Future of British motorcycle industry

Modern 961 Norton Commando Motorcycles

Future of British motorcycle industry

Postby acotrel » Thu May 16, 2013 2:27 pm

In Australia we have many companies moving manufacturing offshore. Union wage claims, and their demands for decent conditions are blamed. However a main reason is to avoid our OHS legislation, and behave like GRUBS out of sight . Our wages are very high compared with those in the third world and a lot of union bashing is directed at reducing them. The simple fact is that we are never going to have a third world workforce, and in competing at the low end of the market we are playing their game, and must lose. The new Norton appears to be a quality product which justifies its expense. If we are to maintain our high wage structure, we should always try to move up market. There will always be people around who will pay for quality. One thing which works against Norton, is the lack of a level playing field on which its bikes can race against other brands using similar technology. The Norton brand is still based largely on the success of the fifties Manx Nortons.
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Re: Future of British motorcycle industry

Postby Rohan » Thu May 16, 2013 2:49 pm

All the developed countries around the world are talking about their manufacturing going offshore ?
You think its any different anywhere else ?
Or has been throughout history - the Romans were commenting about it.... !

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Re: Future of British motorcycle industry

Postby wakeup » Thu May 16, 2013 8:06 pm

In any manufacturing enterprise, reliance on sub contractors, overseas or domestic is a proven route to disaster. As far as motorcycles are concerned I always think of Silk, who had a gorgeous 700cc twin two stroke in the early 70s. They couldn't even rely on their cable suppliers. More recently, when I had to work for a living, the company I worked for spent more on auditing sub-contractors, and rectifying their co*k ups than if the parts had been made in house. However the accountants won the day.....again, their arguments revolved around the additional cost "coming out of different buckets". I know, I did the investigation
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Re: Future of British motorcycle industry

Postby Rohan » Thu May 16, 2013 10:08 pm

Lets see, my Commando has alloy castings by Birmal (is it ?), iron cylinder by ??, steel crank forgings by ??, frame by Reynolds, seat by ??, carbs by Amal, electrics by Lucas, rims and tires by Dunlop, brakes by Lockheed, mudguards by ?? in Italy, tank pressed by ??, paint by ??, fasteners by GN.

So what did Nortons make ?
A few machining operations on a few castings and axles ??

It was long said that Nortons were just an assembly point for the final product, very little was done inhouse.
And less over time, it seems, until the Commando era.

Only way for a small manufacturer to do it, buying all the tooling and presses and lathes and foundry and paintshop to do all that, and house it all under a roof, would have cost a fortune. And in quiet times, there is no cost with outside suppliers....

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Re: Future of British motorcycle industry

Postby wakeup » Thu May 16, 2013 11:57 pm

It's one thing to "buy in" parts, such as castings, carbs, alternators, frames etc from specialist suppliers. Its quite another to get companies to manufacture stuff that could be made "in house", such as small machined items, cables, brackets and so on.
To manufacture anything from a motorcycle to an aeroplane requires a vast number of parts. From complex bits (such as frame, castings etc) to simple items, such as brackets, cables and so on. Any wrong parts, short deliveries causes a delay whether its a frame with a scratch caused by incorrect packing, or a bracket with the holes in the wrong place. They all have to be rectified in some way, whether by repair or replacement.
To sub contract successfully any company needs very explicit very accurate drawings, a very good, well defined mutually understood QA/QC systems, with a mutually understood process for resolving co*k ups, an effective purchasing department (not always easy to achieve). Especially required is a well thought out delivery schedule. All of these processes require personnel at some cost, and a big travel budget.
I fully understand that since The Accountants have taken over industry, that Sub Contracting rules the roost. However certainly in the UK and Australia, in the main the process has been run by the wrong people sub contracting the wrong items to the wrong companies for far too long. Its not the only reason for the decline of UK and Australian industry, probably the US as well. It is a major reason though.
This is only based on a 40 year working life in (amongst others) the motorcycle industry, the aircraft industry, the shipbuilding industry, the avionics/defence industry, initially as a design draftsman finishing as a production engineer with some responsibility for subcontracting bits. So I'm obviously biased.
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p.s A.M.C at Woolwich were so fed up with crappy painting from their sub contractors that they set up their own enameling plant. The same with gears............

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Re: Future of British motorcycle industry

Postby ZFD » Fri May 17, 2013 12:22 am

And this wise policy of AMC was subsidized by the crappy assembly plant called Norton Motors Ltd in Birmingham. Until AMC burnt money at such rate even Norton could not maintain it and united they went under. To be rescued by Manganeze Bronze Holdings/Dennis Poore, who bought the shambles from the receivers and re-instituted a crappy assembly plant building the Norton Commandos.........

Just a remark by somebody who has been in the motorcycle industry in general and Norton in particular all his working life. But what do I know.

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Re: Future of British motorcycle industry

Postby hobot » Fri May 17, 2013 12:24 am

Not to worry as 3D printing comes of age we can order up or brew up our on cycles and parts.
Throw yourself at the ground and miss!
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Re: Future of British motorcycle industry

Postby acotrel » Fri May 17, 2013 12:31 am

I believe a lot of our problems come from poor configuration managememt - changing the design as a production run progresses . The concept of building a prototype asnd testing it t o destruction, then freezinfg the drawings seems lost to posterity. However the truth probably is that we never did that in the old days. And many draftsmen do not know enough about dimensioning and tolerancing. It's easy to blame a subcontractor after the event , but the overall effect is a substandard product. I believe that for a motorcycle to be excellent, racing must find its problems.
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Re: Future of British motorcycle industry

Postby acotrel » Fri May 17, 2013 12:32 am

I believe a lot of our problems come from poor configuration managememt - changing the design as a production run progresses . The concept of building a prototype asnd testing it t o destruction, then freezinfg the drawings seems lost to posterity. However the truth probably is that we never did that in the old days. And many draftsmen do not know enough about dimensioning and tolerancing. It's easy to blame a subcontractor after the event , but the overall effect is a substandard product. I believe that for a motorcycle to be excellent, racing must find its problems. My background is in defence manufacturing in heavy industry factories making aircraft, missiles, bombs and explosives. We really knew how t o c*ck things up and waste money.
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Re: Future of British motorcycle industry

Postby john robert bould » Fri May 17, 2013 12:51 am

It.s called under cutting to get the work, then supplier's short cutting to make it pay, its a down ward spirial . The companie's who do the cheapest run out of investment money..making do with the out dated machinery. Norton with its high price tag..should be able to invest in the most up to date equipment..instead of fritting cash away on silly projects...how much was spent on the TT ,or the building ...SG should be a MP he's knows how to SPIN!
Personaly the New Norton ,as fired up Old die hard following...but how long will old die hards live for? There is a few s/h Machines on Ebay...guessing the owners have got fed up with CBR 600's blowing them away!
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Re: Future of British motorcycle industry

Postby madass140 » Fri May 17, 2013 1:16 am

some Royal Enfield bits arrived today, TLS front brake in particular, in genuine Royal Enfield packets.
utter junk,first thing I noticed was the brake camshafts had at least 20 thou clearance in the pivot holes.
beats me how this company sells bikes and survives if this is a sample of their work, any company in the rest of the world wouldnt last 6 months with this kind of quality. Royal Enfields are now available here in my country
dont think I'll be buying one.
mylasttriton.jpg[img]mylasttriton.jpg[/img]
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Re: Future of British motorcycle industry

Postby wakeup » Fri May 17, 2013 2:28 am

I typed all this once before but it got lost....so here goes again.
Hi Joe
I admire what you are doing at Andover Norton.
Didn't AMC buy Nortons at Bracebridge St, then move it to Woolwich? By all accounts Bracebridge St was straight out of the Victorian era........

I would be the first to point the bone at AMC management, individually and collectively they were bloody awful. Someone who worked at Woolwich told me about the paint and gear thing. In every dark place there may be a little ray of sunshine, maybe these were AMCs little ray!!

Sorry if pressed a few sensitive buttons there Joe.

Couldn't argue about the draftsmen. When I was a lad, to become a trainee draftsman (they were called draughtsmen then) you first had to be a tradesman. I spent some of the last twenty years of my working life showing new draftsmen, freshly qualified with a degree, but not being able to tell a lathe from a mill, how to pictorially describe a part so that it could be made effectively, and where and how to tolerance things. Water off a ducks back though, as they knew everything.

One of the last projects that I had some responsibility for had a specific "proof of concept" stage, to see if the idea worked. Followed by a pause to produce prototype drawings, then a "prototype" stage, then another pause whilst all the drawings, programs etc were updated. Then there was a "pre production" phase, which used basically production drawings, production programs and tools, and made production configuration items, but very slowly, with things being updated as required. Then everything was updated as required, to be honest not much by that stage. Then the button was pressed and off it all went, full rate production. Yes there were sub contract items, yes there were "bought in items"....and yes there were problems, but not very many. Some of our managers one of whom was a lawyer before he started with us (I point that out to demonstrate that he knew little or nothing about engineering), moaned and dripped about the lengthy start up phase, but they were the ones who congratulated themselves when the project was going well. I believe it still is 10 years later.
Even now there are a lot of people in industry who are not aware of the differences between prototypes, development models production models etc

I'm glad that the 3d printer revolution will pass me by. The thought of motorcycles made of 3d printed bits made out of stale porridge leaves me somewhat cool.

Racing, as they used to say, improves the breed. So lets hope that Stuart Garner and Co learn lots from their TT endeavours.
Hopefully the New Norton will follow the path trodden by New Triumph, and become successful.
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Re: Future of British motorcycle industry

Postby BA10BOON » Fri May 17, 2013 5:53 am

I believe that John Bloor picked up Triumph in .... what... the early 1980's? Today, Triumph is the largest (by volume) motorcycle brand in the UK. In anybody's eyes it's been a fantastic success story, and Mr Bloor and son at Hinckley must take a huge amount of credit. They've combined moving numerous sub-contract engineering disciplines in-house, while also having a engineering facility in Thailand.

Can Norton do the same thing? Personally i doubt it, unless Bloor himself buys Norton.

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Re: Future of British motorcycle industry

Postby john robert bould » Fri May 17, 2013 11:24 am

If John Bloor bought out Norton, 12 months manufacing the Norton would die, reason is at this moment Norton cannot supply to the limited customers, Once the market is filled them the Norton would be finnished, Morgan car's kept them selves in demand ,because they limited the supply. Nortons flooding the market would mean the end.
It's a clever marketing ploy. if jaguar re-introduced the E Type ... and made 3 a week they would be busy for ever...2000 a week no one would wont one? Comments please.

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Re: Future of British motorcycle industry

Postby acotrel » Fri May 17, 2013 12:40 pm

I suggest it is a matter of creating demand. In the old days we didn't have computer games and drugs to keep us amused. It was about booze, girls and cafe racing . Few of us could buy a manx norton and race it, but we could built Tritons, and Tribsas. The new Norton is a thunderbike - an aircooled two valve fourstroke, and it needs to compete on that basis against Ducati Monsters and Paul Smart replicas, BMW boxer twins, Triumph and Guzzi twins and some Japanese models at the top end of the market. Anyone looking for a touring bike or commuter, would be stupid to buy any thunderbike except a BMW boxer. But anyone with any hormone in their blood who knows anything about motorcycles cannot fail to be excited by the new Norton and the Harrier framed Triumph twin. I think what we need is a new BOTT thunderbike race class so that these bikes can be stressed under public scrutiny alongside others of similar technology, and we need to find new heros to race them. After all the bits have fallen off them and been fixed in production models, they could be superb.
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