This past weekend Sandy and I traveled up to New Hampshire to celebrate the wedding of some good friends of ours. It was a beautiful ceremony and a great time. On the way home we had time to take a slight detour and visit York, PA which is the home of Harley Davidson’s Vehicle Operations Facility. The Harley Davidson Vehicle Operations Facility has been building bikes since 1973. This is where Harley Davidson Softails, Touring, CVO, and Trike Models are currently built and will soon be where all North American Harleys are built.
Harley Davidson has two tours of the York PA Vehicle Operations facility: the Classic tour which is free, and the Steel Toe Tour which requires a reservation and cost $38/person. We had originally just planned to do the Classic Tour, but I checked the website the night before and there were openings on the 9:30 AM Steel Toe Tour so I made our reservations.
With the price of Steel Toe tour ticket you get the 2 hour “behind the scenes” tour, a commemorative pin, a fancy safety vest, a group picture on the factory floor, and a $5 credit for the factory store.
On the tour you are required to wear safety glasses, safety vest, and steel toe shoes. Close toed shoes are required and the tour center provides these fancy steel toe slip overs.
The Steel Toe Tour was AMAZING!!! Unfortunately other than the group photo the tour guide takes of the group there is no photography allowed while on the factory floor. The tour takes you through fabrication where the tanks, fenders, and frames are built from american steel. You get to see the hydraulic presses press out the fenders and tanks from the raw steel sheets and then the robotic laser cutters trim off excess material and cut out the holes for mounting bolts and such. The frames are also built in this area and you get to see the robotic welders do their thing.
Then it is on to the paint factory where the fabricated parts are clean, prepared, primed, and painting. The frames are also powder coated in this area. Most of this process is done by robots, but at the end of the paint line there is a group of folks doing quality checks and fine finishing as needed.
Finally the assembly line where VIN number is etched onto the frame and motor. The engine and drivetrain (the engine and drive trains are built in Milwaukee, WI) are inserted in the frame and the motorcycle is fully assembled from the wheels and suspensions, to the wiring and controls, to the fairings, fenders, tank, seat, and accessories, to the final roll test. The motorcycle moves through the line on an autonomous cart at about 6 feet per minute passing different workstations with workers attaching and checking different pieces and parts. A build sheet is on every motorcycle which outline what model the bike will be and what options it will have. The line is rotated every 90 minutes so folks on the line are not doing the same exact thing over and over through their entire shift.
There was also a lot of work going on to prepare the factory for the new models it will be assembling in the coming months, including the new 2020 models. I am actually looking forward to planning another trip up there to see things when the new production lines are added.
It really was a great and informative tour. Not only was our tour guide, Ethil, great but several folks in the factory took the time to say hi. If you are in the York, PA area and somewhat interested in Harley Davidson (or even if you just find manufacturing processes interesting) the Harley Davidson Vehicle Operations Facility is definitely worth a stop.
The factory store is also pretty neat, it had a bunch of stuff that was exclusive to the Factory store. We picked up a few t-shirts and other trinkets.