several days of testing. The LMC employed a lot of test pilots to adequately gauge all of the new mechs coming out of the Mech Nursery.
Ves had a brief talk with the managers of the facility, but he quickly sought out Ketis.
She had been spending her time watching mechs go through various obstacle courses to test their mobility.
"Your designs are really impressive, Ves." She said. "Their quality is amazing. If the Swordmaidens had a full company of Blackbeaks, then we wouldn't have much to fear on land."
He couldn't help but boast a little. "These mech designs are years old. They don't reflect my current capabilities anymore."
"So you came to me now. It's about time. What do you have for me now that you're back?"
"Right now? Nothing much. The design project I'm engaged in is in a very early stage. It's not time yet for you to contribute. Instead, I want you to hit the books and learn more theory in preparation for your upcoming tasks."
Ketis adopted an annoyed expression. "Learning learning learning. You keep pushing me to learn. When will it ever be enough for you?! I want to design a mech damnit, isn't that what mech designers are supposed to do, Ves?!"
"I understand your frustration, but mech design is all about applying knowledge in creative ways. The more you know, the more options you have at your disposal. At your current state, you won't be of much help at all to a design project of this caliber. You need to shore up your fundamentals and delve further into your specialty. That means you need to master the contents of tons of textbooks."
"Forget about reading a ton of them. I won't be able to finish even one of them! It's so boring to study by myself!"
"I've already anticipated that problem. Tell me, do you like candy?"
"Uhh.. sure." Ketis looked befuddled at the seemingly random question.
"Here. Take this."
Ves placed a candy in her hand. She popped it into her mouth without a second glance.
"Wow!" Ketis said as she felt a rush going through her mind. "This is some candy! It's tasty as well!"
"Here. Have another candy."
Ves felt as if he was treating little girl to some treats. This time, Ketis experienced an even stronger rush! It took an entire minute for her to get over her high!
"Man, Ves, this candy is even better than the stimulants I used to use back when I was with the Swordmaidens!"
Ves fed her a couple more Intelligence and Concentration Candies. Even though he forked out 30,000 DP in total for all of those Attribute Candies, he considered it to be a worthwhile investment.
Out of every mech designer he knew, Ketis was the most appropriate candidate to bring into his design team. Not only did they spend a lot of time together and became familiar with each other, they also trusted each other to cover their backs.
Back when Ves first reunited with her at his penthouse office, he surreptitiously inspected her with the vision granted by the System in order to find out her mental attributes.
Ves always knew that her intelligence was above average. She had to be in order to become a fully-fledged Novice Mech Designer in the frontier. Yet her godawful concentration meant she was continually plagued with the attention span of a hyperactive teenager.
Since Ketis didn't have anywhere else to go except for the Swordmaidens, Ves had faith that Ketis would not betray or leave him anytime soon. He decided to go big and experiment with upgrading her two most important mental attributes all the way up to the human limit!
Unlike with Carlos, Ves didn't feel the need to hold back with Ketis. She was completely unknown in civilized space. It wouldn't be too outlandish for Ves to 'discover' an amazingly talented mech designer from nowhere, especially since no one in the Komodo Star Sector was familiar with her old capabilities.
It was just like Master Olson uncovering a freakishly intelligent young boy in some quiet star system of the Friday Coalition. Mech designers were constantly keeping their eyes peeled for people with limitless potential that they could shape into their perfect assistants.
After eating twenty candies in a single instant, Ketis was so high with the constant mental explosions in her mind that Ves had to order some guards to bring her back to her apartment at the Mech Nursery.
"Hehehe.. candy.. gimme more candy…" She drooled.
It might have been a bit reckless of Ves to force Ketis to eat so many candies at once, but he already knew it was safe to consume them in succession. At worst, Ketis would be out of it for a couple of days.
Ves looked forward to see how the new Ketis fared once she came off her psychedelic trip. She would probably require a lot of time to adjust to her new mental state, but once she did, she would certainly become an asset to the company!