Catrike hones manufacturing process in U.S.

Catrike has been building performance trikes since 2000 and continues to grow. While some of its growth can be contributed to its dedicated customer base, Catrike has focused on designing innovative products and honing its manufacturing process in the United States.

Paulo Camasmie, a Brazilian mechanical engineer, founded Catrike in 2000. It started as a one-man operation and he soon realized that his creation would be ideally suited to properties of aluminum a material that has become a trademark of Catrikes. In the 18 years since its founding, Catrike has continued to build and refine its line and now manufactures eight models including a newly released full-suspension model called the Dumont. Every Catrike starts as raw aluminum tubing before it is cut, bent, welded, painted and assembled in its Orlando, Florida factory. Catrike builds just over 3,000 trikes a year and employs a production team of nine, not including a production manager, three sales staff, one accountant, two mechanical engineers and its general manager, Mark Egeland.

Catrike’s dedication to production workflow and efficiency is a model that should be held up as an example for other companies looking to manufacture in the United States. Catrike employs Toyota Production System (TPS), Lean Manufacturing or Just in Time (JIT) and 5S methodologies in its production process. At the heart of production is a one-piece flow system instead of batch and queue. One-piece flow means a product is made one at a time; once a product starts it never stops moving until it is a finished product with no work in between. Batch and queue processes many parts at the same time then moves to next operation before they are all needed. This drives up inventory, lead-time and creates inefficiencies in the operation as well as increases space needed for production.

“It is really working on constant improvement of your systems, processes and workforce,” said Egeland of Catrike’s focus on efficiency. “You need to work hard on innovation; balancing work flows, optimizing your production line, incorporating new technologies and training staff. These challenges can turn into opportunities if done correctly and will make labor cost and supply chain less significant.”

To aid in the Lean Manufacturing all but one of the trikes feature the same components and across the line there are only two wheel sizes. At first, this might seem odd as the components are often used to differentiate models within a company’s line. Catrike instead focuses on the trike’s intended purpose, whether it’s for performance or comfort, to differentiate the models. This makes for a cleaner definition of models and allows Catrike to streamline its ordering and easily manage its inventory. All the trikes come equipped with a mix of SRAM and FSA components. All of these systems allow Catrike to not only remain competitive manufacturing in the United States, but also actually turns it into an advantage.

“One has a nice advantage when you do everything from concept, prototyping, fatigue testing and manufacturing, said Egeland. “You design for manufacturing (DFM) and design for assembly (DFA), which is extremely important, no matter where it is made. Rapid prototyping can help you make critical decisions to help speed up the timeline to bring a new product to the market. Product testing in house can do the same and get a real world comparison to Finite Element Analysis FEA simulation.” Designing the tooling for manufacturing along with the processes and workflow gives you control over quality and efficiency in making your products. When done right, you can be extremely competitive in the marketplace.”

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