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Turning Cold Steel Into Harley-Davidson Motorcycles

Is American manufacturing dead? Has the good ‘ol US of A become a land full of paper shufflers and burger-flippers? These questions continue to haunt many different industries and businesses in this age of outsourcing.

Thankfully, we have companies like Harley-Davidson to show us the way. While Harley-Davidson still clings to old school manufacturing values, they’ve also taken a hairpin turn into a modern age of processing efficiency that makes competitors eat their dust.


I’ve written about Harley-Davidson before, so I am familiar with their undying devotion to customer centricity. But here at SAP’s SAPPHIRE NOW event in Orlando, I’m hearing more about their amazing transformation story and I am nothing short of impressed by the company’s “all in” mentality to run like never before.

At the heart of this go-for-broke transformation strategy is the Global Manufacturing Enterprise Resource Planning (GME) initiative, which kicked off in October 2009. Ultimately, GME will help Harley-Davison inspire every customer, according to Dave Cotteleer, vice president and CIO of Harley-Davidson. “We want to deliver unique customer experiences to bring more people into the family,” he said during the SAP SAPPHIRE NOW Forum keynote session called “Improve Performance in Manufacturing, R&D and Sustainability.”

Here are other key facts that comprise GME:

  • Multi-year strategic initiative led by Business Process Transformation Group
  • Using SAP technology, GME delivered consistency to people, processes, data and systems across Harley-Davidson
  • Standardized and simplified numerous business processes, changing the way they work
  • Provided improved visibility and accuracy of data, better reporting and a clearer picture of the business

Ed Magee, General Manager for Harley-Davidson’s York manufacturing facility, shared impressive “before and after” GME results, some of which include the following:

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Sounds like Harley-Davidson is on the right track. What do you think? Sound off in the comments section below.

Hitch a ride with me on Twitter @TClark01

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  • Nice post Tim

    The Old vs New campus clearly shows what ‘Outcome’ based approach can do to various sections of a business.One has to look inside and connect it to the impact they want to create outside. I’m reminded of McKinsey’s ‘The Granularity of Growth’ published in 2008.

    Outsourcing strategy is a bit like Mobile strategy, it cannot happen in isolation, companies that carry out such critical measure in isolation, pay the price later. The smart ones integrate it and grow.

    • Thanks, Ramesh. The Harley transformation story is awesome. They knew going in it was going to have a fair share of ups and downs but they knew it was something they had to do. They persevered and, well, now look at them. They are thriving.