Ducati, the dream realised.
If you had said to me this time last year, that I would be the very proud owner of a stunning Ducati Monster, I wouldn’t have believed you. I would have choked on my wine had you suggested I was also going to visit the birth place of the lovely Ruby, my 1200s.
It was the only thing we had ‘planned’ other than the ferry crossing. Well, we’d talked about it, but not booked anything. However, Fanny the sat nav had Bologna programmed in before we left home. It was essential, we were pretty much passing the door step.
If you have an interest in motorbikes, you need to go.
If you have an interest in, or own a Ducati you MUST go.
So, the night before we got to Bologna, we booked on-line. Very simple really. The only thing was, we didn’t know what time we would be going on the tour. We wouldn’t get confirmation until the next morning. So, we selected 11:45 as the first choice, 1:45 as the second. We were there in plenty time, so had time to wander round the big red Ducati sweetie shop, that’s across the road from the factory. Needless to say, we didn’t leave empty handed.
A spot of lunch (for a change) and very soon we were parking the bikes outside the factory. We weren’t allowed to park inside, that’s reserved for Ducati bikes only. Ed called it ‘inverted snobbery’. Watch out for the wee guy at the gate, nothing, but nothing gets passed him!
Our tour guide spoke magic English, as you can imagine. The tours are only offered in Italian or English. You are given a head set, which does help, so if you lag behind the group because your tongue is hanging out or your eyes are popping out, then you don’t have to miss any of the chat.
We started the tour in the factory. You are given strict instructions NOT to take any photos (bummer) and NOT to touch anything. Fair enough. Every nut and bolt is counted. Stay within the yellow lines is also essential and more than reasonable given the circumstances.
It was all a bit surreal. I had never been in a factory like this before. In actual fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a non-food factory before. Straight away, I was seeing parts for Ruby’s cousins, for Panigale, Multistrada and the new Scrambler.
I’m now going to make use of some information I got after the tour, so, giving credit to Ducati, and using the rules of C.A.S.E. (Copy And Steal Everything), here’s some information that you will know didn’t come from me!
In this area unfinished components arrive from external suppliers and are machined and finished. All the work stations use Computer Numeric Control to complete the necessary procedures (drilling, polishing and grinding).
KAIZEN (This bit I do ‘get’ having studied it during my ILM management training. I now understand it better, seeing it in action).
This Japanese word literally means ‘change’ (KAI), ‘towards the better’ (ZEN), and epitomises an entire production philosophy. The key features of Kaizen are: stock reduction (Lean Production), continuous improvement and ‘just in time’ methods.
The kit needed to assemble the engines provided in the ‘Supermarket’ area. The worker puts together the engine by picking, in sequence, individual components from a cart, which is transported along the line next to the support on which the engine is assembled.
In the engine cold testing area, 100% of the engines are tested in sound proofed chambers where the engine is connected to electric motors to ‘run’ the new engine.
sine the end of the 1960’s, almost all of the most important bikes in Ducati’s history have been assembled here. At the beginning of the lines, the engine is attached to the frame. Progressing down the automated line, individual components are added until the bike is finished.
Every single bike that comes off the assembly line is thoroughly tested to ensure maximum quality. Here, on the test bench, on-road bike usage is simulated. A full sequence of further tests is made and at the end of this phase, with the help of electronic simulators, the engines are fine-tuned and the emissions are checked.
Whilst all this is going on, you are walking down the middle of it all. You are within touching distance of things of beauty. I felt incredibly lucky to be able to walk down the middle of the factory and see where Ruby was born. There was so much to take in, I would happily do it all over again.
I didn’t manage to narrow down which section had been distracted when they were meant to attach my bolt to the gear shift, however, it did go through my mind! We were able to look through the door window of their top secret research and development area. A bit of window licking and we were onto the next section. The whole thing was amazing, but weird at the same time. Knowing that Ruby was there, only a few months ago, being nurtured by the Ducati team was in itself, unbelievable.
They’re a busy bunch, producing 40,000 bikes a year, one line can build a bike in an hour. It’s maximum efficiency using Lean Production. There wasn’t anyone hanging around doing naff all; everyone was busy, working a 10 hour shift and getting one hour off for a break.
After, the museum, fabulous. I have pictures for that!
Once we’d been round the whole tour, I wanted to do it all over again. I will do it again given half the chance. In the meantime, I’ll stick to the two-wheeled Monster in my garage. That’ll do nicely!