Hello all, Many of you ask about how and where we are producing and so I hope you find this insight, enlightening!

This week we finally got the long awaited patent examination report which means that we can now keep copycats in check. We've also got a top gun lawyer and he is doing a sterling job.

We've also got 15 large wheelie baskets to store our stock and hired a full time cleaner which means - clean floor, clean tents. Factories here get dusty like you wouldn't believe. It's the smog that carries a lot of dust and ash. We've also now painted over the concrete floor of the loading area downstairs and it too gets mopped every day. 

We've got an updated quality control system too. Anything that arrives at the factory gets immediately tested to destruction to ensure it's quality. This isn't new but now we implement it with no exception. For example we test our tread by trying to break it as soon as it arrives. If it doesn't break then it's good. If it does break it's sent straight back to the supplier before their driver has left our premises.

Quality control is a mine field here in China, so we've learned to not to put too much stock in labels, specs, brand names, prices and whatever mumbo jumbo they try to sell us. The only test is what I call - the "destruction test on arrival". 

Also, to ensure that suppliers deliver consistently, as per our specs, I now threaten to use another supplier. I discovered that only this is the type of pressure that works here. New shipment of YKK zips! Oh yeah! We are now starting to use YKK zips on all our tents. We had some zips fail in the past and we decided that there is no other way around it but to switch to YKK.

We are also soon switching our carton boxes to recycled ones. We use very little packaging and no plastic at all but now is time to eco - improve all our packaging. We are also now running quality bonuses for the workers, health insurance, and also a Virgin style company policy of no fixed working hours. Our workers have complete freedom to work or rest whenever they want, How cool is that? They also asked for accommodation adjacent to the factory floor. Yes, It's pretty basic by western standards but it's far roomier and better than the village that they used to live in - here they have heating, A/C, TVs, kitchen, bathroom with hot water, free wifi, washing machine. Some have their own rooms, some share with one other. Some have brand new wooden floors, some have river views - oh yeah!                                                      

I can't yet speak much Chinese and most of our workers don't speak English but they smile at me when I walk past and rush to help me with whatever I'm doing. There is a good vibe all around. Spread the love.  Of course, there are still issues to be resolved - quality control being the most persistent one. Our new quality bonus is directly linked to customer feedback. We are introducing serial number tags on each tent and any customer complaints impact directly on the bonus of the worker whose workmanship it is. Alex's idea. I call it "Judgement by customer" - objective, impartial, independent of office politics. 



Alex Shirley-Smith