One Product and a great amount of unseen steps

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August 21, 2016

How often do you ask yourself what’s behind a product or a service? Naturally, we enter the supermarket and shop ‘till we drop. There is nothing stopping us. If one store doesn’t have what we want, we’ll simply enter the next one or even order it online.

One thing I realized this week is that behind every product or service there is a great amount of unseen resources, such as material, process, time and people. It’s not necessarily a special thing for Tanzania, but more a realization in general (even though there might be more time involved in Tanzania). In my opinion, if we start to think a little bit about what was needed to create a certain product, we will be more grateful for it and happier using it in the end.

The journey continues …

On Sunday morning, Masomito and I pack our stuff and head to the Julius Nyerere Airport in Dar es Salaam to catch our plane to Arusha. Moshi and Arusha are probably two of the most known cities in Tanzania. All the safaris to Tarangire, Ngorongoro and Serengeti National Park start from there as well as the hiking tours up the Kilimanjaro.

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As we arrive, the sun comes out, but it’s clearly colder than on the coast. If you ever plan to come here, bring a jacket! We take a cab and after passing a couple of coffee plantations, where even Starbucks buys some of their coffee beans, we arrive at Safe Water Now.

What is Safe Water Now?

Safe Water Now is a non-profit organization providing expertise, services, and resources to solve the problem of unsafe drinking water in Tanzania. Mr. Kimerei is the proud owner of the sustainable manufacturing business in Arusha called Safe Water Ceramics of East Africa. He employs 8 people and does exactly what we want to establish in Kigoma in the western part of the country.

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We heard of Mr. Kimerei and his business by coincidence only. A good friend of Masomito told him in Dar es Salaam about a clay waterfilter they are using at his house. Masomito tracked it down and got in touch with Mr. Kimerei. He was really enthusiastic when he heard of our project, so we decided to stop by at his waterfilter shop and meet him.

When we arrived, Mr. Kimerei showed us, how he builds his filters. Multiple steps are needed to ensure the best quality of the product waterfilter.

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The materials have to be crushed, sieved and mixed in the right ratio for a sufficient amount of time. Here, we saw room for improvement in our manufacturing process since Mr. Kimerei uses the help of machines to ensure the right quality for every batch of filters. He built a motor-driven sieve, a hammer mill and a mixing machine all by himself to simplify the process of preparing the materials.

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We decided to extend our stay in Arusha and build the machines together with Mr. Kimerei. Standardizing this process will make it easier to expand the idea to further regions.

The next day, we took a Dalla Dalla (minibus) to Arusha to go shopping. This is a great and cheap way of getting from A to B. Their only problem is that they can cause traffic, because of their unpredictable driving behavior. Driving past the beautiful Mount Meru, we searched for all the materials needed to build the machines. Again, this was quite a challenge since there is not “one hardware store”, where we find everything. It is more like heading from one store to another asking around for metals, bearings, screws, etc.

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The bearings are a good example for a long supply chain with numerous processes. We found a store, which sells them, but ran out of stock. The salesman assured us to have them the following day. He will get them from his supplier, who received them from the manufacturer in China. In fact, we obtained the bearings the following day and integrated them during multiple steps in our machine to connect the shaft with the frame of the mixing machine. In the end, the bearings will be fundamentally important and contribute to our product.

Investment in people

Talking about the shopping, it is interesting to see that in Arusha a lot of what we consider an “actual” store is either run by Indian or by an Arabian. How come that only a few Tanzanian own the “big businesses”? In Masomito’s opinion it is a “lack of resources in the local communities”. In this context, he tells me about the first president of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere (same name as the airport in Dar es Salaam). Almost everyone likes him because he invested sustainably into the people and created programs such as the SIDO (Small Industries Development Organization).

“Investment into people” is what Mr. Kimerei does also. He cares about the young ones especially. “It makes so much more sense to me to pass on my knowledge to the upcoming generation. They will take it, use it and improve it.”

According to this, we continued our work together with Babu, who is a 17 year old welder. He worked with the provided material and formed the first parts of our mixer and hammer mill.

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If everything works out, we will complete the machine until August 24th, ship them and survive our 18 hour bus ride from Arusha to Kigoma. Until then, we enjoy our time with Mr. Kimerei, his Team and the beautiful scenery of Arusha.


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