Our assembly line in the Polish town of Świebodzin officially whirred into motion in January 2021. The start of production in Poland is a huge step towards our ultimate goal of supplying our European markets with woom bikes made in Europe.
Since the start of the year, woom ORIGINAL bikes – our classic woom 1–6 models – have been rolling off the production line at the factory run by German company SPRICK CYCLE GmbH in the west of Poland. SPRICK, a family-owned company with a long history of manufacturing bikes, is providing us with our own storage and production halls at its factory in Świebodzin, where we have been operating two production lines and two highly automated spoke machines since the end of February. We are expecting 115,000 woom ORIGINAL bikes to have been produced there by the end of 2021. On top of that, preparations for the final assembly of our woom OFF mountain bikes are well underway.
With staff numbers fluctuating depending on the time of year, there are currently some 300 employees working at the factory and 80 of them are focused solely on woom bikes. And the plan is to keep stretching capacity. "Going forward we are relying on high-tech automation to construct the aluminium frames. This is also how they produce car bodywork within the automotive sector," says woom CEO Guido Dohm. "This will allow employees to focus fully on the aspects of assembly that are less physical and instead need a human touch in the form of fine motor skills."
What are the advantages of producing our bikes in Poland?
Shifting production to Europe opens up no end of benefits:
- Building a bike is a complex process that involves a lot of manual work. With the factory so close to our head office in Austria, we can easily get in contact with the manufacturers directly and head over in person if we need to discuss technical aspects, perform quality assurance or take care of practical training or production planning and management.
- The location of our production facilities being so close to our core markets also allows us to keep transportation routes to a minimum, meaning that we will be able to offer much speedier delivery options in the future.
- And this can only mean good things for the environment, as shortened journeys equate to reduced carbon emissions.
"We are delighted that progress in the field of automation has opened up the option of producing and assembling bikes in Europe."
Even the decline amongst suppliers within the automotive and aviation sectors is opening up doors for us. Components that have previously been sourced by the entire bike industry almost exclusively from specialists in Asia, could soon be developed and produced with suppliers based in Europe. Dohm is hopeful that the days of waiting 30 days for components to be shipped overseas from Asia to Europe are over. Instead, these parts could be transported on lorries within Europe and delivered to assembly lines in a matter of days. "This could be a huge opportunity for woom," says Dohm. "We will save time and help preserve our planet too."
There's no denying that it can be challenging to find new sites, as there are many criteria on top of the financial aspects. With the partner company's quality, technology, available capacity and growth opportunities to consider, it really comes down to luck and being in the right place at the right time. Just like us...
A partnership is born
We first came across SPRICK CYCLE GmbH at a supplier meeting back in 2019 and we entered into initial discussions at EUROBIKE. Both sides were extremely interested by the prospect of a partnership. At that point, they 'only' had capacity to take on the final assembly of our woom OFF and woom OFF AIR mountain bike models. We then came to our current agreement with SPRICK in 2020.
Europe in the spotlight
The coronavirus pandemic has shown us just how important it is to have production facilities in Europe, with some factories in Asia having been closed during lockdown and shipping proving less reliable than usual. There are still shortages of some common components, which has repercussions for the whole production line and often translates to long delays for customers waiting for products. Lead times on some components have increased significantly, with some up from 90 days to 600 days.
"Asia will continue to be a huge player in the production of bikes globally," says Dohm with confidence. "After all, we have a strong presence in North America too and it wouldn't make much sense to ship bikes made in Europe all that way." We also have good potential for sales and increasing demand in Asia. With that in mind, the plan is to continue building on production capacity in Asia for the Asian and US markets. Yet there is no denying that Europe-based production is the way forward for our European markets. Dohm estimates that a third of the company's total annual production will be taking place in Europe in the near future.