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Behind the scenes at Enve Composites, Made in the USA

September 15, 2016

With all the racing that has been happening I have not had the chance to write about the awesome factory tour we took at Enve Composites when we were training in Utah in July. I have worked at Deloitte in Corporate Finance and at GE in a cross functional role and was thrilled to have an opportunity to have a tour of this gem of a company. So I thought I would put my accountant hat on and highlight some interesting things I noticed from a lean manufacturing perspective that makes every set of Enve wheels the highest and most consistent quality in the market, not to mention fastest.  This is why everyone is talking about Enve wheels and why they could be considered the Maserati of cycling wheels. Enve Composites Website http://enve.com/

 

1. The office

 

These guys rock it like Google. When we walked in, everything was open, clean, big – a heap of second hand bikes lined up against the reception wall – mostly adorning Enve’s of course, good to know the staff support the brand with their feet, or should I say, cleats. Turns out staff are encouraged to ride to work, what a refreshing change over general workplaces. Next thing I noticed, everyone is wearing casual clothes, everyone is so happy to meet some random Australian walking through their workplace. All helps in providing a highly innovative environment. Half the time I didn’t know if I was speaking to the owner or the guy that sweeps the floor, everyone I spoke to was passionate about their job and loved working at the factory. 

 

Photo: Staff bikes neatly lined up in the foyer

 

2. Accessories and tubing

 

The first area we checked out was the accessories and custom parts area. This is where head stems and various other frame tubing is made. I noticed really early that the environment was spotless, such a very clean and tidy warehouse. All painting and sand blasting is done in safe correctly equipped vented rooms and all parts are individually labeled and numbered once they move from raw materials to work in progress and finished goods. 

 

Photo: Accessories development and custom parts

3.  Carbon

 

The first stage of the wheel making process is to cut and layer the carbon. All carbon raw material at Enve is stored at the correct temperature to preserve the quality of the material. Carbon is unidirectionally layered in the order and direction researched by Enve’s experts to add stiffness to the wheels. Enve wheels are among the stiffest in the world. 

 

As each batch of wheels are made, specific details of the climate, the raw material batch and who was involved in making each stage of the wheels is recorded for future reference. This is a best practice quality control technique that is used by world leaders in lean manufacturing such as GE, CAT and various automobile manufacturers. If ever a wheel comes back to Enve, they can find every detail about that wheel needed.

 

Photo: Layering carbon

4. Molding

 

Enve molds the rims with spoke holes in them as opposed to the standard drilling spoke holes allowing their wheels to be among the most ridged in the world. This method is highly accurate and results in a stronger and lighter rim. This also allows for higher spoke tensions and therefore less truing of the wheels over their lifetime. This involves the use of bespoke machinery.

 

When a carbon racing wheel is made, it is formed around a bladder inside the wheel to give it the shape that it has. Enve rims are also made with removable bladders so when the carbon rim is moulded, the bladder that pushes the carbon into the mold is removed, reducing weight and improving the balance of the wheel – this is a unique Enve procedure. 

 

Photo: Molded rims ready to for hubs, spokes and decals

 

The unique Enve carbon hubs are made in a separate area and are all tested to specific standards to ensure consistency. All of the machinery used in manufacturing an Enve wheel is constructed in house!!

Photo: Limited Edition Carbon Hubs with Red Decals molded and ready for testing

 

Enve have a room that only few staff are allowed into. I have no idea what goes on in this room, but if what they have already showed us on how they make a wheel better isn’t impressive enough, that room must be truly magical!

 

5. Pressing and spokes

 

Trained and experienced Enve staff then lace the wheels and add the decals. Wheels and pats parts are checked against standards at each stage of the process before progressing to the next to ensure only the highest quality reaches the showroom floor. 

 

Photo: Adding spokes and decals by hand

 

6. Testing

 

Enve’s engineers and R&D team are constantly testing the rigidity, strain, strength and tolerance of all wheels and accessories across a variety of situations that a rider may face. If you could see the brutal machinery that is used to punish their products to test them for real life scenarios, you would see why Enve’s can easily be used for training AND racing, not either. I was impressed by the sophistication of the machinery they go as far as blowing rims up, they say they do it for testing, but I think there is a part of them that enjoys it. Similar to motor vehicle manufacturers, the team take safety, quality and reliability very seriously. 

 

7. Finished goods

 

As I mentioned earlier every part has a unique part number and is linked to an individual job order and can be traced to the final loading dock for shipment (pink slips etc below). It seems simple but the ability for a company to correctly track purchase orders through a production line can prove very difficult and Enve has this down. Showing the level of care shown. Kudos to the finance team, the unsung hero of a smooth supply chain. 

Photo: Custom orders are in safe hands with best practice supply chain management

 

Then, lastly, there is a lonely man sitting at a table looking at the profile of a wheel like he’s inspecting artwork. After all the building, molding and testing is done, a human eye is concentrated on the wheel to ensure that what Enve is delivering continues to blow customers expectations away. 

 

To be a good triathlete, you need to train, be dedicated, eat well and look after yourself. 

To be a great triathlete, it takes many 1%ers to rise above the pack.

 

It is obvious this is the same with carbon wheels. There are endless carbon wheels on the road these days. The reason Enve is above the pack is because at every step of the process, carbon sourcing, carbon storage, carbon R&D, innovation, carbon layering, carbon molding, wheel building, wheel testing and Quality Control, they are better than their competitors. Small improvements over a lot of areas means a massive improvement over a single product.

 

8. The Fun room

 

They don’t finish here. Enve have a room where their Engineers go to play – can you believe that!? In this room they are developing the next innovative product or enhancing their next model to the next level. It is obvious to see why Enve are miles ahead in the quality wheel race. 

 

Thanks to everyone at Enve for making us feel so welcome. Especially, Carl for the tour, Shay for organising everything and Eric for helping me out for Cebu, 70.3 Worlds and Kona. These wheels are certainly something special and it is clear that the, innovation, care, diligence and exceptional manufacturing environment at Enve has allowed the company to excel to market leaders. In fact, Enve has outgrown the factory we visited and is soon moving to an even bigger factory to improve the flow of the production line and allow of greater quantities. Watch out world. 

Photo: We are gonna need a bigger boat... with a backlog of orders these wheels will be here for a matter of days

 

Photo: Thanks Eric and the Team at Enve

Photo: This sign will only get bigger

 

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