Building a sustainable social business comes with many challenges, but the quality of the product itself is one factor that can make or break success. How do we keep producing a high-quality product, and how do we ensure this production can be sustained in the future?
We’ve enlisted Leah Putman, an engineer who brings years of experience working in both American industries and low-resource environments to join our Rwanda team in tackling these challenges.
Quality is Key
In order to have a business that lasts, Leah knows we have to be “producing a stable and reliable product that girls can count on.” To keep accomplishing this, Leah has begun to work on improving the consistency in our banana fiber supply chain. This can be difficult since rainy season in Rwanda can cause unpredictable downpours that extend fiber drying time by days. Our team will build a storage facility to dry the material at the supplier, which will reduce the amount of time spent on drying and washing of fiber. In the meantime, 2017 is already on track to be our most productive year yet.
Eyes on replication
SHE is solving a global problem, and we never take our eyes off the big picture, which is the replication of SHE28’s model. With every minor and major step we take in production, we always keep replication and scale in consideration.
On a large scale, we recently implemented some new machinery (pictured above), which our staff affectionately refers to as “The Turbo King Machine.” This technology boosted our production capacity- we’ve made nearly 60,000 pads already this year! In order to recreate this technology, our staff will have an important challenge.
The SHE production team will recreate this technology with parts that are easy to find, replace, and repair locally within Rwanda. If we are able to rely on locally sourced parts, we ensure sustainability and prevent many of the common failures that traditional development projects often face.
But even on a smaller scale, Leah noticed that the adhesive that holds the pads together before they are sealed is currently imported, but could be made locally. She is experimenting with different formulas that would be “easy to use, stick well, cost-effective, and easy to make anywhere.” Even in her free time, Leah is tinkering with different formulas at her kitchen table.
These incremental improvements will produce big returns. Local sourcing increases our impact on the local economy and lowers our unit costs so that we can reach as many women and girls as possible.