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Reinventing The Wheel

Behind the scenes with Bike Engineers and Entrepreneurs. Fortified Bicycle Alliance.

Finding the Right Contract Manufacturer – The Aviator and Afterburner

Friends – on our recent trip to the far east, we saw some horrific things. And we saw some wonderful things. Here’s the scoop…

Manufacturing Schedule: We’re way behind on our spring delivery estimate but we found an excellent factory. We’re estimating summer delivery and will know more when we ink the deal next week.

We visited 14 factories in 3 weeks. If you remember, we started with a long list of 33 factories, short list of 10, and scheduled 4 visits. Each final assembly factory we saw had their own suppliers: PCB assembly, plastic injection molding companies and aluminum die casters. So of course we had to see those too.

factory tour

MIT: Made in Taiwan

Bleary-eyed and hung-over from 27 hours of travel, I couldn’t understand why people were pointing and laughing at me in the Taipei airport. To them, my MIT t- shirt meant something different and they thought I was being ironic. Taiwan reminds me of a small ant carrying 25X his weight – every person and every square meter of land was working. Our Taiwanese manufacturing agent told me that until the 1980s, many people subsidized their income with a lathe in their living room cranking out machined parts. Rice patties are crammed into every corner.

Highway overpass? Rice patty. Your house has a small yard? Put a rice patty in it. Tend it on nights and weekends. Of the three factories I saw in Taiwan, the best was in Taoyuan – one of the manufacturing cities. They specialize in commercial lighting – Philips and Home Depot are their clients. And they’ve been making bicycle lights since 2004.

Here’s what was important to us:

1. Multi-Stage Quality Control

They tested parts (LEDs, batteries, etc) upon receipt from suppliers. They test again partially assembled and again fully assembled. These guys understand Poka-Yoke.

LED and battery accelerated lifetime testing

2. Performance Testing

Below are two optical chambers that measure lumens. This means they don’t take their LED suppliers word for specs – they test specs.

Lumen Test Chamber

3. Factory Conditions

The Taoyuan factory was state-of-the-art. Automated equipment with safety checks, excellent lighting and ventilation. It reminded me of an Intel semiconductor clean room.


But this was only our 2nd best factory. We’ll show you the terrible factories and the winner next week!


Slava and Team Fortified




  1. “But this was only our 2nd best factory best factory” wait so I’m confused, are you going with the Taoyuan factory or someone else?

    • Slava Menn

      April 20, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      Hey Eric,

      Check out our new blog post today for some more info on the factory we are going with!

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