Fox US Factory Production (9)

After components are produced at Fox’s California based machine shop, the parts are sent out for anodization (either locally or to Japan), then shipped to the Fox assembly facility in a small town just South of Santa Cruz, CA. 

As these components arrive from all corners of the world, random samples are pulled for inspection and walked directly from the receiving area and into the Quality Lab.

In addition to testing individual components, they also pull sub-assemblies to ensure parts are fitting together properly and double check for wear on tooling.

Fox US Factory Production (10)

Automated Dyno in the Fox Quality Lab 

Within this room are over a dozen complex machines utilized for testing materials.

Fox US Factory Production (11)

Everything from devices that test for hardness and spring force…. 

Fox Factory Tour Testing Machinery

…to those that can inspect minute details, like the fine print on your driver’s license.

Fox US Factory Production (13)

This fixture for example, holds fork lowers in place, so that they can be examined by a Coordinate Measurement Machine (CMM). As the small automated red ball slowly circles the fork lowers, it takes thousands of data points.

These measurements are then uploaded to a computer, so engineers can inspect the critical features.

Fox US Factory Production (12)

One example of how the quality assurance team uses this machine is by pullin one in every 1,000 lower leg/bushing assemblies off the production line, to measure how cylindrical a bushing is after it is pressed in, the diameter, etc..

Fox US Factory Production (15)

As components clear inspection, they are pushed to floor. There are separate assembly lines for both fork and shock production. 

Fox US Factory Production (14)

Each of the fork assembly line can be quickly shifted over to accommodate different product lines (e.g. 32, 34, 36). For things like TALAS forks, which have complicated ball and spring assemblies, the company keeps intricate assembly fixtures ready.

Fox US Factory Production (17)

As the fork internals are being assembled, the fork lowers are also prepped. 

Fox US Factory Production (18)

This machine holds the lowers, while a series of rods install bushings.

After installation, a bushing sizer runs through both bushings, which helps provide more consistent sizing, and reduces break in time.

Fox US Factory Production (16)

A few feet away, stanchion tubes are pressed into the fork uppers. This machine precisely measures the force used in order to ensure proper fit.

All of the machines used in assembling the fork (bushing/upper tube/steerer tube installer) utilize load cells to measure forces. If they detect a load that is too high or too low, the part is flagged and rejected.

Fox US Factory Production (19)

Once all internals, lowers, and uppers go through their final checks, they’re assembled, and a preset amount of lubrication oil is pumped into each fork leg.

Fox US Factory Production (20)

A few CCs of oil are also pumped into the FLOAT air spring assembly.

Fox US Factory Production (21)

In addition to the meticulously testing at each phase in production, Fox also keeps careful production time studies. On the day we visited, the factory was producing a fork every 64 seconds, but during peak season, the factory assembles a fork every 30 seconds.

Fox US Factory Production (22)

 At the end of the fork line, a dyno measures compression and rebound forces to insure that everything from spring rate to the damping curve is working correctly. Every finished fork must pass through this dyno before leaving the factory.

Fox US Factory Production (23)

After assembly and inspection, the forks are mounted into special jigs, and stickers are installed.

Fox US Factory Production (24)

Can you guess which manufacturer these forks are destined for?

Fox US Factory Production (25)

The shock assembly lines are split in two. The first is dedicated to the production of the popular Float series shock, while the other is a “flexible” line that manufacturers everything from DHX to DCRV shocks.

Fox US Factory Production (26)

 This is how FOX bleeds the oil on a FLOAT rear shock.  This ensures there is no trapped air in the damping fluid.

Fox US Factory Production (27)

Fox shocks utilize a nitrogen filled chamber to put damping oil under pressure. At this phase of assembly process, the shocks are being staged and prepared for their nitrogen fill.

Fox Float Shock Nitrogen Check Manufacturing

Once filled, each shock must be pressured checked.

Fox US Factory Production (29)

 Then comes lubrication…

Fox US Factory Production (1)

…and stickering!

Fox US Factory Production (2)

Fox also utilizes this facility to build the shocks that are found on the Ford Raptor Truck. Like the bicycle products, each truck shock is placed on a dyno and cycled to ensure everything from compression damping to noise is within spec before being shipped.

In recent years, there have been rumors that Fox had plans to move their production facilities to Taiwan, so after our visit to the machine shop and assembly plant, we reached out to CEO Larry L. Enterlien for comment:

We are in the process of transitioning our bike manufacturing from California and at this time are on track to have 80% of our total mountain bike suspension fork and shock production in Taiwan by the end of 2015. Our Taiwan manufacturing facilities allow us to be closer to our large OEM customers that are in Taiwan, which reduces production lead times and shortens our supply chain. We will maintain some mountain bike production capacity here in Watsonville, CA, predominately for our North American customers.

What does this mean for consumers? Not much. The big advantage to this change is for OEM customers like Giant, who assemble their complete bikes overseas. This new Taiwanese facility will allow Fox to drastically reduce the shipping time to those factories.

The US plant will continue to support brands like Santa Cruz and Niner, who assemble their frames in the United States, as well as produce more of the higher end factory level products that compromise the majority of it’s aftermarket sales.

Fox | Special thanks to Mark Jordan and Jon Bullock for the tour. 

 

23 COMMENTS

  1. Sorry to hear that production is being outsourced. No doubt it doesn’t mean much for consumers, but it sure means a lot for workers; it would have been nice to have a mention of this rather than just a regurgitated press release about the business benefits.

    (cue the peanut gallery with the reasons why this will bring benefits to all the redundant workers through the magic of trickle down free market economics)

  2. @behn

    Your point is noted. However, I can’t tell you how many armchair activists who demand Made in USA then are the first ones at the trailhead whining about how much a Fox fork costs.

  3. Given these rigorous quality control procedures, how did my Factory Float 34s leave the factor with 5x the right amount of Float fluid?

  4. Moving manufacturing only makes sense. Think about what a Kashima coated product must go through. Parts machined in CA, tubes sent off to Japan, other parts locally. Tubes come back to CA, product is assembled, tested, boxed. Product is sent to Taiwan for installation on bike. Bike is shipped back to America for sale.

    That’s convoluted and wasteful as hell. Bike production isn’t moving here, component production should move there.

  5. Rich,

    Sounds like they’re using statistical process controls, which allow them to catch most problems without the excessive cost of 100% inspection at each step. Unfortunately some defective products can get out of the factory though. How was your experience with getting Fox to fix it?

  6. @Benh

    Technically speaking, manufacturing is not being “outsourced”. The new Taiwanese facility is owned and operated by Fox and was built using the same principles and technology learned from it’s US facility.

    The company will continue to operate the machine shop and assembly plant that BikeRumor toured in order to support it’s US customers and the aftermarket.

    As Eric Hansen mentioned in the comments, this process drastically reduces the amount of times Fox has to ship individual or complete assemblies and components around the world.

    – Saris

  7. Only Taiwanese labor is much cheaper. Burger flipping in Taiwan gets you $3-4 USD/hr vs. $15/hr in the US. Operating a business in California is not cheap.

  8. I find the concept of manufacturing location interesting, especially for a product that requires parts to be made in several different countries then to be sent to another country for distribution out to other countries. What Fox is doing of course makes sense that’s why they are doing it.

  9. Santa Cruz did a similar move long ago. Sent production overseas, except for the VPP frames. Guess what? – ALL production went over seas, and that is what will most likely happen at Fox.

    Disappointed, most don’t care, some do. (btw – I understand both sides of reasoning)

  10. Jono,

    I’m in the UK so I sent them back to Fox’s distributor, Mojo. They were very good; fixed under warranty FOC except for a £13 (roughly $20) collect and return charge. They took 4 days.

    Still haven’t got full travel out of the fork yet. But that’s for a different thread…

  11. I always looked at Fox first when building a bike because of being US made… That always made it a clear cut choice because they do build quality stuff. I really do not mind paying the extra $60-80 for knowing that I am buying something US made. Moving forward, to keep me as a customer, they are going to have to lower their prices and offer easier access to replacement parts (like Rockshox does). What really bums me out about this is that I am going to have to put more research into buying a fork next time… and honestly I just bought a Pike because I thought Fox moved production last year to Taiwan. I would be riding a Fox if I didn’t hear the rumors over a year ago. They can also expect their word of mouth recommendations to suffer from this transition much like Craftsman tools did when they went 100% overseas production.

  12. Since the lead time will be shortened and less costly for the OEM customers, does that mean that these OEM bikes will reflect the more cost effective fork and shocks in their cost competitive final prices for consumers? Probably not.

  13. I’ve owned 10 different Fox forks at times, and not one of them came with the proper amount of lubrication oil, and in fact the last 2 were basically dry. Always take apart your Fox before you buy it, buyer beware!

  14. Jeff, FOXF is still paying the California 8.84% corporate income tax rate (despite being incorporated in Delaware), so I’m not sure how that would affect their decision to move manufacturing to Taiwan. The salary of every one of the operators that used to line those assembly benches is significantly cheaper in Taiwan, though.

  15. Yeah I don’t know that offshoring works that way. If they bring profits back here they pay taxes on it here, right?

    I’m usually fairly anti-offshoring but I tend to believe them here. It makes sense to move closer to where your customers are. They’re more or less following the industry that has up and moved to Taiwan.

    I still don’t buy the cheap labor idea. That assembly floor is sparsely populated but let’s say those forks have a crew of 10 building them. Even at a generous $30/hour total cost of employment for each one (salary, benefits and other expenses) you get $300/hour to build 56 forks. $5.35 of each fork’s cost is from assembly. How much do those things retail for?

  16. @ Kyle: I see the opposite when I look at the photos, I see quite a lot of manual labour going on there. I don’t know what your reference point (industry / factory) is, but from the photos I see lots of assembly done by hand. Imagine now all that manual assembly needed to churn out forks at the rate of one each 64 seconds. I believe the labour costs are significant at Fox.

    Furthermore, look at their Financials of 2014, they clearly state that they have almost a 1000 employees, of which a large percentage work at the manufacturing facilities.
    http://investor.ridefox.com/secfiling.cfm?filingID=1424929-15-6

    Makes sense to either outsource or invest in less manual work processes and equipment. Agree?

    Otherwise, an impressive factory and quality control. Nice article BR. 🙂

  17. @Kyle – The company I work for is taxed on our equipment on an annual basis… This includes spare parts in our warehouse (most of which have been there for years)… I wonder if Fox had to pay the same.

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