Edinburgh Napier-led Cycling Supply Chain Research suggests action plan for circular bicycle manufacturing industry

With sales of 30 million units projected in Europe by 2030, Edinburgh Napier University researchers have explored how best to add resilience to the industry supply chain for Cycling Industries Europe.

Opportunities for Scotland discussed at Scottish Mountain Bike Conference

Lockdowns during the pandemic highlighted the mental and physical health benefits of cycling as never before; but as demand for bikes soared, the corona virus also brought into sharp focus the pressure on the cycling industry’s global supply chain.

As the EU bike market now starts to re-accelerate, anticipating projected sales of 30 million units by 2030, Cycling Industries Europe (CIE) have initiated a research project named “Bridging the Gap” to evaluate the state of supply chains in the European cycling market after the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project derived a set of strategic actions that companies, governments, investors and associations can take to ensure a sustainable supply of bicycles and allied products to European markets within a complex global supply system.

Commissioned in 2021, the “Bridging the Gap” consortium includes researchers from Edinburgh Napier University (amongst them Dr Eoin Plant O’Toole and Prof Christof Backhaus), MotionLab in Berlin, and Sporting Insights (formerly Sports Marketing Surveys), London. The group analysed supply chain order- and sales data obtained from manufacturers and component suppliers in the cycling industry and conducted anonymous interviews with supply chain managers and senior executives to give qualitative views on the causes and possible solutions to challenges in supply chains. In addition, the project included a large-scale consumer study with more than 6,200 respondents from six European countries, with this part of the project having received financial support from Cycleurope, Trek, Accell Group, PON and Specialized.

“Supply chain pressures have partly been caused by external factors such as long supply chains due to the concentration of bicycle manufacturing in the Far East, Covid-induced shortage of logistics capacity, and shortages of raw materials”, Dr Backhaus told delegates at this week’s Scottish Mountain Biking Conference in Aberdeen, where he presented some of the project’s findings. “However, the study also highlights several structural issues within the industry, which make it less able to respond to the challenges than comparable sectors. These include a multitude of actors, little integration, lack of information sharing, and a past tendency to react to challenges by ordering further and further ahead, rather than exploring ways to re-design the supply chain.”

“We have included recommendations to improve collaboration and transparency, which will be key to reforming supply chain effectiveness in Europe”, added Dr Plant O’Toole.

At the conference, the Napier researchers shared a platform with Edward Shoote from South of Scotland Enterprise. They discussed the specific opportunity for Scotland to adopt a circular economy approach to bicycle manufacturing, with support from its enterprise agencies.

The separate consumer demand study examined six large and representative markets, analysing how consumer behaviour and demand changed during the covid pandemic and getting an early view on buying predictions for coming years.

“We anticipate more demand from younger cyclists, more female cyclists, and an increase in the consumer base for e-bikes,” says Kevin Mayne, chief executive of CIE.

“The EU Commission will publish a new cycling declaration in early 2023, and this presents an opportunity for the industry to build international cooperation and improve both reliability and sustainability around its supply needs,” adds Kevin. “Ultimately, CIE aims to contribute to reaching EU goals on road safety, public health, and the sustainable growth of mobility. “Bridging the Gap” has created for us a set of strategic recommendations that will support the expected growth in bicycle sales in Europe over this decade.”

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