Topo Development | Starting Production and Planning Fulfillment
Any guess on the best place to produce polyurethane products? And why is it so expensive to ship to Australia? Let’s find out.
We found something broken (flat office ground) and we found a way to fix it (Topo). Now how do we get Topo under standing desks everywhere?
You’ll be amazed to hear it, but we have to make units and ship them out! Groundbreaking, really. But figuring out how to make Topo at scale, and how to deliver to standing desk users everywhere is anything but obvious.
With the calculated terrain features perfected and final CAD (computer-aided design) files in hand, we contacted every polyurethane foam manufacturer we could find to get a quotation.
And we found a lot of manufacturers of car parts. Seriously, I now have a garage full of samples with Ford, Dodge, and even Bentley stamped on them. It turns out that most of the polyurethane business in the USA is making very firm foam bumpers and dashboards.
Whether due to our enthusiastic elevator pitch or some alignment of the stars, several major polyurethane factories that specialize in automotive parts were interested in our business! Unfortunately, they are used to taking orders for a million+ units, and their quoted prices for a startup like us would have put Topo at $200+ in retail. That just wasn’t going to work.
Fortunately, we were able to find reputable factories abroad with serious expertise in softer polyurethane foam manufacturing. I’ve been blown away by the process knowledge and responsiveness demonstrated by these international suppliers, and their willingness to work with us on every little detail – from texture to environmental impact of the materials, to the way brand new Topo units smell right out of the box.
We landed on a producer in the port city of Xiamen, on the southeast coast of China, which was a historic center of tea exportation to the western world. They’ve started making the production mold for Topo, and will be buying materials before the pre-order campaign (just around the corner, eeeeeek!) wraps up.
So with production in a good place, it was time to turn to fulfillment (ok, we actually started this as soon as we identified potential manufacturing partners).
Most foreign manufacturers quote Free on Board (FOB), meaning they are in charge of getting Topo to a shipping dock at their local port, and we’re in charge of the rest.
So we’ll soon have containers full of standing desk awesomeness at a port half way around the world. That’s a little scary.
After a serious crash-course in freight shipping, customs practices, and tax law, we have a great plan.
The factory will batch shipments into containers headed for different regions of the world, and take those containers to their local port. From the port, our freight partners will pick up their respective containers and take to the high seas, ultimately (~40 days later) depositing their individual payloads at ports in the USA, Australia, Germany, and England. At which point trucks will pick up the containers (some of them will split to two trucks with different destinations) and drive them to fulfillment centers as close to pre-order backers as possible.
Oh, and of course, we’ll pay customs fees and taxes whenever the shipment crosses an ocean or a border. Which, by the way, vary wildly by area (US charges 2.7%, Australia close to 30%, for example). To keep you EUers from having to grab your checkbook upon delivery, we’ll also pay the VAT for you upon import.
Enough tax talk.
These fulfillment centers are incredible, largely thanks to the pioneering work Amazon has done. They will accept the container, unpack it, pack the units in individual shipping boxes, and send them out for just a few dollars each. Incredible times we live in.
And then, at the end of many long roads littered with strange (to us) laws and fees, your Topo will arrive to deliver healthy movement for optimal standing desk use.
And that increased health and happiness in the world is worth many times the hassle of figuring this stuff out.
Which is exactly why we’re so excited to be launching Topo in just TWO DAYS!
Tomorrow you’ll get an email (the last one before the launch, *sniff*) detailing exactly how Topo’s pre-order campaign works.
Then we’re one step closer to optimal standing for all!
Thanks for being a part of the Topo community. We couldn’t do it without you.