Haas Milling Machine Avoids Outsourcing

Soul-Kozak has invested in Haas CNC machine tools to enable it to produce several different high-performance bicycle components. Mariusz Kozak's business in Lublin, Poland, develops a number of lightweight bicycle components, including a set of air-suspended downhill forks and a new design of bottom brackets (the cylindrical bearing to which the pedal cranks are attached). Combining lightness and stiffness is essential for the competitive cyclist.

A racing mountain bike might already weigh as little as 9kg, so shedding excess 'fat' can be a very expensive undertaking. Soul-Kozak makes the parts that weight-obsessed customers buy to replace heavier, stock components, such as wheel-hubs, gear cassettes, handlebar stems and seat clamps. 'We aren't competing with the big names in bike parts,' said Kozak. 'In fact, our components are up to twice as expensive as similar products from Shimano, the market-leading Japanese manufacturer,' he added.

The company is making and selling a premium product for customers who want and are prepared to pay for something that saves a few more grams and offers a little bit more performance. To make Soul-Kozak's many different parts, Kozak has invested in two Haas CNC machine tools, which he bought from the local Haas Factory Outlet - a division of Abplanalp.

Michal Fodyma, the company's only employee, operates the Haas TL-1 Toolroom lathe, while Kozak runs the Haas TM-1 Toolroom Mill. 'These are the only two metal-cutting machines we own,' said Kozak, 'but we use them to make every component we currently offer. 'We no longer have to subcontract components, which means we can be self-sufficient and a lot more efficient,' he added. The rear gear cassette is the most complex part the company makes.

It starts out on the Haas lathe where it's cut to length and then face-turned, before it's transferred to the Haas mill. After each operation a cassette is checked for dimensional accuracy, which partly explains why it takes five hours to make a single unit. 'The tolerances for this part are critical,' said Kozak. 'Any inaccuracies would be obvious immediately the component is mounted on the bike. 'The gearshift has to be smooth and fast with no chance that the chain will slip or fall off the cogs,' he added.

As with all the company's parts, the final stages in the manufacturing process are anodising and engraving, both of which are also undertaken in house. While Kozak manages the workshop, his wife is responsible for marketing, which includes maintaining the company's website. Soul-Kozak has distributors in several countries, but selling its products online is of key strategic importance. E-commerce is direct, low cost and, perhaps most importantly, payment is banked when, or even before product is shipped.

With the Haas machines, Soul-Kozak is able respond immediately to an email request for an out-of-stock component. Kozak can call-up the program and begin machining a part in minutes. 'When we were looking for suitable CNC machine tools we prioritised reliability and precision,' he said. 'The Haas machines offered the best value and performance for the money. 'There are plenty of machines out there that offer greater precision, but they are not affordable for a small business such as ours,' he added.


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