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Sprick Opens Huge Plant in Germany

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MERKERS, Germany (14 August) – Merkers Rad bicycle factory in the federal state of Thuringia (former east zone) was opened officially. Since its conception by mr. Julius Sprick in December 1999, plans have become reality (including permits and finance), and the monster plant (final capacity 800.000 bicycles a year) has actually taken up production. Unemployment […]

MERKERS, Germany (14 August) – Merkers Rad bicycle factory in the federal state of Thuringia (former east zone) was opened officially. Since its conception by mr. Julius Sprick in December 1999, plans have become reality (including permits and finance), and the monster plant (final capacity 800.000 bicycles a year) has actually taken up production. Unemployment being the main problem in the former East zone meant an administrative and financial push in the back for Sprick, who invested a gross DEM 40 million (US$18.3mn;€20.4mn) in the all-new plant. With the usual speed of the authorities when there is no political goal it would have taken probably more than 18 months for the permits alone. But even with eagerly co-operative authorities it must be considered a major effort to build a bicycle plant like Merkers at mushroom speed. Sprick says he had been driven by the nightmarish vision of a German market of 5 million bicycles a year (European-wide: 16 million) to be flooded within 5 years with exclusively East and Far-East bicycles to the detriment of the German branded product. Merkers Rad will supply German wholesalers, and retail organizations to sell their bicycles through independent bicycle dealers. It is obvious that Merkers Rad aims at the quality bike sector. Merkers’ Rad has a high degree of automatization, and will employ 200 people at its 300.000 units level. Today’s workforce is 120, with a skilled former production manager from Kynast and Derby gradually upping production and sorting out the bugs. Merkers Rad is more than an assembly plant: frames are built in-house by seven industrial welding robots. So far, the frame constituents (sheet metal, tubing) is cut to size by subcontractors, but in the next phase Merkers will have their own tube milling and mitering department. After painting, every frame (including the tiniest children’s bike gets an electronic tag which in the first place serves as an assembly guide, containing the whole specification of the bike. Assembly staff can use their tag reader at any moment to be informed about the bike under construction. For wheelbuilding Merkers have five parallel Holland Mechanics assembly lines. The finished product is collected by a fully-automated storage and distribution system. The storage room’s capacity is 60,000 bicycles, and its built volume is 86,000 m3. Buyers of a Merkers rad model can have their personal data added to the electronic tag registration. The Germans are sufficiently realistic not to promote it as an anti-theft measure (theoretically it can be used to establish the identity of a lost or stolen bicycle), but it may serve in more serious police cases: when for instance a child is hurt in traffic or play and is brought into hospital, the police can easily and quickly find out its identity by wielding their scanner over the tag in the child’s bicycle. But the fact that the DM 1 tag plays its first role in the logistical process of the bike assembly, gives it ample opportunity to discover which further after-sales applications will prove their usefulness. (OB)

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