Saturday, October 03, 2009

Assembly Line

The repair queue has brought in a steady trickle of jobs, most of them somewhat interesting.  After 20 years wrenching in the same place it takes something extraordinary to climb above the "somewhat" interesting category.  At least I got to build a couple of wheels.

More than 50 Fuji bikes arrived, the bulk of them on towering, three-tiered pallets on a big truck.  That's an intimidating stack in shrink wrap.  The driver did a commendable job getting the top level down without dropping a bike.

We're assembling a selection of each model for the unpredictable fall bike business.

The trouble with assembling many bikes of the same type in quick succession is that you can easily forget where you are.

Quality control is irregular in this shipment.  It almost seems like a new batch of workers is learning their trade somewhere in China.  We've seen the learning curve before as companies open up new countries in search of affordable labor.  The first batches show a wide variation of precision.  China's not a new source for the bicycle industry, but the facility making these bikes could be new or have changed a lot of personnel.  Or maybe the trainees get assigned to the line for customers who drive a hard bargain on costs.  I haven't begun to try to find out.

I'm eager to see what's in the boxes that say, "made in Kazakhstan."

I made a test track around the sales floor.  It's pretty tight.  I took out a couple of displays before I got the corners wired.  They were just stacks of cardboard boxes or overflowing bins, not any glass cases or sexually suggestive face plants into mannequins.  Maybe today I'll move some mannequins.  We just don't have any really good ones.


Steve A said...

I'd love to see a follow-up post detailing what the manufacturer thinks is completely assembled, versus what the bike shop is expected to put on, versus the "gray areas" where the manufacturer does it, at least sorta, but a good bike shop will often have to futz around to get it right.

Are, for example, bottom brackets almost always properly adjusted upon receipt?

Ham said...

Doubt that you get to adjust bottom brackets in these....

Now then, how about checking the number of bearings balls in the front hubs? ;-)

cafiend said...

Steve -- I described assembly procedures in this post:

Most bottom brackets are sealed cartridge units these days. The rare cup-and-cone units have been made to look like sealed units, which makes them very irritating to adjust. You have to pull off one or both crank arms. This week I got one in a new bike that was torqued down so hard the crank arms would barely go around.

Ham -- in the parts box for another bike I found two unexplained 1/8-inch ball bearings.

Steve A said...

Thanks, there was a lot of good info there.

Yokota Fritz said...

So what was in the Kazakh shipment? Leftover Astana jerseys?

Fascinating (given Kazakhstan's predominant religion) -- the CAPTCHA for this comment is "porkless."

cafiend said...

That's awesome about the "porkless" CAPTCHA.

On closer inspection, the boxes didn't say "made in Kazakhstan," they said "Fuji Kazakhstan." They also said "Made in China." Their contents were disappointingly mundane. I don't know why just a few mentioned Kazakhstan, just as a couple in a previous shipment said Fuji Russia.