I think one of the under rated things people make in BMX is what it takes to make the parts you put on your bike. The two most common ways these products came into existance is either a company in Taiwan did the work, or a company in the U.S.A did it. At least that is the case for the people here in the United States.
Profile Racing is one of the few brands in the United States that actually produce their products themselves. So I asked Matt Coplon, along with some of the others from Profile what it takes to produce those fine products of theirs. Check it out and let us know what your thoughts are in the comments!
Your role at Profile/Madera for those out there that don’t know:
I handle freestyle promotions, sales, and manage the Madera and Profile freestyle teams. I’ve been riding for Profile since 1999.
So, to start things off, Profile has been a very solid brand with an excellent reputation for years. What made you guys want to start Madera? Has it been two years now?
Thanks for the compliments! Yes, it’s actually been close to three. The idea behind Madera was to create a more affordable American made product (made in our in-house machine shop) that could more closely compete with the price of product produced by Taiwan made companies. Our overall idea was to make a new line that retained the quality and craftsmanship of Profile, but was a little less aesthetically/externally involved. Madera, in essence, is a more streamlined version of Profile product.
What is the biggest difference between Profile and Madera? It seems like they are very similar products.
Mechanically, they are very similar—especially within the hubs and cranks (the internals are exactly the same). Aesthetics makes the difference. With Profile, we will continue to do more intricate designs (which costs more to produce on the machines). Madera will remain streamlined, which reduces time spent on the machines during production.
Also, Profile cranks have a lifetime warranty to the original purchaser.
How many and what kinds of machines does it take to make all the products at Profile? About how much does a shop like that cost do you think? Are all of the machines pretty new or is there some that have been running like a champ for years?
We have 16 CNC machines, 5 “Bridgeport” vertical mills, 3 lathes, and a giant CNC saw.
The machines are a motley crew of Haas, Fadal, Cincinatti-Milacron, and we have two brand new Euro-tech machines that run hub shells pretty much non-stop.
The oldest machine is a 1990 Fadal that is primarily used to mill cranks. Yes, this one is running like a champ!
Overall cost, a lot of money.
What materials and tools do you go through the most? What about the least?
We go through quite a bit of “part off” inserts, drill inserts, and turning inserts. When we drill titanium parts (for instance a titanium driver), drill inserts might last through as little as 6 pieces, sometimes as many as 30. Titanium, steel and (believe it or not) plastics tend to wear out bits the most. Aluminum, on the other hand, might allow for us to get through 500 pieces.
On a side note, We produce approximately 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of aluminum chips a month and recycle all of it.
In a given day about how many cranks, stems, sprockets, hubs, etc. can you guys’ produce?
In a day:
Cranks are complicated. I would say 250 to 300 crank arms (that’s just the milling process of the cranks). Considering there are ten steps to finish a crank arm set, this is really hard to average, as the process does not happen in sequential order. The processes that are involved in the cranks include:
-Machining Pedal and spindle bosses
-Broaching and threading those bosses
-Swedging the crank arms
-Milling the crank arms
-Welding the bosses to the arms
-Then you have to run them through finishing (de-burring and polishing each arm)
Besides the arms, you have the axle bolts and cups to be machined. And finally, the spindles need to be hobbed.
Total time on a set of cranks? About 1-1/2 hours. It’s pretty wild when you think about how much time goes into their production.
For stems, considering it takes 21 minutes to produce the body and cap, total amount would be about 24 stems a day. That’s why they are more expensive than most.
Pedals (bodies and axles): Same amount of time as the stem (21 minutes). So 24 sets a day.
As for Hub shells, the Euro-tech can belt out about 73 hub shells (either Profile or Madera) within an 8-hour workday.
What products take the longest to produce?
Cranks, above everything else, take the longest considering ten steps are involved. Second to the cranks are stems (21 minutes for body and cap) and pedals (how long)?
How does Profile go about getting all the cool colors? Is that all in house also?
Anodizing is a whole other story done with a different company. There are so many environmental issues as well as technical issues (dipping time, color correcting, polishing) with anodizing that it’s best to let someone else handle that. It has taken us years to find a dialed anodizer.
Do you do all of the quality control and more scientific testing in house or is that an outside group that does that?
As parts come out of the machines they are given a once over for any blemishes or imperfections. Once components get back from either getting painted or anodized, they are looked over again before packaging and shipping. If we don’t snag a mistake in the machine shop, there’s a good chance we’ll snag it before it’s shipped.
Scientific testing? Profile’s components are manufactured from raw materials that are certified and under comprehensive quality control guidelines by our suppliers. Once the materials are in our factory, they are stored under cover until ready to be used. Once the materials are cut to smaller manageable lengths, they are moved to the machines that will fabricate or produce the components. While the materials are being manufactured into components, the operators randomly sample the output of each machine and take measurements for specification tolerances and machining quality.
We take great pains to make sure product goes out the door as dialed as possible.
How many people are running the machines and doing the actual physical jobs around the shop? Can you tell us anything special about each of the guys?
There are five humans with ten hands that run the machine shop—a very small amount of labor that takes on a massive amount of work.
Shop eccentricities: Jack thinks he’s a professional golfer and is pretty sure he can beat up anyone in the shop. Dave #1 still has a subscription to Playboy magazine and is the cleanest person I know (somehow never gets dirty while working on the machines). He has seen approximately one whale shark off of the coast of Florida (which is a rarity). Brent is Claude Monet’s great grandson and is also an amazing artist. Dave #2 has a catalogue memory of any historical tid-bit from August 23rd 1929 to date. And Corey has designed a large portion of everything that has come out of the shop. To upstage Dave #1, He has seen two whale sharks off the coast of Florida while fishing.
Is Profile or Madera hiring at all? How does somebody go about getting a job in the shop? Are there any qualifications or degrees they need to do the jobs?
Timing is key here. Turnover at Profile is very low so we seldom have a need to hire. However, we’ll take applications whenever they are submitted. We catalogue them until a rainy day when help is needed.
Degrees are always nice, but experience is key. Our current crew has over 150 years of combined machine shop knowledge and experience.
Are there any new products coming out soon you can tell us about?
On the Madera end, we just released the “Unity” stem. We’ll be following that up with some hub/crank combo designs that should be pretty sweet.
With Profile, we are re-releasing the “Ripsaw” sprocket (that we originally made in 1992) in smaller sizes and multiple colors (25, 28, and 30t).
-We have a new Profile crank modification (simple but unique) being welded as we speak.
-In two months we will release a new hollow crank axle with hollow flush bolts that weighs about an ounce heavier than titanium.
-And more colors to come in the near future on all of our product.
With the economy being the way it has been lately, has it affected Profile or Madera very much?
Yes, absolutely. I don’t think anyone (besides Wal-mart and McDonalds) will be able to steer clear of this recession. I just hope we have already hit rock bottom and are on the way back up.
Are you guys all up to code on the CPSC laws even though it got extended?
We think we are. We’ve certified our materials and we are having those items designed and marketed to children (12 and under) tested for lead content. Other than that, life goes on.
Is there any other big Profile or Madera news relating to the company, the team, or anything else along those lines?
In machine shop news, we just invested in a brand new Euro-tech machine that can hammer out a massive amount of parts on auto-pilot (instead of having to move parts around to finish them in different machines). Having the new Euro-tech will seriously increase our efficiency and productivity.
In team news, myself, Degroot, and Mulville will be going to Mariposa, California over Memorial weekend. On the Monday following the trip, we’ll be heading to Fresno for a couple days to ride—if anyone out there has any contacts in Fresno, please get a hold of me!
And the Madera team will be doing a bike shop tour throughout New Jersey early this summer. Stay tuned for dates!
Anything else you want to say?
Thanks for the Interview, Kurt. Thanks to everyone for supporting Profile and Madera, and above all, thanks for supporting American made components companies.