UPDATE: This post reflects Uuni as of Summer 2014. The Current model is manufactured in China. Uuni ships from local warehouses in East and West Coast USA as well as from the UK.
As Uuni 2 is now shipping, it’s a great time to give a little insight into what goes into Uuni logistics. And, to be perfectly frank, why we still find it a little difficult.
TL;DR: Uuni 2 is now shipping. Shipping is hard. We’re getting better at it. Exciting times.
Uuni’s are currently made in Finland. Main benefit of this for us it that we can visit the factory easily, much more so than, say, if it was made in China. This also provides us with some logistical nightmares. Finland is a fringe country in that there isn’t dedicated freight ships heading to USA or even UK everyday. In fact most, consignments we’ve sent go via mainland Europe, Germany or Holland. It’s slow and not too cheap. Sea freight to UK costs around $12 per unit, not too bad, but for US the number is already more like $20. And as we had to fly stock in to US last time around, due to manufacturing delays, we were paying around $50 per unit for just getting them in the warehouse. For a not-cheap-to-produce product these extra costs hit the margins pretty badly.
Having to fly stock in this summer was hopefully a one time only solution and we can manage stock levels better in the future. We’ve only got 12 months behind us so we’re still learning. But learning fast!
For warehouse-to-customer logistics, we use a company called Shipwire. They make it possible for a
small tiny company like ours to ship to customers around the world. They take care of storage for us and as soon as someone orders an Uuni, they ship it to them pretty much automatically.
It’s great when it works but as it’s a one-size-should-fit-all solution there’s no room for customisation. For example, since our main product, Uuni 2, is slightly oversized at 14x36x51cm and 10 kg when boxed, they don’t have a box big enough to ship it in. What this means is that if some orders an extra peel, it has to be send as a separate shipment instead of just with the Uuni. This is silly as the peel is only 1 mm thick and wouldn’t really take any more space with it. This also means that when we start selling wood pellets and other products, we can’t consolidate them into one shipment making the overall cost high.
In the UK, we’re about to start shipping from our tiny office. This means that 1) there’s no wait between stock arriving in the country and us being able to ship it. We can also package the Uuni’s in a external box to further protect them. This box we’re using is actually just the right size so we can include a 5 kg box of wood pellets with it as well (we’re starting selling those in the UK next week!) Or the same box can be used to ship 3 boxes of pellets instead.
This is a test we’ll run for the next couple of months and will hopefully be very good at it by the time it’s Christmas and people are buying these as Christmas presents.
I’m excited about this as it gives us another touch point between you, our customer, and us. A much more hands-on relationship where as previously it all just happened somewhere in the background.
US is a different matter. It’s a large country, da- obviously, and we don’t yet have on-the-ground operations there. Maybe in 2016 we will, if all goes well. But at this stage, we’re keeping our eyes open for a trusty partner to work with on the West Coast. Or perhaps in the middle of the country near a transport/freight hub. It’s all about being able to provide better service while keeping the business viable.
All in all, it’s been a big learning curve in getting a good handle on shipping physical objects around the world (28 countries and counting!). I did say to Darina, my wife and partner in Uuni, once that I wish I had come up with something small that fits neatly in a first class envelope. Maybe one day, but looking at our product roadmap for the next 18 months, it’s unlikely.