Harley-Davidson Experimenting With New Motorcycle Manufacturing Methods

The Harley-Davidson trike manufacturing line and a frame welding operation are used by Harley-Davidson as pilots for testing new work structures. The goal is to produce the best possible quality motorcycles with the least amount of waste of any kind, time, energy and money. The systems are an empowerment movement of the workforce to find better ways to make bikes. It’s called the “Harley Continuous Improvement System”. Some diagrams looking like football plays are used to show who and what goes where and at what times in the process. The best diagrams are compact, with little wasted energy around the bike. 

The Harley system is largely inspired by the one Toyota has made famous in the manufacturing world. On traditional assembly lines management is telling workers what to do. With the new system, there is a constant analysis of the workflow with workers encouraged to speak up when needed to do the job right and efficiently. Management must take all suggestions seriously, evaluate, test and provide employees with what they request for the sake of a better product. Being listened to and becoming more and more involved in the way motorcycles are being built provide workers with an extra feeling of pride and of “ownership” of the motorcycles they produce. Many employees had wanted to be a part of the Harley solution. Following this system, the trike line 30 employees were already being able to produce 3 more trikes every day. As we all know, in business proof of a definitive success is in the bottom line. If completely successful, the new production system will be progressively rolled out to all motorcycle fabrication operations and assembly lines.

17 Responses to “Harley-Davidson Experimenting With New Motorcycle Manufacturing Methods”

  1. 1 Lance Dickwood Jun 18th, 2010 at 8:27 am

    >>with the least amount of waste of any kind, time, energy and money<<

    A MOCO way of saying actually giving a blue collar guy a job . . .

  2. 2 A 1 cycles Jun 18th, 2010 at 8:44 am


  3. 3 J Jun 18th, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Very…. Japanese……

    Speaking of which, gee look- Toyota announced this morning a plan to reduce the price of their vehicles to the public by 30% (yes, THIRTY PERCENT) by 2013-

    So ya, there ARE ways to increase sales and regenerate business other than cutting expenses and focusing on only short-term shareholder value!

    Kudos to Toyota for taking a LONG TERM view of things- gosh, if only some US motorcycle manufacturer could get a similar clue……..

    How does that work again? Supply….. Demand….. Price…… Oh screw that- let’s just paint everything black and borrow more money from Buffett at 15%, cause I get my golden parachute in three years and I’m outta here anyway……..

  4. 4 Jeff Nicklus Jun 18th, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Can this system be used in India?

    Over & Out,


  5. 5 Greybeard Jun 18th, 2010 at 1:11 pm


    Here’s the most famous example of how long it takes for the management light to come on.
    (Pun intended.)
    What the hell, Harley never heard of an Industrial Engineer?

  6. 6 Doc Robinson Jun 18th, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Ah yes, the Harley-haters crawl out from under their rocks again. Predictable if somewhat sad. Irrelevant nit-picking and illogical reactions only serve to show your narrow-mindedness. A closed mind is like a closed fist – it cannot give or receive …

  7. 7 maroco Jun 19th, 2010 at 5:19 am

    Doc Robinson, i don´t know the expresion until today but i realy like it.
    “A closed mind is like a closed fist-it cannot give or receive…

  8. 8 Bryan Rohrer Jun 19th, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Japanese manufacturing techniques saved H-D in the eighties; maybe it will revive the company now. (Please note the dripping sarcasm in my voice)

  9. 9 fuji Jun 19th, 2010 at 9:59 am


    I think your comment went over Docs head.

    Or is it to humbling to admit that Harley Davidson’s improvement on quality in the eighty’s and beyond was a direct result of following a Japanese manufacturing model / plan created by Toyota and used by most Japanese company’s to date including Honda, where HD went to obtain the idea.

    ” As Doc quoted a few days back. If you know your Harley history you will know this is a fact.”

    Without improved quality by HD the plan would not have worked.

    Narrow-mindedness, closed minds, closed fist.
    Seems like there is a company that uses this type of philosophy as their ad campaign flavor. Hmm !

  10. 10 big squid Jun 20th, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Fuji,you are incorrect.Toyoda did not invent total quality management.An American did.W. Edwards Deming.


  11. 11 fuji Jun 20th, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    big squid

    I was not referring to ” total quality management ” although this is a good point on your part. I was refering to JIT

    JIT [just in time] is a Japanese management philosophy invented by Taiichi Ohno – Toyota’s chief engineer in the 1950’s.

    Harley Davidsons adopting JIT meant ideal manufacturing because the greater attention focused on each product means defects can be limited and quality improved.


  12. 12 Taco Jun 21st, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Will 3 more trikes per day really make any difference? I have a friend that has waited nearly 10 months for his. My advice to him…if you can’t do it on 2 wheels, then stay in your car. Trikes ARE NOT motorcycles!

    I understand that Harley needs to keep their customers riding as long as possible since young riders don’t want to join the old man, leather vest, patch wearing mid-life crisis riders of HOG.

  13. 13 Phil Jun 21st, 2010 at 10:35 am

    These up-grades in the manufacturing process go right along with their new engine design. Internal engine parts that ride in case material rather than bearings as before. These changes have given what used to be a great rebuildable platform now a certain amount of life expectancy. About the only thing that you can do to these new motors is to replace the cases after the internals have worn them out or as Harley would prefer, trade it in on a new one.

  14. 14 patof Jun 21st, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Give it a rest guys… When the day comes when Halrey folds, you’ll all be bitchin’ they should have done this or that. At least hey are trying new & improved manufacturing methods so they don’t have to go to India or other low cost countries to stay competitive.

    Grow up, leave your Yankee-Redneck attitudes in the closet, and get with the times for crap’s sake.

  15. 15 Woody Jun 22nd, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Sadly, “the times” seems to be about hinting about whoring yourself to other States to get a tax gift or other bribe, throwing existing workforces under the bus, and moving on again later when things go sour by 2 cents. The great American bike is just another Metric at this rate, and I truly believe that’s what will keep them from their former greatness. Folks used to pay more for less to support a “way of life”, or at least the perception thereof. Lately, the MoCo has made a lot of those folks feel like fools.

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