Boards displayed in longboard shops, used by our friends or the ones we’ve ridden ourselves – they all must have been somehow produced. Active longboard users tend to talk about the whole production process, what it looked like, who and how made it. Unfortunately, limited possibilities of getting first-hand information as well as insufficient objective information have contributed to the creation of some myths and legends about the board production.
It seems that there’s lots of information available on this topic – after all, almost each manufacturer releases the material about production, yet after thorough analysis it turns out to be just a general overview of the whole process, without going into details. These videos almost entirely leave out a very important thing – machines that make the whole production process possible. As a person with 6-year experience in longboard creating, who started off with “garage production” of just a few boards within one season and ended up with much bigger scale of production, I’d like to share this experience with you. I’m not going to write about the process itself, in which unique way boards are pressed or how the materials are being selected. You can find lots of information about it online. What I’d like to tell you about is the construction of the machines dedicated for longboard production and also overall experience with manufacturing the product – longboard.j.
CHEAPER IS NOT ALWAYS WORSE
The longboard sector in Poland, Europe or even in the US is comparatively smaller than any other sector such as automotive or household appliances industry or for instance food industry. New businesses, which produce longboards themselves, very often have a tight budget (it was also the same in my case). Rapid technological progress and constant changes in preferences regarding the graphics/shape do not make things easy. To give you an example: a battery manufacturing plant can invest hundreds of thousands zlotys in professional production and assembly lines equipped with ready-to-use tools and production surveillance and there is no problem at all. There’s capital for investment, the product doesn’t have to change for a long time, so why not?
Nowadays fewer longboard companies can afford the luxury of having no novelties for upcoming season. There are many latest technological developments, so you need to be flexible. Another problem is money, which I already mentioned before. So what’s the solution? We can blow the whole thing off and use just the simplest production techniques actually turning it into advantage – handmade, which has recently become extremely popular. The second solution is to broaden your knowledge and go for automation, meaning building the machines on your own. It takes time and surely requires lots of work, but it pays off. The results are much better and cheaper in the long terms. All the machines in our workshop have been either built from scratch for producing longboards or rebuilt from ready cheaper machinery available on the market.
Automation in our company is present in possibly biggest number of stages, it reduces the risk of manufacturing defects, ensures better quality of the product and simply makes the work easier and faster. How did it work in practice? Actually very good. It does not differ much from professional and pricey solutions, which doesn’t mean there are no problems at all. Breakdowns always happen, and here we observe another advantage of our solution – you can fix things on your own. One can say that this requires specialist knowledge, which is true. I’ve lost count how many hours I’ve spent learning programming, mechanics, evaluating strength and rigidity of the structure, electronics etc. I’ve spent so much time analyzing the already-existing solutions as well as testing new concepts. There was something that helped me a lot with it – Open Source projects.
OPEN SOURCE NOT ONLY FOR GEEKS
Open source community is very large. We can find 3D design software, CNC programming software, programs for electronics or machines design or the ones for calculating. There are numerous driver projects for automation available. The community working in a particular project is very helpful. After all, these are the people who had similar problems and understand the principle of helping each other. It is quite surprising how much it can help small businesses in their development. Open source worked out for me and I try to be involved in the projects that helped me. The additional benefit is that it saves money – you don’t have to pay for programs’ license (which, in fact, can sometimes cost a lot). And what we get for free, measures up to the quality and professionalism of the competition.
Like I’ve mentioned before, longboard manufacturing industry in Europe is really small. Difficulties with implementing new solutions and modernizing the existing technologies – you need to deal with these problems on your own. There’s no space for “just another day in the office”. There are new challenges coming every day and new problems that require original approach. At first it seems interesting and engaging, but after a while it turns out to be quite tiring. What’s really important is your mental attitude – never give up. It might seem obvious and trivial, but I don’t mean that you should do the same things repeatedly and expect different results. When we test a new solution, sometimes it might take 30 costly attempts (in terms of money and time) to get what we want. It’s not always easy to treat the results stand-offishly and draw the right conclusions. “Never give up” relates to the attitude of constantly searching for bigger or smaller innovations, treating the existing solutions with reserve and naturally persistence in the actions we undertake.
IS IT WORK ONLY?
Confucius said: ” Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. That’s absolutely true, but these days are not always nice and enjoyable as I said earlier. However, when I sum it up, after all the adversities, it’s not that bad. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. What gives the biggest satisfaction in longboard making is the satisfaction of Alternative longboard users, seeing the riders enjoying our boards. It’s all about changing the small world around you for better. It’s about providing possibly best products at a reasonable price, which undoubtedly makes up for all the difficulties we encounter.