LUDWIGSBURG. Cracks in the handlebar, broken frames: “Since the foundation of the company in 1993, we have learned a lot about what can fail on a bicycle, from a defective construction over fabrication to the use.” That’s how Dirk Zedler explains the secrets of his success. Today, bicycles of more than 60 manufacturers pass through his test laboratory at Teinacher Strasse 51. Strictly speaking, these are their prototypes before they are launched on the market. Further specialities of the company: The test machines are developed and built by Zedler and his team themselves. These are designed not only to meet the common standards, but also to reflect realistic criteria “in the field”, in order to avoid future claims. The Ludwigsburg institute draws up more than 850 expert’s reports per year.
As expert in demand
Zedler doesn’t want to reveal the manufacturers and brands which belong to his customers. A part of his success were allegedly attributed to discretion. General defects and material failure were, however, named and shamed again and again in own publications. On TV the expert is an appreciated source when it comes to safety on two wheels. And in his function as expert the graduate mechanical engineer is commissioned by insurers and international courts to analyse accidents or damage. He is therefore familiar with the varying needs of various cycle cultures. The production of the test machines (in collaboration with the Ludwigsburg machine builder Noller), the preparation of expert’s reports as well as technical documentations and user manuals for about 100 brands, which make technology “understandable and reparable” – these are the pillars of the Zedler institute. Their share of the total turnover of nearly two million Euro is distributed on one third respectively. The institute earns its money with the communication of expertise and knowledge. According to Zedler, 98 percent of their products actually consist of simple pdf-files going out into the world. In the past, the field of testing had allegedly experienced a disproportionate growth, because it is technology-controlled. Zedler explains that he could start eight test machines simultaneously, but that he could not prepare eight expert’s reports at the same time. Theoretically, he were able to operate the tests around the clock, some tests would last eight hours and longer. For the tests Zedler has certain basic programs which all bicycles have to pass. Subsequently, the institute continues with different test machines according to the bicycle type. In the case of road bicycles it’s the drive system which must withstand high loads due to the hard pedalling: in the case of mountain bikes it’s the forks. In the case of pedelecs the focus lies on the high weight.
More staff members necessary
Half of his team of 20 staff members are university graduates and engineers, but also translators (in the test department English is the predominant language), economists and craftspeople. With the 1300 square metres new building Zedler intends to grow his staff as well, three jobs being vacant currently. In terms of space and logistics the company at Teinacher Strasse where the bicycles and components to be inspected are delivered has anyhow reached its limits. According to Zedler, they no longer know where to pack all their cardboard boxes. The walls of the institute are not only decorated with numerous standing files. Bicycles, many of them historical ones, are fixed to the walls all over the building. This museum is to be enlarged in the new building, in order to offer guided walks for school classes. The training facilities are enlarged, as well.
Commitment to the technology location
For the enthusiastic road racer yesterday’s ground breaking is of symbolic value. “As commitment to the location Ludwigsburg. In the cycle industry everyone knows us.” In the region, however, he could further raise the company’s profile compared to all the other big companies of the automotive industry. “We are also very innovative and work with high technology solutions - however for two wheels”, says the 53-year old. He and his staff were happy to have found an area after a long search only 100 meters away at Hundshalde. Next year, everything is planned to be ready - 200 years after Karl Drais has developed the draisine, i.e. the prototype of today’s bicycle. Ludwigsburg’s City Councillor for Building and Construction Michael Ilk is happy that Zedler stays in Ludwigsburg. “We want to make cycling more attractive”, says Ilk. In his eyes the investment of the company is a small, but important component for the city. Besides its high sustainability as efficiency house, the new building is to reflect the company’s dynamic with the varying turnovers of the company’s pillars. The architect Harald Jahnke explains that everything can easily be changed from a workshop to an office.
Author: Michael Müller