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Old 02-21-08, 01:21 PM   #1
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Brompton Suffering Growing Pains

I thought all of you-especially Brompton owners/users or in the market for one-might be interested in this article:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/41004394-2651-11dc-8e18-000b5df10621.html?nclick_check=1
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Old 02-22-08, 06:24 PM   #2
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How about quoting some text so everyone doesn't have to create a log in to read a link...
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Old 02-22-08, 06:41 PM   #3
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How about quoting some text so everyone doesn't have to create a log in to read a link...
I am really suprised that people are having difficulty viewing the article. Actually I have to log in to my own account on the new forum on the official Brompton Web site-see: http://www.bromptonbicycle.co.uk/-select My Brompton at the top menu, then My Profile to register for that new Forum-without that FT.com window telling you to create a log in. Here is some quoted text of the basis of the article:

"....The trouble is Brompton’s west London factory, huddled under the M4 flyover, cannot build its bikes quickly enough, frustrating its network of hand-picked dealers and customers alike.

Waiting times have stretched from 10 days to 15 weeks or more. The delay is even longer for foreign buyers, which make up about 55 per cent of Brompton’s sales.

“We are a victim of our own success,” says Mr Ritchie, admitting his company has shunned media exposure for fear of stimulating further demand.

A more blunt appraisal of the situation is supplied by Will Butler-Adams, a 33-year-old former manager of £40m chemical sites who joined Brompton as engineering director five years ago.

“If we are still going to be making bikes in five years’ time, we have got to make changes from the top to the bottom of the business,” he says. “Our current method of production is OK if you are only making 1,000 or so bikes. Once you get to 15,000 it is a struggle.”

This year Brompton hopes to raise its production to 20,000 bikes, compared with 14,400 in 2006. “We could sell double that number,” Mr Ritchie says.

Even this expansion has been hard fought since the additional welding staff needed to raise capacity have had to be trained by the existing workforce, denting even the current run rate for several months.

Mr Butler-Adams has reclaimed some production by outsourcing the manufacture of several generic bike brackets and parts. Brompton staff had up until now been bending these parts by hand. But external suppliers, with more advanced machinery, now knock them out at a fraction of the cost...."

-From:
Tradition helps turn wheels of fortune for Brompton Bicycles
By Jonathan Moules

Published: June 29 2007 23:34 | Last updated: June 29 2007 23:34
http://www.ft.com/

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Old 02-22-08, 07:04 PM   #4
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Well I hope they can make the transition to larger capacity and not lose what they already have. I have to commend Andrew Ritchie for his perseverance and not running to an offshore manufacturer. It is very difficult to find qualified people to work in skilled manual labor positions in this day and age, in many places. I work around several large production plants and every one of them is having problems attracting qualified applicants and in many cases any interested applicants at all. The workforce (at least the one in America) is aging out rapidly.

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Old 02-22-08, 07:27 PM   #5
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From the article:
>>>>
Waiting times have stretched from 10 days to 15 weeks or more. The delay is even longer for foreign
buyers, which make up about 55 per cent of Brompton’s sales.<<<<

People are waiting 15 weeks for a Brompton? Foreign buyers are waiting longer than that? LOL!

There are loads of Brompton dealers all over. I can get a Brompton any day of the week in New York City. There are quite a few internet dealers so you can have a Brompton in a week through the mail. I suppose if you wanted a special color but for the most part, I can have a Brompton in an hour if there was a need.
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Old 02-22-08, 08:48 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
From the article:
>>>>
Waiting times have stretched from 10 days to 15 weeks or more. The delay is even longer for foreign
buyers, which make up about 55 per cent of Bromptonís sales.<<<<

People are waiting 15 weeks for a Brompton? Foreign buyers are waiting longer than that? LOL!

There are loads of Brompton dealers all over. I can get a Brompton any day of the week in New York City. There are quite a few internet dealers so you can have a Brompton in a week through the mail. I suppose if you wanted a special color but for the most part, I can have a Brompton in an hour if there was a need.
The waiting times quoted are for the made-to-order units, specifying color and components from Brompton's a-la-carte ordering system. The ready-to-buy units are pre-ordered and spec'd by individual dealers or by Brompton, mostly all-steel in black or black/silver color. Some bigger dealers will have other colors in popular configurations. There is no wait, obviously, if that is the bike you want.
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Old 02-22-08, 10:17 PM   #7
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At 15,000 to 20,000 units per year, they need a mighty efficient system to do custom orders in a satisfactory time frame. Green Gear Cycling (Bike Friday) had a highly efficient mfg process, which allows it to produce fully custom units in 4-6 weeks, but they are only now coming up to 20,000 total units produced since they started in 1992!!!

Got to wonder if they can find a satisfactory intermediate position between Bike Friday and Dahon. You can have a good product, which they do, but you have to meet demand by getting it out the door in a reasonable time and at a reasonable cost.

Good Luck Brompton.
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Old 02-23-08, 12:04 AM   #8
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That article is several months old (June 2007). Brompton have reduced their backlog considerably, aided by reduced popularity during winter, I'd guess.
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Old 02-23-08, 05:00 AM   #9
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The popularity builds by the day. London is full of them because they can free commuters who need to travel into London by train from the awful Underground railway system within the city.

I like Bromptons - the design is unique, it functions perfectly in its niche, and the quality is good. However, the price is ridiculous, supply is throttled by the dedication to continue a particular style of production in a particular location, and development is stagnant.

To build that business, Ritchie should issue a share release to raise capital, open a new factory in the North of England where there are masses of people trained in welding and brazing from now dead industries like ship building, impose rigorous quality standards, and sell the bike for 35% less all over the planet. Of course this would mean him losing personal control and his customers couldn't continue to use the bike as a status symbol. Last year I was quoted a three month wait for a stock bike... they had some problems with quality from an outsourced frame painter or some such bollocks.

Last edited by EvilV; 02-23-08 at 05:08 AM.
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Old 02-23-08, 07:29 PM   #10
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Green Gear Cycling (Bike Friday) had a highly efficient mfg process, which allows it to produce fully custom units in 4-6 weeks, but they are only now coming up to 20,000 total units produced since they started in 1992!!!
Where did you get the 20k number for Bike Fridays produced? I'd expect it to be higher, especially since I think they've made close to 1,000 Tikits and that model is less than a year old.

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Old 02-23-08, 10:43 PM   #11
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The serial numbers they are now issuing are close to 18000, and I also figured there must be close to 1,000 tikits made by now plus a little wiggle room since they may have made some bikes without numbers - so that was my logic.

Alex, any other knowledge or speculation on the subject?
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Old 02-23-08, 11:42 PM   #12
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The popularity builds by the day. London is full of them because they can free commuters who need to travel into London by train from the awful Underground railway system within the city.
I thought the Brompton's design was to use the bike in conjunction with the London Underground system. Afterall, if you weren't going to use it in multimode commuting, then any bicycle would work in commuting.

On a separate issue, the article states Mr. Ritchie continues to smoke at his age. This is a sad comment and I hope he quits.
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Old 02-24-08, 02:13 AM   #13
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I thought the Brompton's design was to use the bike in conjunction with the London Underground system. Afterall, if you weren't going to use it in multimode commuting, then any bicycle would work in commuting.
A common confusion. The Bromptons are generally used on overland trains that come from farther suburbs or outside london. When Londoners say "train" they don't mean the underground. For that they say "underground" or "tube" or "<blah blah> line" Combining a folder with the tube doesn't make sense generally, as the tube tends to take you pretty close to your final destination.

While Bromptons are seen on the tube (one of the 3 folding bikes parked near each other on my floor at work comes in on the Central Line) but most are coming on faster trains from further out. The other Brompton is coming 50+ miles from brighton. I'm about 13 miles from my office, and I could get a tube nearly door to door, but that's 23 stops! Catching a train from the same station is only 2 stops (if I get an express) with a 3 mile cycle at the end.


Oh, and here's a link to the article that doesn't need a login:
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/41004394-2...b5df10621.html
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Old 02-24-08, 06:32 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
I thought the Brompton's design was to use the bike in conjunction with the London Underground system. Afterall, if you weren't going to use it in multimode commuting, then any bicycle would work in commuting.

On a separate issue, the article states Mr. Ritchie continues to smoke at his age. This is a sad comment and I hope he quits.
London has probably several million commuters who travel in from satellite towns. They use overground trains to come in from a radius of up to about a hundred miles, though many make shorter journeys. Then they decant and move around London on the Underground and bus system. The Brompton is uniquely suited to cutting out that second stage of public transport. The Underground is hideously overcrowded, expensive, and potentially lethal when one considers the 7/7 bombings.
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Old 02-24-08, 08:30 AM   #15
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The serial numbers they are now issuing are close to 18000, and I also figured there must be close to 1,000 tikits made by now plus a little wiggle room since they may have made some bikes without numbers - so that was my logic.

Alex, any other knowledge or speculation on the subject?
I don't think that the serial numbers are unique across all of the models. I owned Tandem Two'sday serial #123, but it wasn't the 123rd bicycle that Bike Friday ever made. Maybe they've made 18,000 NWTs or one of the other well known models. However there are many other well known models that probably have their own serial number range which goes into the 10,000s too.

alex
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Old 02-24-08, 09:53 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by EvilV View Post
The popularity builds by the day. London is full of them because they can free commuters who need to travel into London by train from the awful Underground railway system within the city.

I like Bromptons - the design is unique, it functions perfectly in its niche, and the quality is good. However, the price is ridiculous, supply is throttled by the dedication to continue a particular style of production in a particular location, and development is stagnant.

To build that business, Ritchie should issue a share release to raise capital, open a new factory in the North of England where there are masses of people trained in welding and brazing from now dead industries like ship building, impose rigorous quality standards, and sell the bike for 35% less all over the planet. Of course this would mean him losing personal control and his customers couldn't continue to use the bike as a status symbol. Last year I was quoted a three month wait for a stock bike... they had some problems with quality from an outsourced frame painter or some such bollocks.
EvilV is right that many use folders coming in from outside of London to be tube-free. Other set are people within cyclable distance on a Brompton, say 2-7 miles max mostly who don't wish to use overcrowded underground (metro) or buses. Applies to most folders in London. Demand also went up after July bombings. Only fear of cars and commerical vehicles stops market growth in Greater London being even more explosive.

I agree about keeping in UK but having a plant up North, hear hear EV. good strategy! Lower costs and ideal labour supply. Could even add a few immigrant Polish welders, great workers! Yes Bromptons are a premium folder but they should be 30-40% cheaper. They don't carry extra special components apart from the unique folding mechanism. Innovation is limited to Titanium upgrades at £440 which is absurd and they only have 2 gears max at that. The greatest product development of Bromptons has actually come from a guy called Steve Parry. They should put him on the board or hire him as a product development consultant/ I suspect SP enjoys what he's doing somwhere in middle England and at his own pace of life. However he has shown what can be done with the Brompton at the next level in developing the product range and building on the heritage of their great 16" folder.

I admire Andrew Ritchie, he's a real pioneer but the company is at a crossroads now. Can he take the next step like Dyson did in vacuum cleaners without compromising quality or losing momentum to competitors?

Last edited by mulleady; 02-24-08 at 10:25 AM.
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Old 02-24-08, 11:22 AM   #17
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An outstanding post there Mulleady. Parry has done some remarkable things. My Merc even has the benefit of a SP front mech clamp. I believe he is the source of all the Merc GT6 alterations. I think he takes the standard GT3 and breathes his magic on it resulting in the well received GT6. Having those kinds of engineering skills would be a source of considerable satisfaction, I'd say, as well as damned fine bikes.

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Originally Posted by mulleady View Post
EvilV is right that many use folders coming in from outside of London to be tube-free. Other set are people within cyclable distance on a Brompton, say 2-7 miles max mostly who don't wish to use overcrowded underground (metro) or buses. Applies to most folders in London. Demand also went up after July bombings. Only fear of cars and commerical vehicles stops market growth in Greater London being even more explosive.

I agree about keeping in UK but having a plant up North, hear hear EV. good strategy! Lower costs and ideal labour supply. Could even add a few immigrant Polish welders, great workers! Yes Bromptons are a premium folder but they should be 30-40% cheaper. They don't carry extra special components apart from the unique folding mechanism. Innovation is limited to Titanium upgrades at £440 which is absurd and they only have 2 gears max at that. The greatest product development of Bromptons has actually come from a guy called Steve Parry. They should put him on the board or hire him as a product development consultant/ I suspect SP enjoys what he's doing somwhere in middle England and at his own pace of life. However he has shown what can be done with the Brompton at the next level in developing the product range and building on the heritage of their great 16" folder.

I admire Andrew Ritchie, he's a real pioneer but the company is at a crossroads now. Can he take the next step like Dyson did in vacuum cleaners without compromising quality or losing momentum to competitors?
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Old 02-24-08, 05:41 PM   #18
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Perhaps a plant in western Canada to serve the North American market and the Asian market as well?
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Old 02-24-08, 06:30 PM   #19
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Perhaps a plant in western Canada to serve the North American market and the Asian market as well?
WhooHoo! then they could take advantage of the NAFTA and cut the tariffs...works for me!

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