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Posts Tagged ‘Quality’

Saddlebag Drawing

Saddlebag Sketch

This is more than a simple saddle bag retaining clip that takes less than 10 minutes to replace.

Harley-Davidson is facing steep competition.  Not only from less expensive motorcycles imported from Asia, but electric motorcycles from Zero, Brammo (now owned by Polaris) and also from core customers who look for a mainstream gasoline cruiser from Indian and Victory.  Polaris will undoubtedly be first to market with a chrome-plated electric cruiser given the previous discussion by CEO Matt Levatich.

In addition, it’s not clear that Harley-Davidson is getting much of a sales bump from the decision to double-down on support of outlaw biker gangs as part of their marketing pitch.  The hard-edge reference is NOT about the one-percent patches, rather licensing support of TV shows like Sons of Anarchy (SOA) and other Hollywood fluff.  Trying to appeal to people who don’t have much adventure in their lives with a TV show prescribing on the road escapism… well it escapes me!   Meanwhile they try so hard to alienate and re-write the Baby Boomer chapter!

But I’ve digressed.

Harley-Davidson reported slipping revenues for Q2 2015.  U.S. market share is below 50% for the first time ever!  The company is betting on its name recognition and motorcycle quality.  They even choose to muster up some brash swagger and declined slashing prices as a subtle way of saying “our bikes are better!”

And on that quality topic, Harley recently issued a saddlebag recall – campaign number 15V-427.  The motor company is the poster child for the “land of recalls” sans Chevy.  So many, that owners find it difficult to recall when their bikes didn’t!

Snarky comments aside, all manufactures have issues, but Harley-Davidson is unique in acknowledging and using quality as a key differentiator and strategy for increasing sales.  I’m not sure how well that will work for them.

Meanwhile the Dealers are replacing the 4 (2 on each side) saddle bag pin retaining clips free of charge. The motor company issued a recall stating that the saddlebag mounting receptacle, P/N 10900009 on some model year 2014 and 2015 Touring family vehicles (see drawing #1 above) may not adequately secure the saddlebag to the motorcycle during use.  If this condition remains undetected, the saddlebag may become separated from the motorcycle while it is in motion, possibly creating a hazard for other motorists including your riding buddy’s in formation behind that “separated” bag.

If this happens there is a good chance you’ll be picking up a new “road rash” painted saddlebag and dirty laundry strewn across the roadway!

UPDATED: July 23, 2015 (1:40pm PDT) — the recall effects 185,000 motorcycles which covers certain 2014 and 2015 Road King, Street Glide, Electra Glide Ultra Classic, Ultra Limited, Police Road King, Police Electra Glide and CVO Ultra Limited bikes. Also affected are 2014 CVO Road King and the 2015 Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low, Ultra Limited Low, Road Glide, CVO Street Glide and CVO Road Glide Ultra motorcycles. No injuries or crashes have been reported due to the saddlebag issues and no information has been provided on the number of “separated” bags.

UPDATED: July 29, 2015 — Polaris introduces its 2016 line up which includes the Victory Empulse TT ($19,999), an electric model which rolls out way ahead of H-D’s LiveWire.  It’s based on the Brammo Empulse R motorcycle produced by the electric motorcycle division of Brammo Inc., which was acquired by Polaris earlier this year.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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CR-MotorcyclesThat is, according to Consumer Reports.

You know, the independent, consumer-oriented not-for-profit organization, replete with consumer activists.

Recognized as an automotive quality and value authority, Consumer Reports branched out and started reviewing motorcycles last year.  They published the first-ever report on the most reliable motorcycles from five of the biggest brands — Harley, BMW, Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha.  For some odd reason, Polaris’ Victory and Indian brands didn’t make enough of an impact in the market to attract Consumer Reports attention by the time of the survey.

percentage-of-bikes-with-problems_largeFrom its research Consumer Reports discovered that quality varies “significantly” among brands — and the best brand, Yamaha, is about six times more reliable than the worst, BMW.

Only about one Yamaha motorcycle in 10 has experienced a major problem or required a serious repair over the past four years, according to the 4,424 motorcycle owners surveyed by Consumer Reports. In contrast, about one BMW motorcycle in three has suffered from such a complaint — and one Harley in four.

Consumer Reports found that major, big-ticket repairs were few and far between in its research. Regardless of bike and regardless of brand, only about 3% of all problems reported to Consumer Reports involved a motorcycle’s engine, only 3% a transmission, and only 7% a clutch. More common were issues with a vehicle’s brakes or electrical or fuel system, and with the accessories.

Overall, Consumer Reports noted that about 75% of the repairs reported to it were performed for $200 or less.

Photo courtesy of Consumer Reports.

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Purpose-2012With a cocktail of high-strength steel, aluminum, magnesium, rubber and plastic Harley-Davidson adds flexibility, functionality and refreshed paint schemes to their model lineup each year.

By the numbers, 2012 was a pivotal year for Harley-Davidson.  Earnings per share up 16.7%, revenue growth up 6%, $280M annual savings from restructuring, sales outreach with the 18-34 demographic grew at twice the rate of core customers, but in the first ever Consumer Reports’ motorcycle reliability survey, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center about 1-in-4 owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles reported experiencing a major problem with the motorcycle in the previous four years.

Twenty-five percent had a major problem!

H-D Executive Leadership Team

H-D Executive Leadership Team

It turns out that BMW motorcycles were even less reliable than a Harley-Davidson with about 1-in-3 owners reporting problems in the previous four years.  How did the Japanese manufactures perform?  Only about 1-in-10 Yamaha owners experienced issues during that time, followed closely by Kawasaki and Honda.

However, reliability problems don’t seem to affect the satisfaction scores of owners and their bikes.  When asked whether, considering everything, they would buy their bike again if they had to do it over, 75% of Harley-Davidson owners said definitely yes, closely followed by 74% of BMW owners and 72% of Honda owners.  In contrast, only 63 and 60% of Yamaha and Kawasaki owners, respectively, would buy their bike again.

Both BMW and Harley-Davidson riders have segments that skew more toward the enthusiast and hardcore, meaning they tend to keep bikes longer and I wonder if this says something about the riders than the bikes.  Could H-D riders be more critical about problems?

AZ Proving Grounds Video

AZ Proving Grounds Video

In 2012, the average U.S. retail purchaser of a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle had a median household income of approximately $89,500. The Company defined its U.S. core customer base as Caucasian men over the age of 35 and its U.S. outreach customers as women, young adults, African-American adults, and Latino adults. (Sources: 2012 Company 10K and 2012 Annual Review)  The motor company no longer provides data on age demographics which had been rising in recent years.

Reliability is only one of several factors buyers consider when purchasing a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  Among the bikes that needed repairs, survey respondents reporting having the most trouble with accessories, such as lights, instruments, switches, and radios (21 percent), brakes (20 percent), the electrical system (16 percent), and the fuel system (15 percent).  Most of the repairs were fairly inexpensive, but for a company whose reputation relies heavily on the quality of its products the 1-in-4 number is perplexing.

The survey results can be viewed by subscribers at the ConsumerReports.org web site and in the May issue of Consumer Reports.

Photos courtesy of H-D.  

H-D Executive Leadership Team photo: (Left to Right — Tonit Calaway (VP, Human Resources); John Olin (Sr. VP and CFO); Keith Wandell (Chairman, President and CEO); Lawrence Hund (President and COO HDFS); John Baker (GM, Corp Strategy and Business Development); Joanne Bischmann (VP, Communications); Paul Jones (VP, General Counsel))

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Productivity.

It’s the manufacturing mantra of the corporate world.  It’s about making X number of  “widgets” an hour and reducing unplanned absences to maintain plant productivity.

Harley-Davidson’s CEO and President, Keith Wandell, told analyst during the Q4 2009 revenue results that the company intends to enhance profitability through continuous improvement in manufacturing, product development and business operations.

I would submit that H-D doesn’t have a productivity problem.  They have an absenteeism problem!  If a worker calls in sick that is considered an unplanned absent which brings down manufacturing productivity.  In fact, a company document indicates the motor company incurred some 382,000 hours of missed work time during 2009 which was worth about $13 million.  The document doesn’t state whether that number refers to the company as a whole or some other subset of operations, but we do know that one of the major considerations cited for moving the York Vehicle Operations from PA. to another state was the excessive absenteeism at the Springettsbury Township plant.

As a result of the concessions to keep the plant in York, changes in work culture and a new attendance policy was negotiated as part of the multi-year restructuring process.  A point system was created and the new policy gives an employee points or partial points for failure to appropriately report an absence in addition to the actual absence.  Now there are reports the Union (IAM) is whining about unilateral policy changes and trying to move the debate from absenteeism to policy.

Many would debate that unions cripple companies.  The debate often centers around how they are anti-technology, anti-productivity and pro-wage growth.  It’s like they live in a virtual reality world where price points, product-market pressures, and capital returns don’t matter.  The net-net is that unions are adept at demanding the highest dollar for the least amount of time worked.  And as worker costs escalate firms cut back on technology, plant investments and business process improvements.  Sound familiar?

Still don’t believe me that H-D has an absenteeism issue?  Well let’s look at the numbers.

H-D has about 9000 employees worldwide.  Taking H-D supplied numbers of 382,000 hours and divide it by the total number of employees (9000) equals 42.44 hours of unplanned absence per employee.  That’s more than one work week of absenteeism for each and every employee!  This in addition to the 15 work days of annual leave (vacation + holidays) employees typically receive in U.S. based companies.  Wow, talk about “iron-clad” benefits!  Yet, it’s actually worse because to correctly analyze the absenteeism number you need to take into account standard manufacturing practices which are based on the number of Full Time Equivalents (FTE) and available work hours a year (1928 hours) per FTE.  Calculating absence using this method means there were 198 employees (FTE) absent all year during 2009.

I don’t know if this situation is an accurate reflection of the mental state of the H-D work force or if it’s an edge case due to issues like H1N1?  However, an absenteeism rate which effects ~20% of your work force is a systemic issue and without a doubt one of the most significant factors to affect quality in an assembly line along with negatively effecting employee morale.  Let’s hope they get a handle on this issue.

Photo courtesy of Scribd.

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blog_infoToday is somewhat memorable as the Northwest Harley Blog hit 200,235 total views.  This is in large part thanks to all of you around the world for your daily support, participation and classy comments.  I appreciate your readership and I thank you.  I want to acknowledge the positive contributions and high degree of intelligence shown in most all comments.  I also want to thank the many bloggers who helped expand readership by placing incoming links to this blog.

Clearly the blog is not a commercial venture.  I don’t care much about people trying to sell me things and I’ve declined multiple requests to run advertisements.  The site is a “hobby” and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the audience growth.  For example it took 13 months to hit the first 100K views and less than 5 months later to double it.  I’m not sure why, but that makes me smile.  This growth rate is not sustainable without more resources and candidly I have a day job which takes up a lot of my time.  The visit numbers will be whatever they will be…because statistics do not drive my posts.

However you may find it interesting, as I did, to know which are the top posts that people visit on the site.  The stats in the above graphic indicate the highest level of readership coming from outlaw motorcycle “club” posts.  I suppose that’s the power of “train-wreck” value as I can’t make sense of our culture.   The internet allows the word (anything “craptastic“) to spread instantly, far and wide, to essentially everybody.

In this largely phony world there are few honest filters out there and I feel quality is king! 

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