Industry 4.0, Digitalization, Augmented Reality, Autonomous Driving – these and many other disruptions to supply chain processes are currently in the media spotlight. All of these topics provide evidence that we live in a fast-paced, innovative world. An example: While the first clunky smartphone named IBM Simon, which offered basic features such as sending and receiving faxes and e-mails, was invented in 1995, technology has developed today to include intelligent and revolutionizing Wearables like Google Glass in less than ten years. Even the slogan of the 32nd International Supply Chain Conference in Berlin, Germany, addresses the fast-paced world we live in: “A World in Motion”. The fact is, we are moving faster. The latest trends grab our attention at an astounding rate, and you might get the impression that you are not moving fast enough to exploit the advantages associated with this revolution.
There is no escaping the digitalization revolution, as you are always surrounded by modern technology. But, there are still a few activities that can calm you down after a long and exhausting day of keeping the world’s value chains in motion. Out of all the hobbies, from going to the gym to railway modelling, there is one special activity that really removes you from the noise and carries you “back to the roots”: Fishing.
Within a span of 40,000 years, fishing moved from being essential for survival, to a strong business sector, as well as a pastime for hobby fishers. To me, fishing was never really interesting. My grandfather took me to a lake once, when I was about seven years old. After a very long, uneventful wait on the waterfront, I was proud when at the end of the day, I reeled in one Common Rudd. Despite never becoming an avid fisher, one aspect of this activity grabbed my attention: the fishing rods. I recently discovered that elaborate production processes are used to produce fishing rods in order to ensure quality and functionality.
The value chain
The pole as the foundation
A fishing pole can be made from several raw materials including (but not limited to) bamboo, fiberglass and graphite. Using graphite in fishing equipment offers significant advantages:
- high strength
- low weight
- low expansion caused by temperature
According to a popular American manufacturer for graphite fishing rods, G. Loomis, the production process starts with measuring the thin films of graphite. After cutting out the blanks, the rod is formed into its typical shape by heating the graphite and wrapping it under high pressure around a steel mandrel, with the aid of a special machine. This steel mandrel helps bring the graphite into its common appearance and is removed after the production process. After the forming process, the individual style of each exemplar depends on the next treatment steps: the graphite is either sanded, giving it a matte look, or it is covered with special paint to create a shiny surface and different colors.
Style and color are, however, not as important as a reliable grip, because even common carps can weigh up to sixty pounds, and therefore create a strong pull when they´re hooked. Therefore, a good handle is required in order to produce a high-quality rod. For this purpose, manufacturers often use cork, which offers a low-weight and comfortable grip for the fisher.
Circular guides, including the “top guide”, are also mounted to the pole. The small guides lead the fine line from the reel to the upper end of the rod, where the top guide serves as the last point of contact before the line and the hook hit the water. To ensure a perfect fit for the top guide, and consequently ideal functionality, it has to be manually aligned to the reel seat by trained workers. The amount of manual and expert labor required in the production process really stood out to me, making this production process truly amazing. Watch this example in the production video of the aforementioned manufacturer, G. Loomis.
The pole´s “add-on”
In addition to the production process of the pole, producing the reel contains even more complex actions, as it is a very detailed element of the fishing rod. There are basically three components to a reel: a spindle, a spool and the frame. The spindle is often made of steel and is the inner part of the reel. It has different gears that enable the fisher to control the speed at which the line rolls when a fish is hooked. The spool, where later the fishing line is rolled on, is made of aluminum, as is the frame. Out of the variety of components needed to ensure functionality of a reel, there is one amazing feature that I want to present in detail: the spool, which is provided with a so called click plate. This special gadget creates clicking sounds as soon as the line rolls from the reel to alarm the angler that a fish took the bait.
Producing and assembling all parts of a reel also requires precise manual work, as you can see in this documentary:
Last but not least…
Now that we have the pole and the reel for the fishing rod, we still need one further important piece of equipment for successful fishing: the fishing line. Experts refer to three different types of lines: braided, monofilament, and fluorocarbon fishing lines. Each material has to fulfill several requirements: a particular tear-resistance, invisibility in the water and good stretch.
Putting the three elements – pole, reel and line – together, the complete fishing rod is finished. According to a growing trend toward individualization in products, suppliers offer the possibility to select all these three components individually, to create the perfect fishing rod fitted to the kind of fish the angler wants to catch. On the one hand, this wide range of components serves as an advantage to the customer. However, on the other hand, it creates a more complex supply chain as manufacturers and retailers have to ensure availability for a large variety as well as a reliable delivery service.
You can never escape from supply chain
At least for a short time, fishing might be a good solution to escape from our fast moving businesses, and offers an opportunity to recover from the fast moving world around us. But even when dwelling in a scenic area, you are still in touch with the supply chain – just by holding your fishing rod and waiting for the big catch. The manufacturing process of the three components for a complete fishing rod is dependent on great expertise and elaborate manual work, and therefore I call it an amazing supply chain.
What are some other products with amazing supply chain processes?