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Posts Tagged ‘Copy-exact Methodology’

2013 H-D FXSB Breakout

2013 H-D FXSB Breakout

Introduced last week at the 72nd Daytona Bike Week,  the latest Softail model is called the 2013 FXSB Breakout (MSRP $17,899).

It has gloss black Gasser cast aluminum wheels on a 130mm wide and 21-inches high front while a 240mm chunk of Dunlop rubber on the rear. It comes equipped with 1.25-inch drag bars that sit atop a beefy fork, the bars are mounted atop a four-inch riser with a speedo incorporated into the chrome risers. The wide front fork kicks out at a 37-degree angle while the front fender has been cut down about as much as legally possible.  There is the Twin Cam 103B engine and its machined fins and chrome covers contrasting the black powder-coated cylinders.

2013 Honda Fury

2013 Honda Fury

If the name is familiar it’s because the motor company released a CVO version of the motorcycle back in August of last year.  The production version receives the same long and low stance with the sinister looking disposition.  Someone in marketing didn’t get the memo that factory custom chopper manufacturers have been dropping like flies!

The Breakout is the first CVO model to be “reverse” adapted into a production model.  You might recall that CVOs are typically “juiced” up motorcycles taken off the production line and layered with chrome.  Up until 2009 they were all hand-built, but these days you’ll find them rolling along on the standard production line in York.  And, if imitation is the highest form of flattery then this year’s “breakout” is proof that the copy kat’s are alive and well.  But, who is copying who?

Take the 2013 Honda Fury (MSRP $13,390) which continues to sport a fuel tank with distinctive lines mounted high on the backbone, opening up the space above the engine and the tubular frame. It rolls with a 21-inch tall front wheel that is kicked out at a 38-degree angle and the chopper-ish dimensions balanced out by the 200mm wide rear.   It’s powered by a liquid-cooled 1312cc V-Twin.  Since the Fury’s introduction in 2010 the entry price point has jumped only $391.

2014 Star Bolt

2014 Star Bolt

And then there’s Yamaha’s Star Motorcycles who recently unveiled the 2014 Star Bolt (MSRP $7,990), a simple and stripped-down performance bobber ready for personalization.  A direct competitor for the minimalist H-D Sportster crowd.  The Bolt is powered by a 60-degree, 950cc (58ci) air-cooled V-Twin with fuel injection. A five-speed transmission provides the power via belt drive to the cast-aluminum rear wheel. A double-cradle frame, using the engine as a stressed member, along with a 540-pound curb weight will make this motorcycle easy to handle.   There are some nice touches such as a smoked-lens digital meter, wave brake rotors and LED tail lights to bring home some modern performance to the Bolt.

Whenever I hear about copy kat merch, I almost always think of China knock-offs.  It’s not completely undeserved, given all the fake DVDs, designer clothing and copy Rolex watches.  But, on the motorcycle front Harley-Davidson looks at minimum liked they rolled out a recalibrated Rocker C version or worse is complicit in “breaking out” a Raider/Stryker copy.

Photos courtesy of H-D, Honda and Yamaha.

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Harley-Davidson's new factory in York, Pa.

A new Harley-Davidson motorcycle rolls off the assembly line in York, PA.

You might recall that one of the first moving assembly lines was at Ford Motor Company in 1913.  Until this time automobiles were built one at a time and were quite expensive.  With the Model T, they began experimenting with different production techniques and the conveyor belt system was born.  At its peak a finish Model T came off the assembly line every 10 seconds.

Workers could not stop the line even if parts were wrong.  Workers were not allowed to think on the job.  They were allowed to only do their assigned task and do them ever quicker.  They required almost no skill to perform and were highly repetitive.  Many workers were unfulfilled and became bored and dissatisfied with their jobs.  As a result, absenteeism rose and employee turnover became high.

Fast forward 100+ years and everything has changed, right?.

The “New Factory York” is Harley-Davidson’s largest motorcycle factory.  Once there were 41 buildings on the huge 232 acre plot, but most have been demolished along with 2300 jobs.  The entire manufacturing facility is now housed in one building.  It’s a model of efficiency which H-D plans to “copy-exact” in Menomonee Falls and Tomahawk.  The process is centered on advanced manufacturing techniques that are used at Toyota and Caterpillar that are well known for their quality and efficiencies.

The Milwaukee changes are a com’in… because effective this month adjusted labor contracts went into effect giving the company more flexibility with the workforce.  Similar to the York plant there can be the use of seasonal employees who are not entitled to medical or retirement benefits and receive less pay for the same work done by regular employees.  While still unionized they are paid about $16.80 to $26 per hour versus $30.50 to $38 per hour for regular employees.

But, just like in 1913 not all the workers seem to be infatuated with the changes.  There is a great article written by Rick Barrett at the Journal Sentinel which captures the mixed opinions and whether the transformation has resulted in a better workplace.   We all know that change is messy, but some of the comments had me wondering if some in the workforce would prefer a return to the Model T era.

Photo courtesy of H-D

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