Xinqiwen.com had the opportunity to visit and tour the Orbea facility in Kunshan, China. It was a fast 1hr 20min journey on the high speed rail from Hangzhou city to Kunshan. We were met by Pablo Trujillo, the Product Designer from Orbea Bikes, and were taken on a grand tour...
Obrea's speciality - Carbon Frames
Orbea is perhaps one of the oldest bike companies around having started designing and manufacturing bicycles in 1930; but the brand Orbea was founded in 1847 when it was a family business specializing in gun manufacturing. It is a Spanish brand that hails from a small village, Mallabia, in the Basque Country of Spain. Orbea is part of a large multi-co-operative – the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation where they encourage their employees to all own shares in the company. This has been a successful business-model where the employees feel a sense of ownership and vital part of the company's growth.
Mr. Unai Deigo shared with us about Orbea
According to Unai Deigo, Orbea China's General Manager,
“We are a close knit company and employees have their own shares which promote unity through the sharing of riches. It is a win-win for everyone as we help all our employees get rich,” he further elaborated, “It helps ensure long term focus on relationships and harmony – thats what we are all about, fostering long term relationships.”
In 1998, Orbea revamped its brand and began a process of globalization with a crystal clear aim to become a global brand and an industry leader for all riders who enjoy exploring the great outdoors on two wheels. Their current slogan is deceptively simple: 'Orbea moves me', yet it embodies the very spirit they wish to emulate – reaching the emotions of the consumers. From 1998 onwards, they quickly grew from being a small regional bike maker to become an authority in the global arena. One of the main reasons for their rapid success was through the acquisition of the French Veneto bike brand and Zeus components from Spain. Orbea gained valuable brand exposure through these brand acquisitions and today the brand is recognized throughout the world, especially for design innovation. Another big factor contributing towards their brand recognition was through the early sponsorship of international professional cycling teams such as Euskaltel-Euskadi, CCC-Polsat, Milanezza-MSS, the Global Orbea MTB team, and Jelly Belly. Today Orbea sponsors Kelly Benefit Strategies, "http://www.orbea.com/us-us/equipos/andalucia_cajasur/"Andalucía CajaSur, and Orbea Contential on the road. They also sponsor the hugely successful Chinese Women's mountain bike team from Jiangsu Province, China.
Tour of the Factory
The China Orbea assembly factory, located in Kunshan about 20mins north of Shanghai, has been receiving frames from their exclusive factory and developing them into complete bikes for the past 3.5 years. The frames are made to their design specifications by a bicycle frame builder and the assembly plant basically completes the process by sanding and painting all frames. Orbea is assembling the range of bikes in their Kunshan location, ranging from the entry-level to the high-end in both road and mountain bikes. Traditionally, frames had been made in Asia (mainland China) and shipped to the Spanish factory where it would be assembled into complete bikes. However, like most other bike companies, they have moved towards complete production on Mainland China mainly for logistical reasons as most of their suppliers are in Asia and also because they are growing in this region. Presently, Orbea is assembling 50-100 complete bicycles daily for export only. This will soon change. Orbea is now launching their prestigious brand in China and 2011 will be the first time that Chinese consumers will be able to purchase Orbea bikes from dealers across China.
Mr Pablo Trujillo, the Product Designer from Orbea Bikes talks passionately
“Now is a special moment for Orbea, as previously we only exported, and we are in the process of choosing our dealers that will emulate our brand image we wish to project to the Chinese consumers. You will see Orbea bikes in stores later this year,” says Deigo, “Market research that we conducted indicated that the trend of cycling in China is on a steep upward curve over the course of the next five years, however we found that brand awareness is actually quite low (but more than expected) so early brand positioning with our marketing efforts will be vital to our success here in China.”
Orbea's Assembly Room
The factory tour revealed a very clean and streamlined facility with areas dedicated to specific tasks, such as sanding, painting, component assembling, wheel building, stickering, and boxing for shipment. We did not see any of Orbea's famous equipment tests though, as the extensive testing facilities were in another location. We were impressed with the level of detail given to all of the frames during the painting process. At the moment, Orbea are painting the frames by hand, but this will change as they install automated robots to do more of the painting work; like they do in the Spanish facility. Orbea control their own painting process from the beginning to the end, and the automated robots are actually just for primer coats. The finer "artistic" details are done by manual labour. The painting process at the Kunshan factory was quite fascinating to watch with all the different stages and painstaking attention to detail by all of the workers.
Orbea in China look well set up to cement their position in the fast growing Chinese market, but they will still have challenges to overcome. “China will be a big challenge for us and the best thing we can do to overcome the challenge is to find leaders that will help drive our brand, both sponsorship and dealership wise. Our research findings have indicated that we will focus on Suzhou, Hangzhou, Beijing, and Nanjing as our initial cities for Orbea Bikes availability... we will find dealers that are the closest to the riders as the triangle relationship between us, shops and riders is extremely important to us” says Unai
MBC Stage Race in Mongolia
Orbea recently announced their three year title sponsorship of the MBC Mongolia Mountain Bike Stage race that will take place in August. This signifies that Orbea is very serious about their brand presence in Asia. This epic style event where 120 riders from all parts of the world will compete over 10 days and 1200kms across the Mongolian Grasslands embodies the spirit and brand image that Orbea wish to project.
Orbea's masked frames
Joseba Arizaga, Orbea's Global Marketing Manager, was visibly excited when speaking about this event and Orbea's involvement “We see this event as part of establishing our presence in Asia and hope to make this a truly international event with riders from all nationalities, not just Spainish and Italian focused like it was last year. We will send some Orbea famous riders to compete and there will also be other world class riders present.” When asked if World Champion Julian Absalon would be present, “unfortunately the timing is not right for our star rider as he has a number of World Cup races and the World Championships to focus on later this year, but we will have some of our other Orbea riders that will attend and be quite competitive,” he says.
According to Chris Ganeff, the MBC's Asia-Pacific Rep, "Orbea and MBC make perfect partners and it is a great chance for local riders to race against top quality international riders. It is an awesome synergy: a world-class bike company and a world-class mountain bike event working together to create an amazing cycling experience" Ganeff further elaborated "By having such an event here in Asia, it presents Asian riders more exposure to international level competition with professionals and amateur riders alike."
We can't yet confirm that last year's champion, Marzio Deho, will be back to defend his title. However, we can expect strong performances from veteran racers Jason Sager (Team Jamis, Winner of the 2011 Trans Andes) and Orbea's Brian Fawley. Stay tuned to Xinqiwen as we bring you more exciting updates.
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