Factory Tour: Inside Lezyne’s Impressive Taiwan Facility

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Since their beginnings in 2007, Lezyne has always been about design. Even the name Lezyne is supposed to bring the word design to mind (which is why they rhyme, it’s not pronounced le-zeen). Lezyne is the brain child of Micki Kozuschek, a former professional triathlete, who started on the business side of the bike industry with Maxcycles. From there, Micki moved to the US and founded a company you have have heard of, called Truvativ which as we know, was later sold to SRAM in 2004. Three years later, Micki was back with a new project, Lezyne – Engineered Design.

Based in the US with a headquarters in San Luis Obispo, CA, Lezyne doesn’t really see themselves as a US company necessarily, but an international company with a quickly growing facility in Taichung, Taiwan. On our recent trip to Taiwan for the Taipei show, we had a chance to ride the amazing High Speed Rail down to the manufacturing heart of the bicycle industry and to check out Lezyne’s facility first hand.

If you time your visit right, you may find yourself with a cappuccino made by the one and only, Cedric Gracia…

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In the Taichung facility alone, Lezyne typically employs around 120-150 employees depending on the season. This is broken down to about 50 employees in office with sales and shipping on one side, purchasing in middle, and R&D on the other. Impressively, nearly everyone speaks English except for purchasing since they are mostly communicating with local suppliers and don’t really need it.

The English skills come in handy since R&D has to communicate with the US frequently, typically having a Skype call every day at 8:30 in the morning which works out to 5:30 PM in California. Both US and Taiwan offices share design duties with similar R&D departments in Taiwan and the US. Due to their proximity to the manufacturing, the Taiwan R&D office also overlooks production and testing.

The beautiful office space also acts as home to three meeting rooms (one doubles as demo room), the finance, accounting, and HR departments, and Micki’s personal Taiwanese office. All of the furniture has been imported to the Taiwan office so that the US and Taiwan buildings are the exact same. That makes it so when employees have to travel between offices, it’s just like being at home.

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That ethos extends right down to the coffee machine which is a good thing – caffeine is very important when it comes to jet lag. It also makes it so that Cedric can pull you a shot when he’s in town. Not bad, eh?

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Numerous pumps sit adjacent to desks in the R&D department. Color samples?

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You may notice while roaming the halls that the building has a common art work theme, with wall art representing years of designs. Posters hung on the wall show different sponsored athletes and shows the progress of Lezyne’s parts leading up to 2014 which was year 7 of Lezyne’s history. Started in 2007, Lezyne is currently working on year 8 product.

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Walk out of the automatic, frosted glass doors of the second floor offices and you are face to face with the warehouse and assembly floor. Lezyne is very proud of their assembly facility and they should be – as it is one of the few factory floors in Taiwan that is fully air conditioned. Due to the extremely hot and humid Taiwanese summers, Lezyne provides their assembly workers with an air conditioned work space to keep them happy and comfortable. Believe it or not, insulation really isn’t a thing in Taiwan so it had to be imported for the construction so the room is as energy efficient as possible.

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Something you don’t see everyday – R&D, new product development, and initial prototyping is done in this room guarded by a fingerprint scanner. Very few employees have access to the R&D room, and photos were not allowed since copying in Asia is so common. Due to the amount of vendors, and visitors coming in and out of the building, advanced development is done under close guard and accessible only by fingerprint recognition.

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Starting at the front of the building is a holding area for parts form external vendors. Once they are delivered, all parts will stay here until they pass the initial QC check, with complete quality control testing done on all parts.

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Next to the R&D room is a separate room for QC and a testing facility. Parts are pulled from shipments and brought into the QC room which is equipped with an arsenal of measurement devices like an optical comparator, hardness tester, and battery testers for complete charge and discharge ratings. Lezyne rates batteries for not only amp hours, but watt hours as well, and if batteries don’t meet standards they are rejected to the manufacturer. Once QC checks have been completed, parts are moved from QC to counting and sorting, then moved on to the shelves for regular manufacturing.

Lezyne was just installing their second 3D printer, which like the office is an exact copy of the one in the US. Lezyne initially uses the 3D printer to come up with the basic form, then moves to CNC samples, then to the pilot, and eventually into production.

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Parts are put on the shelves for very short periods of time, with most parts being turned every 15 days as 2 containers ship out in the same time frame. This is where the impressive organization pays off. When they are ready for assembly, parts are pulled from the temporary storage to the assembly room with all parts moving from front to back.

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Lezyne utilizes a flexible manufacturing style with the same workers performing many different tasks. You may see the same group of employees assembling packaging, assembling lights, and more. About 40% of their workers have been with Lezyne for more than 4 years, which according to Lezyne is rare for the manufacturing world. The company attributes this to the desirable working conditions, and company perks like provided lunches and dinner if they have to work overtime.

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Above, employees are testing waterproofness with a vacuum tester. Each light is put into the fixture, a vacuum is pulled and it is either approved, reworked, or rejected. This is a prime example of production quality control, while the earlier example was incoming quality control. Further testing includes 100% function testing for lights, and voltage is measured for every battery before placing it in a light.

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Even though most of the manufacturing is flexible, the floor pump line runs 5 days a week the whole year, and never changes. Pumps start with the base, then the barrel is installed. Grease is applied with custom grease gun – similar tools are found throughout production to limit variability by hand.

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Every single floor pump is tested for pressure per stroke and leaks, not once, but twice. Lezyne now has a machine that will test 3 pumps at a time, again to take any variability out of the equation. While not as constant as the floor pump line, the hand pump line sees the same testing.

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About a year and a half ago, Lezyne moved their laser engraving in house. This allowed them more freedom with the engraving and the ability to do custom product runs for large shops, race teams, or athlete signature models.

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Once products reach the boxing point, they head out the other end of the assembly floor to the finished skids warehouse. Products sit here for less than 15 days, while the QC department will come and take finished products off the shelf and perform full function QC check again. If you haven’t caught on by now, QC is big for Lezyne with products being tested before they are assembled, while they are being assembled, and once they are finished and ready for shipping.

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Even though most of the physical manufacturing is done off site, Lezyne does some manufacturing in house, with fully automated CNC machines in the back. The machines basically require a single operator as bar stock is inserted in one end, and finished parts come out the other. Lezyne’s intent isn’t to bring all of their manufacturing in house, but to be able to manufacture new parts which much like the fingerprint reader, are able to be shielded from the public until they are ready. Lezyne will be purchasing two more machines in the future, since one operator can run up to 4 machines at a time. Since the machines run 24 hours a day with 3 shifts, having 4 machines total optimizes the cost associated with operation.

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Capable of machining numerous parts, the CNC machines were churning out a number of hand pump pieces during our visit.

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While touring the Lezyne facility it is easy to start to think that all Taiwanese manufacturing is just as impressively modern, but by simply looking out the back door it’s pretty clear that Lezyne’s Taiwanese factory is fairly unique.

Thanks to Lezyne for all of the hospitality!

lezyne.com

If you haven’t seen Lost In Taiwan with Cedric Gracia, this is a great time to do so. Not only does it show a bit of the Lezyne factory, but it also gives a great idea of the local area and culture. And in case you’re wondering – Cedric is every bit as fun to hang out with at the night market as you would expect.

Comments

Fudger - 05/23/14 - 4:26pm

something about them seeing themselves as an “international company” and having a factory in taiwan just seems like a cop out to me. They make great stuff, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not fooling anybody, the reason they have a factory there is because they can pay their workers peanuts in comparison to what they would in the US and their production is far less regulated. Id be much more inspired to buy some of their cool products if they were an “international company” that had US labor because they believe in it. Don’t go calling yourself international just because you want to increase your margins by using cheap ass taiwan labor.

Ryan - 05/23/14 - 4:50pm

I’ve been saying it wrong.

bnkdjf - 05/23/14 - 6:05pm

fudge, murica is not the only international market. clearly lezyene arnt using the standard local empolyment terms and conditions. theres quite a few soliciasts in the usa nowadays…

slippyfish - 05/23/14 - 6:25pm

Very impressive. They look to have incorporated many of the modern manufacturing line techniques from the US (which in turn came from Japan), such as the flexible factory lines. The testing of products also goes a long way toward ensuring QC. Doing all or most of their stuff under one roof says a lot too, when a lot of Asian manufacturers make parts for different companies and privacy or proprietary info isn’t respected. I would have liked to know if there were engineers and designers in Taichung that were coming up with products, or just dealing with the materials and manufacturing back end.

And Fudger, Taiwan labor ain’t cheap these days. The world is running out of pockets of cheap labor.

fudger - 05/23/14 - 7:26pm

yeah, i understand that Made is Taiwan entails a far different story of production than the stereotypical made in chine sticker. On average the Taiwan Factories are much better, workers better paid, and everything else. And as far as any factory goes, this one is quite nice. But their factory is there because its cheaper, not because they serve an international market. I just think its kinda lame and sad. But money must be made, just wish people would try a little harder to make merican labor work.

and a slightly more vague thought; The bike industry, especially the high end, is leading the way amongst industry in general to have high quality american labor. All the handmade bicycle frame builders, enve, zipp, paul, white industries, etc, they all have american labor and are turning profits. A company like lezyne would be a perfect amongst these companies, and american labor would make me a little more proud on the bike industry.

Psi Squared - 05/23/14 - 7:32pm

fudger, here’s the list of Lezyne distributors: http://www.lezyne.com/distributors.php

Looks like they qualify pretty well as an international company. Note that if you’re put out because they don’t manufacture where you want them to, you don’t have to buy their products.

Lezyne - 05/23/14 - 8:06pm

Hello Fudger, Taiwan is the heart of the bicycle industry; it is not because of cheap labor, it’s agglomeration. Our workers earn good money, get full medical benefits, and work in comfortable work environment.
We invest heavily in developing new products to set us apart from the knock offs. Lezyne is an innovator and our goal is to provide better products to cyclists.
We are happy to have the chance here on Bikerumor to show who we really are. We are international, not American and not Taiwanese, because the structure of our employees is international and we work together as a great team.
It does not make the product any better, just because it is made in the USA. We are proud of our Taiwan Factory.
Hello Slippyfish, yes we do have 8 product designers and engineers in Taiwan and a team of 8 and the USA – they work together on ideas and new products. Many employees cycle and test new products on the trail or on the road, before they go into production. Happy to answer more questions!

Huh - 05/23/14 - 9:33pm

Americans are entitled and lazy. . Sorry to say, but if they demand 15/hr flipping burgers, who would want to work in a factory for less than 20/hr. Labor cost would be through the roof.

greg - 05/23/14 - 10:04pm

Take a look at Silca. Purchased from the original family, it’s now US based and will make a lot of stuff here.

Tom - 05/23/14 - 10:30pm

@fudger Another company is Thule…

I would rather buy Made-in-USA… I would even pay a little more if they did. I bought a Thule rack because it was Made in North Carolina, USA and also high quality!

It’s time to start moving more production back to the states…

pfs - 05/23/14 - 11:31pm

Taiwan and the rest of Asia makes sense because that is where the bike industry distributes from. If they made it in the us then it would have to be shipped to Taiwan to sell it. Thats how it works and why you can’t be serous about being in the bike industry without manufacturing there.

engr - 05/24/14 - 12:11am

Manufacturing goes overseas because people buy on value. “Made in USA” is a great concept, and I will actually pay more for the same product made here to a degree, but like the majority I ultimately favor value over port of origin.

Lezyne makes great quality products for a very fair price, this is how they do it.

When they say they are a global company they aren’t implying they had cost blinders on when they set up a presence in Taiwan, they are saying they try to build “one company” instead of “the on-shore masters” and “off-shore slaves”. It’s an effective way to work globally that is slightly more costly but much better for both ends in the long term.

I don’t work in manufacturing, but do have experience with offshoring, and they have a good approach that will make a better contribution to the local economy where they put down and will result in better product through retention over time.

I wish everything could be made here, but it can’t. Look at hubs… I ride high quality US made hubs (I9 Torch), but the HUBS in my wheels cost ~$600… that’s not mainstream – I won’t pretend everyone should buy US made hubs because high quality US made hubs at a reasonable price just don’t exist.

I own a CNC Floor Drive, and spent ~$90 on it. If it was $150 and “Made in USA” I would know it exists and consider it the best, but it wouldn’t be beating around my basement and trunk, it would be a picture I admire on the internet (like the fancy German parts – Tune/AX/Schmolke).

Nearly all bike parts are made in cheaper markets, pay the premium for the locally made part (if it even exists) but don’t fault companies that build outside the US and are open and honest about where they operate and how they treat their workers (especially when it is above average for the market).

JMO

MB - 05/24/14 - 12:12am

@fudger – If American workers didn’t feel so entitled many many many more companies would survive here. I couldn’t find anywhere near enough people to work in good American conditions etc in my former career, yet local unemployment was 10%. And that was in a hot area where the economy didn’t tank like elsewhere. A large number of people simply don’t understand what it means to work anymore.

fudger - 05/24/14 - 12:31am

not all bike manufacturers ship to Asia first to distribute.

And as far as not buying the products, my point as that i LIKE the products. just wish they were made in the USA. I could pass up 20 dollar serfas pumps all day. They don’t tempt me cuz they is nothing i really like about them. But as far as design goes, lezyne has it on lock. Their pumps look and work great! id love to own one. But i would love to own one more if it was made in the USA. id even probably pay 20 bucks more for that pump.

& yes americans are too entitled. And burger-flippers should NOT make 15/hr. I make minimum at a bike shop and definitely deserve more than those fudges!

& finally, yes that list looks international, but look at the list of distributors in the USA. It dwarfs every other list. And i guarantee you that the US makes up a huge majority of their sales as well.

Pete - 05/24/14 - 1:37am

For all those that want “Made in the USA” read/listen to this article on Marketplace: http://www.marketplace.org/topics/business/ive-always-wondered/how-much-would-all-american-iphone-cost

Cheaper labor is just a fraction of the cost to manufacture overseas. The tooling and the ability to adapt make it advantageous to manufacture in China/Taiwan.

Trey Richardson - 05/24/14 - 12:30pm

First, props to Lezyne for popping in here to clarify how they operate. I’ve been a customer, retailer, manufacturer, and distributor in the ever “evolving” bike industry, and can say with confidence that, for the most part, the manufacturing and quality control in this industry is at a much higher level than many other industries. Like the folks at Lezyne, the people behind the scenes are passionate as well as proud of what they do and it translates directly to their products and their willingness to back them up. The reason a lot of manufacturing, (company owned or contracted), is overseas is not just because it costs less, but because of the massive amounts of resources and experience located there. Trying to resource manufacturing here that can handle the volume as well as the wide range of varying needs (pumps, lights, tools, etc….), is nearly impossible, especially at a reasonable cost. However, now that we are seeing increased labor and shipping costs, domestic manufacturing is slowly making its way back.

Charlie - 05/24/14 - 12:40pm

Its great to see a company like Lezyne taking such care with quality control, its too often I see products coming into the shop I work at being sub par just because they use a name that has been around for a while.

As with the distributors @fudger, would it make sense to have just a few distro’s in USA? The same could be said for Europe which has nearly twice as many. The costs of posting products and also getting just a few companies to hold all the stock for such a large country would be very difficult.

As with manufacturing, I’m sure for companies like Lezyne who use other companies to manufacture products it makes sense to base themselves very close to other companies they work with. Imagine having to send products all across the world just to find a fault with them and then have to send them back. Especially when its small components in electrical products that can cause problems.

As with other people above, that JMO.

James S - 05/24/14 - 1:31pm

I don’t think it’s too much to ask to get a living wage no matter what job you do. Burger flippers should make $15/hr or more. I’m really tired of the lack of respect for people’s basic humanity in the USA. How does it even make sense to work a job that doesn’t even cover the cheapest rent in the area? Should fast food workers live in tents behind the restaurant? There are lots of poor people in the USA working their butts off at 3 jobs just to get by. (Read Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed”). So please stop the BS about lazy Americans. Yeah, there are some. So what? Lazy people do not flip burgers, it’s hard work and it sucks. If anything Americans love to work almost more than they love to watch TV or play with their cell phones – why do you think everyone is so “busy” all the time? Why do so many Americans not even take any vacation? Why do Americans identify themselves by what job they do? Ah, that’s why you guys are so down on fast food workers – it’s a class thing. Freaking elitists snobs.

Psi Squared - 05/24/14 - 2:07pm

James S got it. Ehrenriche’s “Nickel and Dimed” is an excellent and still relevant book.

Lyzene’s explanation is solid. If your politics prevent you from buying Lezyne, so be it. Comments about American laziness should be taken with a galactic sized grain of salt given the complete lack of evidence to support such statements.

padrote - 05/24/14 - 2:11pm

people shouldn’t be allowed to do menial labor and make a living wage or pay their way through school. that was only for those dang ol entitled americans that grew up 40 years ago.

mike - 05/25/14 - 12:03am

why does it matter where things are made? why cant we have voluntary transactions with out government interference? Relax robots will “steal” our jobs in the next century. Nobody will do any more work and will be filthy rich because of it

k - 05/25/14 - 12:20am

perfect @ padrote

Tim - 05/25/14 - 3:51pm

@ James S + padrote- right on.
@ fudger- Instead of pointing your finger at the staggering sums people at the top of the earnings pyramid make, you are angry with the guy who is in basically the same boat as you. In other words, you think other relatively poor people are your enemy.

DaleC - 05/26/14 - 1:12am

Lezyne makes great products and I will, almost certainly, buy some this year.

When I see that long list of American distributors, I see a LOT of good jobs to which Lezyne contributes by building nice products that people want to by from the LBS that gets products from one of those distributors. Jobs all down the line, thanks to manufacturers like Lezyne. Could there be more? Maybe. Could there be a LOT less? Absolutely.

Could they manufacture in the US? Unless I misread the article, this Taiwanese facility is identical to the US facility, so that makes me think they do some production in the US. Or do they mirror everything but procurement and manufacturing, which are Taiwan only

Regarding the “living wage”;

Am I to understand that EVERY full-time job should provide a person with enough income to have their own place? Or should they do like I did and share housing until they have developed skills which will earn more income to cover their own rent?

What do we do with the people who currently earn a wage higher than minimum, but less than the desired $15? Do ALL of them get a raise? How much? Waht about the person making $16, who is suddenly, not very well paid?

Raising the minimum wage to $15/hour will result in general inflation that returns the economy to balance, which will render the increase moot.

How much is a living wage in Alabama or Mississippi? Will that work in San Francisco, San Diego and NYC? Of course not. A “living wage” in Manhattan or Cupertino would put a minimum wage worker in Alabama solidly in the middle class with a 3-br house and two new cars.

Why stop at $15/hr, why not raise it to $50/hr and eliminate poverty completely? Better yet, $100/hr and put everyone into the “top earners” class for taxes? We could eliminate the deficit!

At what point do “burger flippers” become so expensive that the employer replaces them with automated burger machines which already exist? What do we do with the unskilled employee who went from making a low wage to NO wage?

What about the increases in cost when a bunch of union and government contracts increase wages for guys making $30/hour because thier pay is based on a multiple of Federal minimum wage? This is why labor unions support an increase in minimum wage, when MOST of their members make far above minimum.

Sorry, for the rant. The minimum wage is sort of a hot button for me :-)

fudger - 05/26/14 - 3:02am

@tim, my relatively short comment about minimum wage had little to do with my point, and i don’t really want to get in to that. But i do think i deserve more than a ‘burger flipper’, and i don’t think burger flippers deserve 15 an hour. The economy needs low skilled low paying jobs. There are literally jobs out there (I’ve had them) where you sit down in a chair all day and do nothing. Nobody should expect to live off of sitting in a chair and doing nothing. I took that job because at the time i was splitting rent in a tiny cheap apartment 4 ways, i was 19 years old, and it built my resume so i could get a big boy job later, and hey, it worked (so far). but I was simply making a point that i would rather their stuff be made in america. and also calling them out for some of the wording I saw in the article.

Also, none of the things i have said were meant to sound like a middle-aged-facebook-obsessed rant on the wall of a high school friend. Just my personal thoughts, you’re allowed to agree or disagree.

But I stand by the statement that id pay 20 dollars more for a pump of equal quality that says made in america on it. Thats what this is really about. not living-wages

King County - 05/26/14 - 10:54am

The BEST thing about Lezyne pumps is that they are totally rebuild-able. When you buy one you get the feeling that it will last forever. Top quality

Al Boneta - 05/26/14 - 4:48pm

Ryan Fudger is the man

JT - 05/27/14 - 12:52pm

Taiwan labor working in bike industry get low pay. Most of them just get 600~750 USD/ month.

Matt - 05/27/14 - 6:25pm

It is very funny how everyone complains about high prices while also complaining about how bad it is companies cut manufacturing costs.

nathan - 05/28/14 - 11:14am

@jt that wage is what i made when i entered the bike industry in the usa. I had to live in a basement of a house with mold problems for housing. pay is relevant to location.

reason - 05/28/14 - 11:51pm

International business is part of the American economy. People like fudger can hide from it but he is the only one being fooled if he can’t understand how “international” his life is.

BLMac - 06/04/14 - 3:13pm

The quality in the Lezyne stuff shines through – it’s not just pretty, it works and keeps working, unlike the products of a certain other “design” company.

I don’t live in the USA. “Made in USA” has absolutely no weight with me – crudely made is my mental image.

Seeing as Lezyne do their own Laser engraving, maybe this is a feature they could offer their customers. Be nice to give presents to other cyclists with their name engraved on it.

Jeff - 06/08/14 - 7:54pm

Not to get too involved in the debate but I would also pay more to have the products made in the USA. I think a 20-25% premium is probably the max I would go and obviously nothing ridiculous like $100 pumps… US products usually look crude but material selection is top notch along with the ability to get replacement parts. I have been bit by the “looks fancy” bug too much when it comes to Chinese made parts only to have them fail quickly and have zero support for replacement parts.

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