As the new Shimano facility in Sydney was being constructed, it was hard for Shimano Australia Managing Director Matt Bazzano to mask his pride. For Bazzano, Shimano is not just business, it’s personal… it’s family. Since the 1930’s his family has been deeply entrenched in Australian cycling; Velox Engineering Works manufactured hubs while Bicycles Incorporated (Binc) imported Miyata bicycles, Hutchinson Tyres and Shimano components. Shimano subsequently invested in Binc and over time it evolved into Shimano Australia, covering both cycling and fishing.
Located south of Sydney in Caringbah, a few kilometers from the site where Captain Cook first landed in Botany Bay, the new Shimano facility is one suburb across from the previous Taren Point offices and incorporates generous warehouse space, administration, a showroom, and rooms for training and demonstrations. I was welcomed to the facility by Toby Shingleton, who moved over a year ago to Shimano as the Brand Manager.
The facility has been in operation for a month and there is still the tell-tale ‘new’ feel. Above the reception on the second floor, the large showroom space is empty and will soon be filled with point-of-sale displays and equipment. Neighbouring rooms on the second floor will host product shows, demonstrations, and training for bike shop staff.
The new Shimano Australia facility
Upstairs on the top floor, the administration is like any typical open-plan office space and is bustling with energy. The fishing division boasts large format trophies of (model) fish, similarly the bike division has demo bikes and equipment peppered between the desks.
The pride and joy of the new facilities is the warehouse which makes up over three quarters of the new building. Decked out with obligatory fluro yellow vests, I joined Toby as he guided me from the offices, through the storage area with demonstration equipment, and onto a platform overlooking the vast storage and packing area.
Inside the Shimano Australia Warehouse
Shimano Cycling Australia differentiates itself notably from other Australian distributers and wholesalers with most of the Shimano components entering Australia already built onto bikes. Shimano Australia still looks after warranty and servicing for this gear, irrespective from where it was purchased, and Toby assures me that warranty requests are minimal. The bulk of the stock imported by Shimano Australia is for after-market sales; upgrades and replacement parts. Shimano look after 1000 accounts ranging from the small family bike shops to large Australian online retailers.
The warehouse features row after row of shelving and houses both the bicycling and fishing accessories. There is also generous space to accommodate large trucks dropping off 60 foot containers, fresh off the ship, which are unloaded and packed onto the shelves.
Robotic state-of-the-art storage and dispatch for smaller items
For the small format items, Shimano have a German built, robotic storage system. Each new item coming into storage is digitally tracked. The products are placed inside containers called lugs, each lug can contain fishing and cycling accessories. The system weighs the lugs to confirm that the correct number of items have been placed in (or removed from the lugs).
The robotic conveyor systems collects the lugs from storage racks and transports them to a collection area where ‘packers’ can select the correct items from the lug to pack into boxes. The lugs are then returned to storage and the inventory is automatically updated. The automated process cuts out time previously required to manually locate each individual item required for a shipment.
There is an additional human check of the contents, which is conducted before the boxes are sealed and moved into the dispatch area, ready for shipping to the bike shop.
Storage for larger format items
For the larger format items, staff are guided by a voice command system which informs the ‘pickers’ over their headset of the aisle and location of each item. Once an item is collected, the picker tells the system (via voice command) and then receives the next instructions. Many of the large format items are fishing rods and sets, which are packed by hand, and then join the smaller consignments for the daily dispatch.
The hi-tech warehousing, tracking, and automatic stock taking still requires human input, and the purchasing managers need to plan ahead to ensure accessories are in stock. They need to know about new product developments and trends as well as manage delivery times and factor in availability and shipping times.
Walking around the warehouse space, it is obvious that it isn’t at capacity, and Toby confirmed that the warehouse was built with the possibility to expand; additional shelving, automated storage, and packing systems can be added in the future as required.
For the average cyclist requiring a new rear derailleur or cassette, there will be no noticeable differences. Similarly, the processes for bike shops remains the same. But with the continuing growth of cycling in Australia, Shimano will be able to increase their efficiency, particularly during busy periods, and have ample room to grow.