Christini Technologies, Inc. is based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was founded in 1999 by Steven Christini. Christini Technologies developed a revolutionary two-wheel-drive system for mountain bicycles and motorbikes that provides unequaled traction and control on challenging biking surfaces. Christini all-wheel-drive motorbikes have captured critical acclaim and a number of accolades at national and international motorbike competitions. Since then they have been avidly testing, adapting and plotting the birth of a symbiotic system that would fit onto a variety of motorcycle chassis. In the highly competitive custom bike market, always having something fresh, like a new twist on gearing or braking, and getting that advantage to market quickly are critical to growth and survival. Something really new is a competitive advantage only if you are the only one who has it.
Truly new ideas are often the offspring of frustration. When Steve Christini, kept losing traction as he mountain biked in the rain, his frustration bore this idea: If Off-Roaders -- those charging across creek beds and countryside in all-wheel-drive (AWD) vehicles—aren’t hampered by bad weather, why should bikes be? Why not AWD mountain bikes? A few years later, Christini All Wheel Mountain Bikes has a very hot, much sought-after biking product. The patented radical design works like this: The bike incorporates a rigid, lightweight drive system within the frame of the bike. A secondary set of gears is mounted to the rear wheel. Once activated by a “shift-on-the-fly” clutch, power is transmitted via a hollow shaft through the frame and down the fork to the front wheel. The result is an AWD system that provides instantaneous power transfer while still providing a full steering range. Christini is now negotiating with several major bike manufacturers to incorporate all-wheel-drive into their bike lines.
Getting to this spot wasn’t all that easy. When Christini and his business partner, Mike Dunn, formalized the design for their all-wheel drive mountain bike, they immediately faced a major problem: Neither had experience working with suppliers of the machining services required to manufacture the precision gearing components of their radical drive system. Initially, they used the Yellow Pages to locate local suppliers, which worked to a degree but left them with no means to measure whether they were paying a reasonable price and/or receiving the highest quality.
Christini appreciates MFG.com’s online RFQ process because it allows potential suppliers to get up to speed quickly and improves overall communication.
The two then tapped MFG.com’s Web-based supply chain network. MFG.com provides comprehensive online sourcing for custom manufacturing services and intelligently matches buyer requirements with optimal suppliers. The system also provides sophisticated, easy-to-use technology for managing the sourcing process, collaborating, performing due diligence and establishing a private network of preferred vendors. Buyers post RFQs at no cost, and suppliers quote for business that meets their expertise and capacity.
According to Dunn, from the very beginning the company was up against a wall, making final design changes to the drive system with the largest bike show in North America only 11 days away. A superior presence at the annual event was critical to the success of the start-up company. “Our main concern then was time,” says Dunn, “and we knew we were running out. It was summer, and our go-to suppliers in Allentown and Philadelphia were booked solid. So we had to look outside—and fast. We posted our designs on MFG.com, and the very same day quotes began to come in. The next day, we found the one job shop that matched our skill and capacity criteria. Superior Machine Inc. (New Carlisle, IN) worked over the weekend to get our job done. Turnaround was six days. This single initiative on MFG.com proved crucial to our success.” Dunn reports that as a result of using MFG.com, they now have an established network of nine to twelve preferred suppliers across the country, including South Carolina, Illinois, Idaho and California — and the base continues to grow. Christini also has refined their cost structure by finding and using more efficient suppliers. Jobs, for example, that once carried a high per-piece price for machining now costs significantly less per piece — without sacrificing quality and delivery, simply by finding better suppliers.
“One of the slickest things about MFG.com,” Dunn says, “is being able to get our drawings out on the Web with the RFQ. This way when you select a supplier and make an initial call, he’s already reviewed the drawing and is up to speed. This certainly accelerates and enhances buyer/supplier communication.” Dunn says that after three years they continue to use MFG.com, especially for the more difficult, complex machining jobs — as well as to evolve and to enrich their preferred supplier network. And sales are moving along nicely: from 175 bikes last year to a projected 500 bikes this year.
“I seriously doubt that we could have surmounted all the hurdles in getting this business up and running without MFG.com and the Internet,” says Dunne. “We went from two guys with no experience dealing with suppliers to where we have a solid supplier base machining up to 27 different part numbers across the entire country. This allows us to concentrate on what we do best, redesigning, refining and improving our product — not searching for the right shop to make it.”
Christini has established a network of preferred suppliers from across the country—from South Carolina to Chicago to Idaho to California.