The Educational Side of Manufacturing
We look at producing Onya Baby products as an adventure. In our quest to produce the best baby carriers available, we are constantly trying to improve both quality and construction techniques. I’m Billy Rickard, Onya creator Diana Coote’s brother. And as the one who handles Operations and Production here, it is my favorite aspect of the job. However, one of the most challenging things about manufacturing is when things don’t work out as planned. Before releasing a product on the market, we do as much real-world testing that we can. However, once it goes into wider use by the public, unanticipated results sometimes come up.
For some time now we have been experiencing a cosmetic problem with premature wearing of the waist belt safety elastic on some of our carriers. Once in use, the safety loop becomes wavy and a bit mis-shapen. Sometimes a string of rubber even pokes out of the fabric, ugh!
I do want to be clear, because this is the safety strap after all, that even though it doesn’t look very nice, the overall strength is not affected by this issue. The woven fabric component of the elastic webbing is very strong, and is actually where the integrity of the material comes from; where it gets its strength.
So, In an attempt to stop this from happening, and because we felt it might be a material problem, at the end of 2013, we upgraded to a much heavier duty version of elastic webbing. We did some use testing, and believed that this would solve the problem:
Since making this change, we have found that the heavier duty webbing did greatly reduce the premature stretching from occurring. A good thing! But, it has still been happening occasionally, mostly along the edges of the web. Closer inspection has revealed that in every case of this happening, the rubber thread inside the webbing that makes it stretchy was broken. In researching how this could be happening with brand new material, we realized that it must be happening when the carrier is being sewn together. Specifically, the needle was cutting the rubber threads during construction.
This brings us to the present, and the second adjustment to the manufacturing process to further improve the quality of our waist buckle safety loop. Switching to the use of a ball-point needle in the sewing process of attaching the elastic webbing to the waist belt. This is a specialty needle designed for delicate materials that a standard, sharp-point needle can (and does) damage. The ball-point of the needle pushes the delicate rubber bands in the elastic web to the side and sews around them, greatly reducing the incidence of cut, and prematurely failing elastic.
We know that this will further reduce the incidence of blemished elastic webbing. However, by how much? We will see… Manufacturing is a continual work in progress. We believe that we will never stop learning ways to improve our construction processes and make better products. Because our carriers and accessories are made by people, who occasionally make mistakes, there is always the possibility of flaws. We do have many layers of quality control checks in place at the factory to minimize the likelihood of a mistake making it to market, but it can happen occasionally.
That being said, perfection is a goal we will always strive for, and we welcome feedback from those of you out there using Onya Baby products.
We want to hear from you.
Let us know what you think would make our carriers better!
Because here at Onya Baby, we’re all about the journey.