We are creators. Everyone at Brompton plays a small part in making our bikes and getting them into the hands of people to ride, find their route and enjoy.
From first sketches to capturing the finished article, the people behind the product make us different.
We are Brompton.
New Products Engineering Manager Matt Plata has been with Brompton Bicycle for just over three years. Part of Brompton's Manufacturing Engineering team, he looks after how the Brompton bike is built start to finish.
T Line is the new all-titanium frame Brompton. Made between Sheffield and London by a carefully curated team of Britain's best designers, engineers and fabrication specialists, T Line's titanium frame is brand-new and ultra-light.
Could you start by giving us an overview of your role?
I'm the New Product Engineering Manager at Brompton. I've been here just over three years, and I work as part of the manufacturing engineering team. Essentially, we look after how the bike is built.
We work very closely with the design, quality, and supply chain teams. We've got lots of fingers in pies across the business - as we're involved from the very start of the design process right through to execution. Staying closely involved means we can understand how easy, fast and safe a product will be to manufacture.
At what point did you get involved in T Line?
I got involved at the impact analysis stage, which meant understanding what it takes to put it into the factory. This included the kind of equipment and space we might need and how much we could make it for.
As T Line went into the manufacturing stages, we became more involved. It's actually been a really good opportunity for us to trial different building processes. This is the first time we've been able to enjoy a completely controlled build and learn lots from it. The launch should be smooth as a result.
What were your initial thoughts when you began working on the T Line project?
When I began working on it, I wondered how we could make a folding bike weigh less than 7.5kg. There are bikes on the market that weigh that little, but for it to also fold with the same mechanisms we have today would be a huge challenge.
The weight alone is one factor, but there have been lots of new manufacturing methods to also consider. Through lots of experimentation, we came to introduce the orbital welding process.
Can you tell us a bit more about this process?
So we buy castings or parts ready to weld, then we have a socket joint and special equipment to weld all around it automatically. We get to take advantage of automation here, but we also look at where manual welding can be useful as well.
What are your favourite memories of the project - and what have been the biggest challenges?
I think my favourite memory has to be the first time we built bikes on the production line. As you're really close to the project you see all the flaws, but then you show the product to other people and it's so refreshing to get their reactions.
It's an amazing thing to be part of, and helping to make a product that's so much easier to build and lighter - it's great.
One of the biggest challenges we've had was working with glue adhesives. So, on a mock five frame, we have nuts for the roller wheels to attach to, which are brazed or welded. On this model, they are pressed into the frame. We don't have a huge amount of experience of that as a company. It's been quite a journey for us working with a partner outside of the business to design and develop a machine to do that.
We've invested a lot of money in the production line in terms of making it larger and putting new tools on there. The way we approached this project has been different, too; we really invested time in making the line a better place in terms of control, quality and ergonomics. It's also been faster from a production standpoint. We've introduced new tools, like a 3D laser that can etch on any surface.
The operators have also seen big wins, as now they have one tool that does everything. It's been a great experience all round really.
The Brompton factory is a pretty unique place where, historically, the bikes were built from start to finish all under one roof. That's changed now with the new factory in Sheffield. How has it been navigating that change?
It's been really interesting. We've been bringing on lots of really keen people up in Sheffield who have just really jumped at the opportunity. We've all learned loads about the welding process, but also about running a team and building the facility up there.
And so, in your opinion, what makes working at Brompton special?
That's a good question. I think there are a few things. One is us being so vertically integrated as a company. We buy straight steel tubes and at the end of it, we have a fully finished bicycle frame. We assemble the whole bike, powder coat the frame, box it up and send it around the world. There are not many companies, especially in Europe and especially in the UK, that still do that.
Having all of that that in-house is amazing. You can simply walk downstairs and see everything and talk to the people building the bikes. You see problems firsthand. It's a fantastic place to work in that respect. It's so fulfilling as a manufacturing engineering team to look at how solutions we're putting in place work. You can see the impact immediately, and you can speak to the people who are benefitting from it.
Has there ever been a time where work and home life have crossed paths?
I think the best example of this is when I invited my girlfriend to join us for work drinks and forgot to tell her that there were going to be 30 of us dressed as elves during the Christmas ride.
She arrived and there were 30 Bromptons decorated with tinsel and Will (Brompton CEO) was Father Christmas leading the charge. I think she was either horrified or excited - or a bit of both. But I think she got the bug from that - as she ended up getting a Brompton. We use them to travel everywhere.
It takes the hard work of every single Brompton staff member to take our little folding bikes from the first sketch to shipping them out the door.