Quality. It’s a word you hear a lot around DEDON. In fact, it’s kind of an obsession for us. We think about it constantly. The quality of our designs, the quality of our fiber, the quality of our weaving, the quality of our service, the quality of our lives – in everything we do, we want our quality to be the best. And then, when we’re absolutely certain that it is, we want it to be even better.
“From the very beginning,” says Hervé Lampert, our CEO, “the idea was to be the absolute reference in terms of quality. And achieving that has meant two things. First, producing everything for ourselves, so that we can control quality down to the smallest detail. And second, fostering a mentality within the organization of continual improvement, so that we’re always looking for ways to do things even better.”
To see what Hervé means, step inside the fiber production center at our Lüneburg headquarters. Here, in this immaculate, light-filled, hangar-like space, six state-of-the-art extrusion machines are spinning out 3,000 kg a day of DEDON Fiber, the world’s first and finest synthetic resin weaving material; the machines’ computer-calibrated dosage system can measure out ingredients down to the microgram, ensuring a consistency that verges on perfection.
In the quality laboratory just behind the extrusion hall, white-coated technicians are subjecting samples from each and every spool of DEDON Fiber to a battery of quality tests. Not a strand of fiber leaves the facility without meeting our exacting standards of strength, weatherability, color correctness, consistency and more. There are machines to simulate decades of exposure to sunlight, harsh weather and saltwater, and test the effects – or rather, the lack thereof – caused by red wine and sunscreen spills. Weatherproof, temperature resistant, toxic free, UV stable, fully recyclable, sustainable and exceptional in both look and feel, DEDON Fiber has revolutionized the world of outdoor furniture. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon. Just take a look inside the research lab, where a team of specialists is continually testing new variations on our formula — 20 years old this year— in search of new color ways, new textures and new consistencies, not to mention greater strength, resilience and durability. None of this would be possible, of course, if we didn’t control the production of DEDON Fiber. And the same is true for every phase of our products’ creation, from conception to manufacture to delivery at our customers’ doorstep. Each step of the way, ownership of the process and a mindset of continual improvement are the keys to unsurpassed quality. Just ask Vince Lampert, Hervé’s younger brother. A mere 27 years old, Vince is head of research and development at our Cebu production facilities. He may be young, but there’s no-one who understands the DEDON furniture manufacturing process better than he – Vince literally came of age with it.
In the summer of 2001, a year after his older brother Hervé had relocated to the Philippines to start our factory there, 18-year-old Vince arrived on Bobby’s farm in Lüneburg for the fourth summer in a row. He was there to help load containers, care for the horses and perform whatever chores needed getting done, but things were unusually quiet that summer, and Bobby informed him that it might be better if he went back home to France. The next day, Bobby drove him to the train station – only, it wasn’t a station, it was an airport. Vince had never been to Asia before. In fact, he’d never been on an airplane before. But now, speaking hardly a word of English, let alone Cebuano, he was on his way to the Philippines.
Hervé put Vince to work immediately. His task? To measure the production time of every single process in the manufacture of every single DEDON product – from cutting and bending the aluminum tubes, to welding the frame together, to powder-coating it, to weaving it, to finishing it, to packaging it, to sending it out the door. For 12 to 16 hours a day, stopwatch in hand, Vince observed first hand how the smallest of details fit into the big picture. Along the way, he learned how to perform each and every function for himself, picking up English and Cebuano while he was at it. At the end of the summer, having deferred school and convinced his mother to allow him to stay, Vince took on the role of DEDON’s chief quality inspector, checking every piece as it arrived at the end of the production line. But that wasn’t enough for Vince or his equally quality-obsessed older brother. With production ramping up and orders flowing in faster than ever, the two began putting in place a comprehensive, ISO-certified quality management system like no other in the industry.
A walk through the DEDON factory reveals a clockwork-like approach to manufacturing in which every aspect of production is painstakingly executed, supervised, checked and documented. It’s a level of activity almost unimaginable when gazing upon the sleek, stark lines of the final product. And yet, beneath its cool exterior, every item of DEDON furniture is a small marvel of manufacturing know-how. Unique in our industry for doing everything ourselves, we take full responsibility for the quality of the final product. That’s why we subject each piece to such intensive quality control. Vince reels off the numbers: “Eight quality inspections in the framing department alone, two inspection points in powder-coating, two in weaving and, at the end of the line, in packaging, four final inspection points, with each inspection lasting 12 to 20 minutes. Every piece of DEDON furniture is made by hand, of course, so there will always be differences. But if even the smallest detail fails to meet our standards, that piece goes back to production.” Every item that does pass inspection, meanwhile, receives a sticker with the name of the final quality inspector who approved it. “One of the keys to continual improvement,” explains brother Hervé, “is that we rigorously analyze what you call the root cause of any quality defect. We have a system in place that allows us to trace back all the different activities that went into making the product, so we’re able to determine why a problem occurred and ensure it doesn’t happen again.” DEDON’s approach to continual improvement is not limited to top-down quality control, however. Some of the best ideas for improvement come from the people who are doing the producing. That’s why we make sure our partners on the factory floor are deeply involved in the process. Programs like “My Improvement Proposal” and “My Continual Improvement” reward those engaged in each step of production for suggesting measures both large and small to further enhance the quality of the products they create.