Fort Frames Specialist in Small Quantities
ÚSTĺ NAD ORLICĺ, Czech Republic – Bicycle frame manufacturer Fort Frames survived the exodus of the frame production from Europe to the Far East during the 1990s thanks to its flexibility. Nevertheless they had to diversify their production and downscale the annual output of frames, which still amounts to some 10,000 units.
Fort Frames was founded in 1992 and quickly built up its own engineering expertise. “It has always been of great help to develop customized frames in close cooperation with the customer,” says Fort Frames owner Miroslav Samek. “The main part of the frames are built in CrMo, often using tubes of well-known brands like Reynolds from UK or Deddaccai from Italy. Although aluminium alloy accounts for only a quarter of our output we have always maintained the technology and the expertise. Fort Frames employs approximately 50 people.
“Most of them are traditional craftsmen, so the production process is manufacturing par excellence and mainly depends on the manual versatility rather than on sophisticated machines,” notes Samek.
Partnership with a laser cutter and a CNC-shop
To assemble complete bikes from sample frames Fort Frames also continued an in-house workshop. A close partnership with a laser cutter and a CNC-shop makes them independent of foreign suppliers. Only some mass products like braze-ons or special bike tubes are provided by a Taiwanese agent. In the course of the 24 years since the company was founded, the average order quantity decreased and Fort Frames is now mainly handling batches between 20 and 200 units. Nowadays the company has arranged its product flow to be able to cope with a mix of small quantities.
“The possibility to order a large variety of different product has become our unique selling point,” says Samek. “We receive a growing number of orders with different frame sizes or models. As a complementary service, we have an in-house powder coating painting facility although we don’t regard this as our core competence. Thanks to the wide range of options and production flexibility we offer, even big brands have had their prototypes and pre-series manufactured here. Last year tens of different frames of bikes and trikes for the German Post were built and assembled in Usti nad Orlici.”
For Fort Frames the booming e-bike market is also paying off, especially cargo bike manufacturers seeking individually-designed vehicles.