We had a chat with Marie Salmon, our head of global operations, who recently returned from a visit at our production partners in China, where she was implementing procedures in order to boost our quality on the assembly line.
Let’s set the scene - what’s your role at unu?
I run the global operations at unu which means everything from production, to quality check, to warehousing and to local dispatch.
One of the main project we have been working on since early 2016 is to boost the general quality of the unu electric scooters even more to achieve high quality scooters.
Can you describe what the supply chain looks like at unu?
When setting up the Supply Chain it was crucial for us to be in line with our most emphasized value; ‘Simple Perfection’.
We work hand in hand with our manufacturer in order to source the best suppliers with the best quality to optimizing the assembly line. The supply chain takes place in six acts; 1) sourcing and procurement, 2) assembly, 3) third party inspection , 4) freight, 5) warehousing and final inspection, 6) local dispatch for client delivery. The whole process takes about 8 weeks.
That seems like a long time?
We put an emphasis on high quality and we would rather add an extra week to the process than taking the risk of shipping a defective product.
What does the quality control plan look like?
The quality control is divided in two major categories; technical and visual.
Our manufacturer runs a first quality check when the scooter gets off the assembly line. This first test is focusing mainly on the technical aspect of the unu such as is top speed reached and does the light function as intended. Afterwards a third part company runs an in-depth quality control on each unit. The report covers both the technical and Visual aspect. In case of insufficiency the electric scooter goes back on the assembly line or to the engineers. It is crucial for us to understand each problem as this helps implement solutions directly at the source. The last step of the quality control plan happens in Germany before the electric scooter is shipped to the customer.
Can you tell us a bit about the general setup?
If you were to climb the supply chain upstream, it would all start with our User Advocacy team who is ensuring that every unu driver get’s to know the unu experience to its fullest. They report and support each problem with audio and visual materials and they create sustainable solutions to be implemented at the source. I love these sessions with Ferdi, Thomas and Pablo, they blow my mind with their creativity every single time. Furthermore, we have Thomas and his team of engineers who provides the UA team with ‘how to fix’ guidelines. Thomas has two battle fronts - finding the root cause of new and non-identified field problems and assisting our service partners in offering the best service experience to the unu users.
So we know that you constantly aim to improve the quality, but what do you actually do to reach the wished standard?
Once we reach a level and it is fully integrated in every layer of the supply chain we’ll challenge the standard and see how we can improve it further.
Each quality improvement is tracked at various steps throughout the assembly. Furthermore, we have a very sharp team of engineers and inspectors to track the changes, to make sure the solution doesn’t cause further issue we did not think of. The key is to be sustainable and smart.
Why have you chosen China for the production?
China is a leader when it comes to producing electric scooters. They are innovative, flexible, quick and efficient. We are working closely with our manufacturer and they bend backwards to answer our needs. Communication is key, which has led us to a very trustful relationship where we daily exchange information to track activities and improvements.
diagram source // ceptara
You follow the 5S system, why is this method efficient?
5S is a universal language of quality and efficiency in a workplace.
When discussing the different approaches and methods we could use to optimise the factory with our manufacturer, we quickly realised that 5S was the most accessible and that our manufacturer could easily understand and identify to the 5S.
Of course listing the 5S as a new approach to work isn’t sufficient, one needs to work directly with the workers to educate them in thinking 5S, to rely on the 5S every step of the way.
Can you describe a bit about unu’s service policy?
When it comes to our service we operate after a very simple principle: we are there for you from the first moment you hit the road with your unu. If the unlikely case of a problem with your electric scooter occurs our service team is available for you immediately via phone and mail. We will assist you from that point on to make sure you will be back on the road as fast as possible / in no time. Our service team is trained to identify the problem together with you and the garage and to make sure to fix it in the best possible way. To guarantee that your unu electric scooter gets the best care we only distribute to cities where we have service partner garages and thereby can promise you to provide the high quality of service that is our own standard. When it comes to service we do not compromise and we believe that there exists a solution for every problem no matter how big or small it is - this is what high quality scooters mean to us.