A lot of you have been in and noticed how busy we've been this winter. We were actually a lot busier than it even seemed on the surface! I thought I would give you a small look behind the scenes to see what we've been up to. So, today I decided to go down to the frame shop and take a few photos of some of the new improvements we've made, and as it turns out I didn't even realize how much we accomplished!
Over the years we've always tried to figure out how to make our hand built Rodriguez bikes in more efficient ways. Our manufacturing style went toward 'batching' bicycles. We would try to batch several similar bikes together. This way when we set up a machine to cut a specific size of tube, we could cut several (maybe 10) of those tubes at the same time. This would save us time in having to set up the machine 10 times (about 10 minutes each set up).
Well, as our models and size offerings increased, and our customers needs diversified, it became increasingly difficult to batch similar bicycles. Therefore, the batch sizes were decreasing to 3 or 4 per batch, and this 'setup time' savings was diminishing substantially. There were also times that a batch of bikes had to be moved several times to make way for a different batch that was in a different stage. If numbers or tubing got confused, then things got messed up and a batch of bikes had to be started over.
STOP THIS MADNESS I SAY!
One definition of insanity is "doing things the same way and expecting different results." We needed a new way.
"We gotta make those bikes one at a time!"
If this could be achieved, then the chance of specifications, braze-ons, or bike tubing getting confused would be eliminated.
If we made bikes one at a time, our setup times would be astronomical. For instance, we used one machine (Pa Pa Bear, a Bridgeport mill) for several processes in making a bike (same as other builders). Each process setup time could be as long as 15 minutes. Not only that, but if Dan was using Pa Pa Bear for one process, Todd would have to wait until the machine was not in use. This would add even more time.
Eliminate setup times all together: To eliminate setup times we needed lots of machines that were permanently set up for each specific process.
Our frame shop is small: There would have to be a lot of machines, and they would have to be small enough to fit into our small frame shop. After searching for quite a while, we discovered that no manufacturer made small machines that were good enough to do the job.
Call in a Rare Bird: We're lucky enough to have some rare birds of our own here at R+E Cycles. Our frame building team isn't only great at building bikes. They're a very creative and talented team of two. They rose to the challenge, setting to work designing and building small machines using scrap metal and unused parts from old components around the shop. Some of the machines they created are truly amazing.
Here are some photos of just some of the improvements we made this winter.
As I said, these are just a small sampling of the improvements we were able to accomplish this winter in the frame shop. Our frame building method will be more efficient, but more importantly, we'll be able to build an even better quality bike than before. We want to invite you in to tour our new digs. Feel free to come in anytime during the week and we'll give you a free tour!
I can't wait for this season to start....oh wait a minute...it never ended...what year is this anyway?
February, 2006 - Dan