Serving as an apprenticeship in a relatively up-to-date factory with modern equipment, I had been sheltered from the old ways of doing things. I received a call about interest in some new equipment from a company that manufactured bicycles. I pulled up in front of an old, but beautiful, well kept building. I went to the lobby and introduced myself to the receptionist (yes, they still had those then) and she called for a gentleman who came to get me and offered to give me a plant tour. Knowing what an honor that was, I quickly accepted. That was the beginning of my enlightenment. This company was known for its expensive, elite, beautiful bicycles and I was about to see how they made them happen. I’m not sure what I expected to see, but words cannot express my amazement when he led me down stairs to a room with several rows of tables where women were making wheel assemblies – putting spokes in the rims and then adding the tires by hand. The real shocker was seeing the earthen floors and the ceiling with line shafts that powered their machines.
My point is that it was my first encounter of a beautiful mass-produced product done with the most archaic methods. While these beautiful bicycles were not as efficiently produced by humans as they could be by machines – I have to wonder if it wasn’t the human touch that made them the prized possession that people desired.