Project: Framebuilder 2.0 at Seven Cycles

April 6, 2012

in Business Thinking, Seven Cycles

We’re implementing what I consider true framebuilding at Seven Cycles.  Each Seven framebuilder will really be doing every step of the machining, hand work, and finishing process for a given frame.  This is probably confusing without having background to clarify.  It’s probably confusing even with a lot of background.

We’ve been working on this for a while – discussions and iterative steps for years.  In fact, Seven Cycles is unusual in the way we build frames – given that we have a couple dozen people in that proces – because each person does hours of work on each frame; we don’t have a production line where each person specializes in one small aspect of the work.  Each person does work on lots of aspects of each bike.  It’s complicated and I’ll explain it in detail another day.

This isn’t really a “Project” – it’s more of a process.  Most projects are really processes afterall.

This is a fairly contentious plan at Seven.

Here are a few of the reasons why we don’t want to have “framebuilders”:

  • It costs a lot more to train each person; I’m estimating it’ll cost about 2.5 times the cost per person.
  • It takes a lot longer to get each new hire up to speed.  Again, about 2.5 times.
  • Average wage will increase because each person is better trained and more valuable.  Cost per frame will increase.  My estimates are a few percent.  We’re looking at this more closely but it is true.
  • More pain when someone leave Seven.  The more training we provide, the more difficult when someone leaves.
  • We’re training framebuilders to leave and framebuild on their own.  True; we do this already, too.
  • There’s no guarantee that each employee can actually do every step as well as we require.  This is a good concern.  This has historically been a serious challenge.  The math skills required for machining are not relevant or finishing.  The fine artisan detail work required in finishing are not so important in machining.
  • Many more I’ll add later.

 Here’s the project-process’s reverse timeline:

June 28:  We’ve been working on an integration process for the idea of every production person being, what would classically be considered, a “framebuilder.”  I’m 100% in but that doesn’t mean everyone else it.  And I understand some of the challenges with this approach.  I’m mapping out some of the framebuilding dicotomies above.  I’m confident that the upsides far outweigh the downsides.

June 14:  We’ve mapped out a first round of implementation.  It affects everyone in production so it’s a complex map.  It’ll be serious fun though.  I’m really looking forward to getting started.

April 6:  Matt O. and I have officially decided that we’re going to implement this major change in our production process.  While we’ve decided it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to happen; we have a lot of people that we want to believe in this new plan of combining three roles into one.  Those three roles are machining, final machining, and finishing.  There is certainly a lot of other work that goes into building a frame – and the infrastructure required to do it.

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