No Country for Old Men

Jules and Phil's Seven Factory Visit 2011

Posted by Philip Cavell

Seven Factory

Good work gets done here - Boston 2011

USA Bike Factory Tour - Dec 2011

There is nothing like a disputed Canada/US border-crossing with 250 pounds of raw Deputy to sharpen the appetite. Luckily Waterbury hove into view in time for a gallon of coffee and a long-stack of pancakes. And then back on to the '89' towards Boston and Seven

Seven Cycles - Red Brick Fabrication

A 500k jog down the '89' taking in a brief (but not brief enough) stop at the border at Philipsburg, and we land in the most exquisite part of our favourite US City - Watertown, Boston. Hurrah…
Watertown sits on the Charles River and feels more like Richmond (Surrey) than part of a large US metropolis.

Art School Light Industry

Seven by intention or accident is hidden in an old red-brick industrial building close to the river. Now only Seven actually manufactures in their space; the rest looked to be office, studio and design.
First impressions are everything. Especially with Seven Cycles. We wandered in through an unlocked door to find ourselves coming into the back of the main factory floor (top image). Nobody asked who we were or what we were doing there. Friendly nods and the 'hey' and we eventually stumbled into the offices. The whole place oozed relaxed creativity and independence. You have never seen or met such a happy bunch of workmates in all your life. It just has to be be the dream ticket if you are into bikes and love making beautiful things.
Just In Time.

Seven Factory2

Steph Adams is one of Seven's Senior Craftswomen. There is no job she can't undertake. Even painting!

Seven Factory5

It is not unusual to see one craftsman operating three machines at once! Each individually shaping and butting your tubes.

Seven Factory4

Every stage of fabrication is calm, meticulous and undertaken with diligence and passion.

In Your Own Time. Just in Time

But this chilled hippy vibe belies incredible production focus and structure. Production Manager, Matt O'Keefe is probably the world's best best boss. Period. Calm, supportive and obviously 100% nurturing of his factory staff. He explains that Seven took their production principle for Toyota's 'just in time' code. That is to say machines are relatively cheap but people are expensive. So each worker is trained to a high level to accomplish as many tasks as possible concurrently. This helps each part of production arrive on time for the next phase.

We watched Jonathan juggle three spinning machines, that were cutting, butting and machining a set of Axiom SL tubes simultaneously.

One of the things that we liked is that the workers, to a degree at least, set their own hours. As long as they work their shift they can be flexible - as long as it fits in with the production schedule at the time. And talking to Matt it became clear that this consensual style allowed happier and more natural working rhythms. Simple.

Precision Welding - Steph Adams Style
"Designer, Welder, and Painter (but not all at the same time)"
In many companies the welder is the super-star. In Seven they are all equal. The crew are encouraged to be as multi-skilled as they can or want. We watched ex welding sculptress Steph (pictured), perform the most perfect beads on an Axiom. But she is just as happy designing frames or painting them. Like many of the Seven crew Steph came out of art school and also worked at Merlin.

Controlled Creative Calm

To sum up Seven is the epitome of controlled creative calm. What a wonderful working environment.

About the author

Philip Cavell, Co-founder

Co-founder, bike fitter and bike designer. Phil rides a Seven titanium disc bike. He likes dogs and fine wine.

View other posts by Philip Cavell

Phil 3

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