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Thread: Strong Frames

  1. #21
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by Pi Guy View Post
    Hi Carl,
    You mentioned the importance of needing mature systems to ensuring that your bike shop could run smoothly without your supervision. As a high school math teacher I certainly understand the importance of creating systems and routines in the classroom so that things run as efficiently and effectively as possible. I also know that systems can be highly personal; what works for one style of teacher will not necessarily work for another. It is always very interesting to find out what other teachers are up to though. I was wondering if you could share what systems/routines have been the most valuable for you and/or your business? How did those systems change or not when you scaled down your production? Thanks much.

    -Jason

    P.S. I ask these questions as both a curious teacher and hobby framebuilder.
    Wow Jason, I may have more than I can handle on that one. There are probably two system/routines that are most important to me at my current size. I developed a lot of these systems when I was managing a far greater number of customers at any one time. I wouldn't' say I've scaled them down but I probably would never have built them if I hadn't had the need. Now they are tools I feel fortunate to have and they save me a ton of time and money.

    Right now the most important routine I have is my daily schedule. It exists on two levels. Loretta and I have a work-flow and cash-flow calender that has every major activity scheduled. Within that schedule I schedule my own minutia. For example on Monday I can see who I build on what days I order material etc. Then I've broken each of those days down into a personal schedule. I like to come in early and do my blog and email correspondence. Then work on frames in the afternoon and order after that. I think it's important to keep a routine and plan it out so you're not always running around responding to things, you are in control.

    Secondly is customer information management. When you build a customer file there are a thousand things you have to remember and keep track of. Not just options on frames, pricing, sizing but communications, customer data and a ton of other things. You've also got to schedule everything so it flows smoothly and you aren't running around ordering things next day air because you forgot something. I have a very disciplined protocol that I call my "10 stage order process". Following that accomplishes a couple things. First is it makes sure I don't forget anything or make any mistakes, secondly it assures that all customers get the same level of service. The protocol has one level of detail that the customer interacts with and an additional level of detail that is for internal use. It's under constant development and as I learn new things or see ares for improvement I incorporate them into the system.

    Hopefully that answers your question...at least a little. That's a big subject and I could end up writing a book if I had the time.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

  2. #22
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by edoz View Post
    I took your seminar at NAHBS 2010, and it gave me quite a bit of confidence when it comes to actually going into business. I had always heard the myth about not making a living building frames, and I'd like to thank you for dispelling that.

    So I'm sure you have your process dialed in and about as efficient as it can be at this stage in your game.You've built a few thousand frames, right? Does it ever feel robotic or not so interesting at times? Does your attention ever wander to other projects or do you ever stray to tinker with something?
    I ask because I have issues with that. I'm still working out my procedures and tooling, and with only half a dozen friends/test riders waiting I have plenty of time to do such things. If I wander off from a frame and work on a fixture or some little tool, it's not a big deal. If I get to a point where I have a business and a few months of backlog, it'll be a problem. I'm wondering if you have control issues with your inner tinkerer, and if so, how you deal with that.
    That's a great question.

    I've built enough frames now that it's easy but I wouldn't call it robotic. I know how long it will take and results are consistent and predictable. For some reason it never seems to get old. I always love building each frame and am always focused on the minutia. Now, for me it's the little things that get me excited and keep it interesting.

    As for focus, Loretta and I have a formal schedule. I treat it like a job and do what I'm scheduled to do. Every week has time in it to goof off. I try to save it all up for a single day so I can get fun project done.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

  3. #23
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Hey Carl,

    Great info/insight in your version of Smoked Out. This place rocks!!

    Question for you ... you seem to be one of the more efficient framebuilders that I can tell. I base this from reading your blog where you seem to get through the framebuilding process in about a week or two (depending on material and not including paint) and that your orderbook backlog seems to be under a year. What's your annual output like? Also, do you feel that a backlog of multiple years is good or bad for framebuilders? Would you endevour to have a multi year orderbook backlog?
    Goosebumps never lie

  4. #24
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by shorelocal View Post
    Hey Carl,

    Great info/insight in your version of Smoked Out. This place rocks!!

    Question for you ... you seem to be one of the more efficient framebuilders that I can tell. I base this from reading your blog where you seem to get through the framebuilding process in about a week or two (depending on material and not including paint) and that your orderbook backlog seems to be under a year. What's your annual output like? Also, do you feel that a backlog of multiple years is good or bad for framebuilders? Would you endevour to have a multi year orderbook backlog?
    While I've done far more even as a single builder in the past my average output these days is around 80 customer frames per year. My back-log seems to be pretty consistent. During the busiest time of the year its around four or five months. The average is about three months or 25ish frames. I'm pretty comfortable with that and often wonder if I don't subconsciously maintain that level. Maybe when I'm busy I get grouchy on the phone and when I'm slow I get friendly or something. I wouldn't want a multi year back-log because that would be hundreds of clients and orders to keep track of and that could be a job all it's own.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

  5. #25
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by Dazza View Post
    if you don't know the answer to that dummy
    Loretta is going clobber you about the ears
    till you know/understand the answer!
    Not "why" Dazza "how". I guess I have her fooled. I know how lucky I am.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

  6. #26
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Carl,
    As one of the foremost exponents of the tig welded style practicing today, tell us how you learned tig welding, and what was your path from beginning to where it is today, specifically, concerning your exceptional welding skills. Did you have any mentors, role models etc. And, who do you particularly like among practicing "tungsten burners" today.
     

  7. #27
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Hey Carl,

    As the first member of the Framebuilders’ Collective to get “Smoked Out” I was wondering what your personal goals are for the group, beyond the stated goals of the Collective? What is it that you want to personally give to the discussion and what is it that you personally get from the experience?
    "I think I know what military fame is; to be killed on the field of battle and have your name misspelled in the newspapers."

  8. #28
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by Proparc View Post
    Carl,
    As one of the foremost exponents of the tig welded style practicing today, tell us how you learned tig welding, and what was your path from beginning to where it is today, specifically, concerning your exceptional welding skills. Did you have any mentors, role models etc. And, who do you particularly like among practicing "tungsten burners" today.
    I started welding in Jr. High shop classes. Mainly stick and MIG. Over the years I'd done a little TIG but not much. When I started building frames I quickly learned I was going to have to do some serious work to get my TIG weld aesthetics up to par. In 1994 I went to the UBI TIG seminar at the time taught by Gary Helfrich. Gary taught us the set ups that were commonly used in Framebuilding. That really advanced my learning and from there it was just practice. I'd say that during the period when my production levels were the highest is when I really got the practice I need to get clean welds all the way around the frame every time. We'd build 10 bikes at a time so I'd weld the same joint 10 times in a row and after several years of that you have no choice but to get better.

    My role models? When I first started to really get into frame building Brent Steelman in my mind was the King of the TIG welded road frame. He was the inspiration for me going TIG vs. the other methods. Of the welders today, I particularly admire Mike Flanigan at ANT's welding and Tyler Evans at Indy Fab. There are lots of others but those two stand out to me.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

  9. #29
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by dcpdpayne View Post
    Hey Carl,

    As the first member of the Framebuilders’ Collective to get “Smoked Out” I was wondering what your personal goals are for the group, beyond the stated goals of the Collective? What is it that you want to personally give to the discussion and what is it that you personally get from the experience?
    Thanks for the question. Speaking only for myself and not the TFC my goals for group are to continue doing what we're doing.We do quite a lot but most behind the scene. The TFC is not a commercial group and we are not using it as a tool to promote our brands so most of what we do goes unnoticed. I have made a very rewarding career for myself building frames, something that I love to do and enjoy every day. Over the years I've heard almost nothing but negative press about Framebuilding as a career choice. I also see a lot of new builders struggling and going out of business. If builders come into the trade, struggle and fail after a couple a years who will be the 40 year journeyman in 40 years. So I see the TFC as a vehicle to promote the Framebuilding craft as a viable trade that can be a rewarding career and also offer to those that need it the advice, knowledge, direction and support to make their business a success.

    What I bring to the table is me. We're all different with different ideas, ways of doing things and personalities. We all reach out to the builders around us. Who we work with depends in a large part on who we know, meet and like. We also all have different ways of doing things and do different things which will appeal to or match different builders.

    What I get out of it personally is the sense of satisfaction that I'm giving back to a profession that has provided me a job, lifestyle and friends. I also get satisfaction from helping others pursue the same career path that I chose. And it honors those that taught me so much when I was just getting started. It also gives me access to those that today have so much to offer me.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

  10. #30
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    hey carl,

    i first met you at your seminar in 2008. "what would carl do?" is a good thought to have when designing one's shop/day/business. what i've learned since then, is that this stuff is harder than it looks, but that i am quite capable of doing it-albeit inefficient and ugly as yet.

    i'll come back with some real questions later, but wanted to jump right in and say thanks a bunch for providing positive guidance and an excellent role model.

    hello to loretta as well, and i think "stark raven" is great insight into the mind of most builders.
     

  11. #31
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by WadePatton View Post
    hey carl,

    i first met you at your seminar in 2008. "what would carl do?" is a good thought to have when designing one's shop/day/business. what i've learned since then, is that this stuff is harder than it looks, but that i am quite capable of doing it-albeit inefficient and ugly as yet.

    i'll come back with some real questions later, but wanted to jump right in and say thanks a bunch for providing positive guidance and an excellent role model.

    hello to loretta as well, and i think "stark raven" is great insight into the mind of most builders.
    Thanks Wade! get me some questions. Zank is on his seventh page, at this rate I'm never gonna get there
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

  12. #32
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Hi Carl,

    You've described your learning process for welding and machining skills, but not how you learned about bike design/geometry/fit. Did you learn empirically by building yourself a lot of bikes and trying various things? Talking to other builders? Looking at geometries used by larger companies?

    Thanks,

    Dave
     

  13. #33
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    how much coffee do you drink in an average day? - Garro.
    Steve Garro, Coconino Cycles.
    Frames & Bicycles built to measure and Custom wheels
    Hecho en Flagstaff, Arizona desde 2003
    www.coconinocycles.com
    www.coconinocycles.blogspot.com

  14. #34
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by steve garro View Post
    how much coffee do you drink in an average day? - Garro.
    A lot
    Erik Rolf
    Ketchum, ID
    Visit the website @ http://www.alliancebicycles.com

  15. #35
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Yo,

    Is there something (a building technique or biz practice) you feel newish builders place too much emphasis on?

    Is there something (a building technique or biz practice) you feel newish builders place too little emphasis on?


    dave
    D. Kirk
    Kirk Frameworks Co.
    www.kirkframeworks.com


  16. #36
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Carl,

    There was a time you did powder in-house. Now you don't. Why? If you were to create a signature frame style and/or color scheme what what it be?

  17. #37
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Carl,

    Boxers or briefs?

    Bestest socks?

    And who is YOUR favorite framebuilder?

    sh
    Steve Hampsten
    www.hampsten.blogspot.com
    "hey, we got grenades!"

  18. #38
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by DaveS View Post
    Hi Carl,

    You've described your learning process for welding and machining skills, but not how you learned about bike design/geometry/fit. Did you learn empirically by building yourself a lot of bikes and trying various things? Talking to other builders? Looking at geometries used by larger companies?

    Thanks,

    Dave
    I've ridden and raced bikes all my life. Once I was in my teens I started paying attention to geometries and sizing so I started to understand how different specs felt. When I started building frames I looked at what others were doing and experimented a lot with different things on my own bikes. I've also spent a lot of time with cars, motorcycles and karts and a lot of what I've learned translates to bikes. Especially from motorcycles where everything is exaggerated and easier to recognize.

    Now after years of building bikes I also have a inventory of customers bikes that through customer feedback have taught me more than anything. After enough custom frames you learn how to understand customer priorities and personalities and match the feel of the bike to that. At the end of the day you can't fully understand or evaluate a custom frame without integrating the customer it was built for, they are a set.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

  19. #39
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by Alliance Bicycles View Post
    A lot
    What he said
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

  20. #40
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    Default Re: Strong Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Kirk View Post
    Yo,

    Is there something (a building technique or biz practice) you feel newish builders place too much emphasis on?

    Is there something (a building technique or biz practice) you feel newish builders place too little emphasis on?


    dave
    Hey Dave, thanks for the questions.

    If I had to say one thing in particular that jumps out as a practice I think the newer builders place to much emphasis on it would that all the newer builders seem to want to separate themselves with the more obvious embellishments. I think our products need to reflect who we are and in many case the embellishments may be what we're about but I think many young builders do it because they think they need to and they are trying prove their chops. It may be that's just what we have to do in the beginning and I'm not criticizing it but I think there is a lot more to framebuilding than curly cues.

    The other thing I think new builders place to much emphasis on is tools and equipment. As you know Dave, hardly any equipment is need to build a frame, all those cool tools,jigs and fixtures are meant to speed the process which until you have a good back log makes little difference. Ideally I think it should be business revenue that funds purchases as the business grows rather than loans or investments of personable money. I also think builders that graduate to the good stuff too soon miss a great opportunity to develop their skills.

    What do newish builders place too little emphasis on? I'm not sure I see anything glaring at me but I do think it's important to remember that as a professional builder you have two jobs. One is as a Framebuilder and the other a business owner. I think they both deserve equal effort and if I notice anything it's that in a lot of cases most of the emphasis is on the Framebuilding and not enough on business.
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

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