Getting on this journey to build and market my own bike design has led me to a crossroads. Where to manufacture, on one hand you have a well established manufacturing circuit available in Taiwan, and China with companies offering everything right down to the nuts and bolts. On the other hand I know my way around manufacturing. Done my fair share of ground up product production from the simple to the very complicated and there are two thing stopping me from going overseas, one is the cost difference. Yes your reading correctly in researching the cost to put my design into low volume production the price per completed unit will be approximately 25% more than keeping the production in the U.S.
As incredible as it may seem from the outside the issue comes in with the a-typical design of my bike. It simply isn't a mass market product and therefore companies who make their profit on volume can't make it in the numbers I'm looking for, a few hundred a year vs the tens of thousands they currently sell. Moreover I'm using a frame, drive system, seat and even steering thats specialized to my bike. All of which require what is known as a set up process to manufacturing that is amortized into the cost of each bike.
This bring us to the death nail in importing: quality control. Talk to any and I mean any company who sets up a partnership to import goods and you will likely get an earful about how mismatched and outright bad the quality of the products can be. You'll learn of the long hours and stress you will put in to correct and set back on course what you were sure they understood from the first handshake. After all this is a company which specializes in what you want and has a reputation, you thought. Wrong this is a company set up to make money, they realistically never cared about what they were making, they got in to fill an existing market and they cut corners. Not at first, in the beginning you'll get good parts but then as time goes so does quality, the more you accept substandard goods the quicker they deteriorate. To hear Americans say it isn't a big deal you almost don't believe it. But when you hear Chinese companies say the exact same thing it crystallizes.
I still import things which are too expensive to manufacture in the U.S. but that's a service to my customers more than anything else, I have to foster the business to provide the best possible product at a profit. But I put stipulations on payments vs quality and I stick to em with a vengeance. This has earned me a reputation too, so much so that I’ll get companies to stop working with me. I’m not complaining I’d rather they cut the ties before starting the games. Making a product as best as possible at a low cost is a balancing act which requires long hours of practice. Ever so increasingly I've been getting more and more off quality products and i'm tired of it. With higher wages, import prices and increasing tensions I no longer try to find another Chinese / Taiwanese / Vietnamese company to replace the old one, I look in the U.S. I've forgotten how good we are. We have everything they do including Chinese, Taiwanese and Vietnamese people! + Mexicans, Canadians, Germans and everyone else from around the world, all of whom have pushed our collective work ethics towards quality and efficiency.
The specialness of an American made will grow over time not die as some have predicted, it seems that for whatever reason when we want to make something we hit a home-run and set the standard on it and I want to be a part of that.