SRAM’s hydraulic brake recall response: a win for all
Salt Lake City, UT, 2 February 2014 – Working in the medical device industry as my primary profession gives me some insight into how well or poorly a company can choose to address problems its products incur during use in the market. These issues are often the subjects of recalls overseen by government regulators who have the public’s safety in mind. Though management is often more concerned with the financial cost of such field actions emasculating a well-planned response due to financial considerations can have detrimental effects on the company’s financial health. On the contrary, a rapid, well-planned response strengthens the customers’ trust and will most certainly have a positive effect on the company’s bottom line in the long run. How well the company takes care of their customers will be the determining factor to how quickly the company recovers from the recall.
In considering SRAM’s response to the identified issue with their hydraulic brake systems we believe SRAM is doing almost everything right as this recall moves toward resolution. The company was informed of a problem with its hydraulic brake system during the fall cyclocross finals in November when brake failures during especially freezing temperatures affected the seals in the brake piston. SRAM quickly made a public announcement they had identified a problem and immediately informed users to stop using bikes equipped with the affected brakes.
We’re sure their engineering team spent countless hours poring through every detail of the brake design until they identified the root cause. While the cause was being identified the marketing department, with the blessing of CEO Stan Day, planned the steps of replacing affected units in the field temporarily with mechanical disc brake systems. A website was established as a forum to keep the public informed of the progress of the recall. SRAM published a video statement from Mr. Day in December further outlining the company’s plan of action. Finally, in January SRAM announced that when a newly designed hydraulic brake system is available in April 2014 SRAM will outfit customers’ bicycles with the new design should they choose to do so.
The one slight misstep we noticed in this process is Stan Day’s statement in the President’s letter admitting the cost to the company would be significant. If we had anything to do with the response to this recall it would be to omit statements about the cost of the recall to the company in public communications. Those statements belong in investor and internal communication where people who have a vested financial interest in the company are concerned. The public cares only about what will be done and how quickly and efficiently the activity will occur. And based on what we’ve seen so far the public has no reason to doubt SRAM will do everything it can to fix this issue.
We predict SRAM’s experience with this recall will be the force behind great things for hydraulic disc brakes on road bikes. Surely, SRAM will focus design and engineering efforts to eliminate not only the identified seal issue but also to initiate improvements in the functionality and durability of their hydraulic braking systems that were formerly only design considerations. In the end SRAM’s recall will likely advance hydraulic disc brake technology years ahead of its current state and we can’t wait to see the results.