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Thread: KATO: What separates them from the rest?

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    Default KATO: What separates them from the rest?

    Since 1997 I've always been a KATO man but there lack of realism always bothered me. When ScaleTrains arrived on the scene, I was captivated by the realism. Companies like ScaleTrains, Intermountain, BLI, Atlas, etc. are doing great with how they look, but they just do NOT perform like a KATO does. My latest ScaleTrains and Intermountain locomotives needed to be returned because they were defective. Now, as I look back 20 years I have realized that I have never had ONE problem with a KATO locomotive. So my question is,...other than the fact that they are made in Japan, what exactly is KATO doing so right to make their locomotives operate so flawlessly?

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    Well, all the other brands are made in China, and "economy" is different there. My guess is that the other manufacturers could have the factories produce the same quality mechanisms as the Japanese counterparts, but the Chinese factories would charge more for that quality than the manufacturers would a) be willing to absorb or b) think they could pass on to their buyers.

    In other words, if Atlas, just as an example, wanted to pay for the same craftsmanship built into the mechanism as a Kato, they may have to charge 200 or 300% more for the loco than that comparible Kato which could potentially price them out from being competitive.

    Or another way to look at it: Atlas locos are still good. Would you be willing to pay three times more for a locomotive that performed 5-10% better? My guess is Atlas doesn't think so.
    Bronman - "Trains and Legos... you can't have too many of them."

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    "What separates them from the rest?"

    You deal with the company that actually makes them, not a third party distributor.
    Quality control and pride in the product
    Quality components
    Reliability
    Customer Service ...............
    Cheers Tony

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    "It is easy to criticize ... a lot harder when you have to justify it"

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    Quote Originally Posted by wombat457 View Post
    You deal with the company that actually makes them, not a third party distributor.
    Quality control and pride in the product
    Quality components
    Reliability
    Customer Service ...............
    I agree with what you said, but that only explains why Kato products are so good and have remained so, it doesn't explain why the other manufacturers can't be just as good as Kato.

    Yes, the manufacturers are dealing with a third party, the Chinese factories. In order to achieve the same quality as Kato the Chinese factories are going to charge the manufacturer more to produce the product. Kato probably absorbs that extra cost by dealing directly with their own factory which means a quality product at a lower cost. The other companies don't have that option (their own fault), so they either cut profits, pass on the extra cost (and they don't think the market will pay that extra cost) or sacrifice quality to be priced competitively. I believe they try to find a balance in there somewhere. Hence Atlas and a few other are still good quality and comparatively priced, but will never be the same quality as Kato because the price point will be too high.
    Bronman - "Trains and Legos... you can't have too many of them."

    My Layout Build Thread - The Spokane & Eastern Washington
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    QC has to be a primary goal of the company and the whole production team has to buy in on it. It is a big investment to make it part of your DNA. Companies with domestic production have a tough enough time of it; many did not succeed despite a lot of effort and expense.

    You also need QC-expert suppliers, hence programs like ISO 9000 certification. When you contract out the entire production process it's 10 times harder to implement, and if you are successful then your expert supplier can go rogue and sell "your" product on the side because you have basically taught them how to do it right.

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    kato best why bother with the rest hahahahahahahahahahahaha keep them happy they keep you happy.

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    It may have something to do with the culture of Japan vs others. From my personal experience anything Japanese built was built right and well thought out
    Did someone say whitcomb?

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    Kato is good, I've never had issues.
    But ove also never had issues with my Atlas and BLI engines.

    I did have 1 or 2 issues with Bachmann in the past but they where fixed and wouldn't stop me from buying Bachmann again.
    Modeling the Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Divison in 1954

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    I used to be a massive champion of Kato, but they have been surpassed by ScaleTrains and Atlas. Both make engines that run just as good (if not better) and are visually superior. Kato engines are fairly crude in the details end. Kato better step up their game if they want to keep their reputation as a contender.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sid View Post
    kato best why bother with the rest
    Because of their limited range of products. And, they aren't always the best. Very good, but not always the best.
    Thanks, Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by wombat457 View Post
    "What separates them from the rest?"

    You deal with the company that actually makes them, not a third party distributor.
    Quality control and pride in the product
    Quality components
    Reliability
    Customer Service ...............

    This right here. Where a product is made is not really a factor at all. It really boils down to reputation vs. outsourcing, and for the outsourced 3rd party manufacturer, it's just a contract gig. If an American company outsourced to American 3rd party factories, guess what, same result. If you own your own production, then you have more responsibility over the quality of your product.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MetroRedLn View Post
    It really boils down to reputation vs. outsourcing, and for the outsourced 3rd party manufacturer, it's just a contract gig.
    Just because it's an outsourced product, doesn't mean that the contractee doesn't have pull over the products quality.
    If the contractor wants to get paid, then it still needs to stand up to the quality expected.
    But there's always a higher chance of less quality with an outsourced product vs an in house product.

    Atlas mechanisms are outsourced, but I'll still put any of my Atlas mechanisms up against a Kato anyday.

    My fleet consists of approximately of
    75% Atlas
    14% KATO (SD40-2's, U30C's and few E's & F's)
    11% Intermountain (F units and a couple of Tunnel Motor's)

    Those numbers are driven by locomotive models that I need to make up my Rock Island fleet.
    Granted a lot of the Atlas chassis needed some type of tweaking before getting them to run good, but that
    mainly means cleaning, degreasing and break in time.
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    Someone beat me to the punch line: Kato scores 100% for reliability, but only 70% for detail. I've been collecting Kato locomotives this year for train show display running, but rarely do they meet my modeling needs for the home layout.

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    At the distance that I'm viewing them at, the detail deficiencies of Kato really don't bother me and they are tremendous. That said I'm also happy with all of my more modern locomotives (from many manufacturers from TrueLine Trains to European brands like Fleischmann). One bizarre anomaly I have though is my Kato Mikado (an almost legendary locomotive) is so unreliable as to be unusable. At some point I'll try and send it away for a service as its effectively new in box. Has anyone had any problems with Kato Mikes?

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    When I buy locomotives, I'm looking for specific types of locos. If I need an SD40, it's Kato because that's all there is. My SD40-2s are Intermountain, because they (finally) came out with the high hood Southern units. I buy lots of Atlas locos because they have many second generation EMDs that I need, some of them with high hoods. I've got a couple Kato Milwaukee Road FP7's because the Intermountains were either sold out or on reservation. I'll need to remove the winterization hatch and door head light and then detail and paint.
    Tim Rumph
    Modeling the Southern Railway in N-Scale

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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen H. View Post

    But there's always a higher chance of less quality with an outsourced product vs an in house product.
    That was the essence of what I was saying, so if you were trying to start an argument here, then there's no argument.

    Metro Red Ln (Metro Red Line)
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    I am only on my second year in the hobby and my opinion of Kato was formed early on. I started out with a Bachman Steamer and returned it in short order because it didn't run well. I have since purchased about twenty Kato locomotives over the last two years. Only one of those didn't have a good motor in it and I returned it for an exchange. All of my Katos run smooth and quiet. I also purchased one Atlas locomotive and it was very noisy so I returned that one as well. I have a Bachman EMD DD40 AX which is a very smooth runner as well.

    My conclusion is that Kato will generally supply the best locomotive, But I would not hesitate to buy another brand if they made something I really wanted.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim R View Post
    When I buy locomotives, I'm looking for specific types of locos. If I need an SD40, it's Kato because that's all there is. My SD40-2s are Intermountain, because they (finally) came out with the high hood Southern units. I buy lots of Atlas locos because they have many second generation EMDs that I need, some of them with high hoods. I've got a couple Kato Milwaukee Road FP7's because the Intermountains were either sold out or on reservation. I'll need to remove the winterization hatch and door head light and then detail and paint.
    I'm with ya. ES44 GEVOs? Fox Valley. SD70Ms? Kato. Having choices is actually good for N scale. That's why I could never understand the "I only buy Kato" or "i only buy Atlas" crowd. They put too many self-imposed limits on their love of the hobby.

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