Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why just the Obelisk?

One of the programs run by the Logistics Department is our freighter program (See wiki for details).  We will build someone a freighter for either a discount from normal price, or mineral cost+small fee. One question I get frequently asked is why the University only builds Obelisks.  The answer is both simple, and somewhat complex.
The simplest answer is: because Morning Maniac loaned us the blueprints for an obelisk.  Here is the more complex answer.
A freighter is a capital ship, and as such, is not manufactured directly from minerals.  Instead, it is manufactured from Capital Components.  In the case of the Obelisk, Cargo bays, armor plates, propulsion, and construction parts.  Each of these items is manufactured from the normal t1 mineral supply.  While the freighter blueprint itself is almost 2b, the component blueprints are also each almost 1b. 
Building a freighter takes almost 2 weeks (a little under), but this is only part of the equation. For the obelisk, the capital cargo bay print is in production almost the same amount of time to produce the needed components, and the capital construction parts is in production over half that time.  Propulsion and armor are only a few days.  This means that some minerals started production 20+ days before the ship comes out.
Now, we could just spend the 2b (rounded) to buy a new freighter print, and just use our existing blueprints for the components.  However, this leads us to a situation where we can produce only one freighter at a time. The other blueprint would be sitting idle during this time. This is a waste of almost 2b in capital (economic, not ship definition). 
In order to simultaneously produce both ships, we would have to buy an extra copy of some of the components.  At the minimum, we would need an additional cargo blueprint, since that is almost entirely utilized supplying the production chain for a single freighter.  Each freighter uses a different mixture of quantities. If we didn’t purchase an additional construction parts bpo, several of the other freighters would require such a quantity of parts that it would take longer to produce the partsthen the ships.  This would result in the ship blueprints being idle for a couple of days each run (Parts+2 ships start at same time, ships finish, parts finish a bit later to start the next run of ships, etc..). Fully supplying the chains for both models of freighter would require an additional construction part blueprint (another 1b). This is not entirely necessary, depending on the combination of ships and requirements.
Any new prints we bought (component or ship) would be unresearched, and would need to be researched before we could even start production.  Freighters take a long time to research, and would mean that a purchase of the prints today wouldn’t exit research for 2 months, and wouldn’t produce its first ship (remember, mins-> components->ship) for a while after that.
Another factor we have to consider is the capital tied up in minerals.  Right now, an obelisk costs roughly 750m.  However, in our production run, we always have the equivalent of 3 obelisk’s worth of costs tied up in various stages of production.  1 set of minerals waiting to be made into cap components on the next run, 1 set of minerals actively being made into capital components, and 1 set of capital components being made into the ship itself (this is ignoring the day or two between the obelisk coming out of production and selling).  That is roughly 3x the cost of the ship itself tied up in materials in the supply chain.
Expanding production to just one other race would be a significant capital expenditure, not only for the blueprints, but also the isk that would be tied up in minerals/components in the supply chain itself.  This is a substantial cost when you compare it to the benefit to the Uni- one student every 2 weeks gets a single ship at a discount. Keep in mind that it is a specialized ship that is not accessible to new players, and has a high enough price tag to be a significant barrier to entry for most of our members. Additionally, we would have the difficulty of picking which race to produce.  There are people wanting every different freighter, with reasons ranging from “it looks cool” to “I only fly Caldari.”  Expanding to do all 4 would require a huge cost, that I feel isn’t justified.
Hopefully this explains the concepts behind why we only offer Obelisks, and the type of thinking that the Logistics Department puts into the decisions it makes.


  1. "E-UNI only offers Obelisks! Thumbs their noses at Minmatar, Caldari and Amaarian Freighter Pilots!"

    News at 11:00.


    Just kidding. I can't spin this into anything EVIL!

  2. I enjoy your logistics-related posts. Good insight into the cogs, gears and grease of large(r) corporations.

  3. Few points-

    1. Your thoughts on component blueprints aren't entirely accurate. Generally you need one cargo bay blueprint for each freighter blueprint you want to produce, one construction parts blueprint for every two freighter blueprints you want to produce, and one each of armor plates and propulsion is enough for at least 4 freighter blueprints. Producing 1 of each freighter (me3) would require 54 armor plates, 333 cargo bay, 192 construction parts and 72 propulsion engine.

    2. All freighters use the same components. None of them require shield generator components.

    3. Not counting hulls which are on the market, you can get away with as little as 2 freighters worth of material in the production process.

    4. Charon looks cool and I only fly caldari (freighters) ^_^

  4. You're right about all using the same. Not sure why I remembered that wrong.

    I thought I tried to point out that we'd need an additional cargo blueprint to add another race. The construction part blueprint depends on which race. It won't quite meet the demand on some combinations.

    You could get away with 2 worth of material in production, assuming that you don't have minerals waiting ahead of time. I prefer to be ready then to do things last minute.

  5. I've edited the original post to better word and explain some sections. It also helps being able to edit when I'm not sitting behind the work firewall and have access to all my information other than memory. Thanks for all the comments so far.