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Last Update: Sunday April 11, 2021

Key Idea: Bring In Experts

Host Hattie Bryant discovered that the University of Wisconsin offered Saris  low-cost, high-value expertise.  More... 

Key Question:


Find people to help you who know the answers to your questions.

Q:   Why was working with the University of Wisconsin manufacturing experts such a good idea?

They have access to the latest research on processes. The experts suggested that Chris use a cellular layout for the manufacturing processes. According to the authors of Operations Management published by Prentice Hall, cellular layout was "first proposed in 1925 but did not rise to prominence until the 1980s when the Japanese perfected its application. A cellular layout should improve efficiency while maintaining flexibility." Flexibility is important because Graber is constantly changing.

Chris said, "Cellular manufacturing has improved our efficiency by almost 25 percent. Because we are able to react quickly to changes in production runs, we have less work-in-process inventory and higher quality."

What did it teach you about Chris when you learned that he called on the university for help?

A: Chris doesn't think he knows everything. If you're willing to seek advice, you will grow your business faster than if you learn simply by trial and error. A know-it-all-attitude doesn't take anyone very far in life.

Think about it

What experts should you hire to help you stretch forward?

Clip from: Saris Cycling Group aka Graber

Madison, Wisconsin: Sara and Chris Fortune bought Graber Products in 1989 when it had 24 employees and $3.3 million in sales. When we taped this story there were up to 60 employees and with revenues over $10 million. They continue to grow, changed the name of the company to Saris Cycling Group, and are very committed to keeping their manufacturing in the USA.

Actually, manufacturing is on its way back to the USA!

That is not prophetic verse but the reality of our advancing technologies where highly educated workers can do it better, often faster, and sometimes cheaper than anywhere in the world.

This episode is a case in point: And, this story comes from the heartlands of America. These are the kind of people who love this country and all those basic freedoms to do the right thing in the face of adversity. They have done it right and now they ship their products around the world.

When Chris and Sara bought Graber Products, they bought a solid business with a good reputation, but the sales were flat. The employees were dedicated, but the company needed fresh energy to start growing again. To dump the stodgy image of the company that he bought, Chris found an Italian fashion designer who came up with improved form and function for his bike racks. Chris believed that the market was ready, willing and waiting for new ideas and he was right. Customers have flocked to the new products and employees love to come to work.

They are their industry leaders. They have kept manufacturing in America. And, their industry recognizes them for their generosity of spirit, moral courage, and ethical leadership. These people are quiet heroes,  new pioneers making the world a better place.

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Saris Cycling Group (once known as Graber Products)

Chris Fortune, CEO

Visit our web site:

Business Classification:
Manufacturing, Sports (Biking), wholesale

Year Founded:

Bring In Experts

HATTIE: (Lightbulb in the Studio) The slogan at Graber Products is `Make ourselves obsolete. Invent the new products before a competitor can.'

By working with the University of Wisconsin, Chris has tapped into the minds of an innovation and manufacturing team that helps business owners streamline the production of new ideas. He has given employees the tools and time to innovate, and he himself focuses his own attention on innovation.

The day after we were with Chris, he was on a plane to Italy to meet a designer.

When Chris and Sara bought Graber, they bought a solid business with a good reputation, but the sales were flat. The employees were dedicated, but the company needed fresh energy to start growing again. The energy has come from Chris and Sara, but also from the thrill of bringing new products to the marketplace. Before your sales go flat, start innovating.

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