Know your H-O-T-T-A-P DNA to the letter
Go behind the scenes with Joolca founder Maciek as he visits our factory in China.
One of the beautiful things about running a family company like Joolca is that you can stay in touch with everyone who makes up your brand (ok, I guess Hilton Hotels used to be family-owned, too, but you know what I mean). There aren’t umpteen division heads between your cosy corner office and the assembly line where the products are manufactured.
Actually, in Joolca’s case, there are only three heads: one belonging to Will, who is sales manager at the factory; one belonging to Michelle, who is in charge of sourcing components; and one belonging to Gary, engineer and master of all moving parts. You’ll find all three in the below picture with the addition of mine, which is slightly taller than the rest. And, oh, yes, you guessed it: “Will”, “Michelle” and “Gary” aren’t their real names – they’re just very accommodating to culturally challenged Westerners (out of common decency, I naturally return the favour; whenever I deal with the Chinese, I call myself “Chaoxiang”).
Will, Chaoxiang, Michelle and Gary
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind a bit.
The Joolca factory is situated in a part of China where about 80% of all goods are made. It’s admittedly not the most picturesque place in the world, but the sheer scale of the industry here is mindboggling. You know all those household appliances that we like to think of as distinctly Australian, American or European, for instance? Well, chances are they first saw light of day right here (of course, the same goes for the phone you might be reading this on).
The manufacturing industry here have a lot of experience to draw on; the technology and operational skills are second to none; and with pretty much everything in the world being manufactured just around the corner, you can count on having access to any special components you might need. Highly recommended to any budding entrepreneur! Especially if you are happy to go the extra mile to understand all the ins and outs of the production process.
Knowing how your designs are taken from CAD drawings to real life has got some definite upsides. Liaising closely with the managers and staff at our factory, we have been able to perfect details such as heat resistance in our shower hoses, the sturdiness of the HOTTAP battery compartment and the ease of use of the water switches – all whilst keeping build quality up and costs down. Gary, the lead engineer, has been at the factory for seven years, and sales manager Will has been there for ten, so they’re excellent sounding boards for any ideas for improvements. What’s more, they’re really friendly people who appreciate building personal relationships with their clients.
I’ve been over to see them several times already, and this certainly wasn’t my last visit. It was however the first time I thought to grab some behind-the-scenes pictures for the inner circle here in The Shed. Like any good family company magnate (hello, Paris Hilton!), I even produced a couple of signature videos. So join me on this little pictorial journey along the assembly frontlines.
Careful viewing, though – this is hot!
Where it all begins: the stamping workshop creating the front and back panels for the HOTTAP.
A team of 12-14 people work the Joolca assembly line, the main components being manually fitted and controlled.
Water and gas regulator being connected to the heat exchanger, which comes in aluminised copper for extra corrosion resistance.
It’s all coming together now; the production line turns around and comes back on the other side. This lady is making sure that the gas inlet hose fits as it should.
Testing, testing, 1,2; 1, 2… Leave no stone unturned. Once assembled, every last unit is put through a rigorous trial, including testing for gas leaks with an open flame (don’t try this at home, dear reader). Knobs are turned and pressures and temperatures checked to ensure perfect function.
Test results on an easy-to-read display (if you know Mandarin).
Now I recognise you! The trademark HOTTAP front plate is finally mounted to seal the deal.
Handy cheat sheets are posted by each worker station, ensuring consistency across the board.
Operations and warning stickers being applied (for safety’s sake, we use Plain Engrish).
It’s all in the details. The new design for our suction filter, which stops debris from entering your HOTTAP. This one has a smaller mesh filter.
Everything in its place. The pump components of HOTTAP Outing go into a special insert.
There’s a special machine that puts the correct number of metal fittings for each HOTTAP into separate bags, which are then automatically heat-sealed.
Having dotted the否 and crossed the 正, the assembly team pack the finished HOTTAP units for secure shipping to their soon-to-be-a-lot-fresher Australian brethren.
And that’s the end of our little journey. Don’t know about you, but as an engineer and inventor, I find production lines absolutely fascinating. I had a lot to discuss with Will, Michelle and Gary, and they were equally keen to hear what I had to say. This factory has been in operation for over 30 years, and they take a genuine interest in developing whatever products they manufacture. Inspirational people.
A perfect fit for Joolca.
Of course, as always, if you should have any ideas for improvements or new products to complement our range, please get in touch.
As much as we’re proud of the quality that we have already achieved, we don’t ever settle. So, stay curious. Keep questioning what is. Remove the limits.
Our man in China,