Interview with production manager Stefan Klahn
Welcome to this interview, Mr. Klahn. When did you join Lilian Labs and why?
I am now the second week as production manager at Lilian Labs. The measuring device LILIAN and the SensoSticks are finished and we will now build the production of the Senso-Sticks and the assembly of the measuring devices. I have 30 years of experience as a production manager. I have worked in the CD industry, in plastics technology and in the e-cigarette industry. My job has always been to set up production and logistics. This means: Ensuring productivity and quality, but also training employees and introducing standards.
Why did you choose Lilian Labs? What was so attractive about the job?
On the one hand, it’s the exciting and great product that fascinates me. The second is the real startup atmosphere that prevails here. The fair, friendly interaction. What you really call a team is lived here. It’s really fun to work here, the product is revolutionary. To be able to produce a great product and work in a great atmosphere – what more could you want in professional life?
How should the production of the LILIAN be set up? What are the steps and the goal?
On the one hand, we have rented the corresponding production rooms so that we have enough space to carry out the processes properly and cleanly. The next step will be to provide all components for the LILIAN in logistics. Some devices are already ready, the last ordering phase will be completed this week.
The SensoSticks go through a 7-stage production process. The processes are semi-automated so that we can produce the planned quantities with the current number of employees.
What was the motivation to start at Lilian Labs? What do you appreciate about the company? What opportunities does it offer?
Lilian Labs has the potential to become a renowned medium-sized company within a very short time. It has all the characteristics that indicate that this company is taking off very successfully. At the moment we are talking about a small production, but I think we will have a very large production next year. Production is fun, that’s my life. Leadership, building a team, these are simply things that bring a lot of fun and joy.
How large are the production rooms? In what capacity can production take place there later? To what extent will production take place later?
The premises have approximately 250 m², consisting of two main production areas. In the first part the device is assembled, on the other part we produce the so-called SensoSticks. In a first step, we are planning a production capacity of 500 units per year for the devices. The production capacity of the SensoStick is initially 10,000 SensoSticks per day. If this is ensured, the production capacity will then be successively expanded to up to several 100,000 SensoSticks per month.
Production is carried out in one-shift operation, at most in two-shift operation. Three-shift systems or four-shift systems, some of which run over the weekend, are the source of many communication and quality problems. We would like to avoid these, because quality is our top priority.
What are the biggest challenges in the production of the LILIAN?
The biggest challenge – and this is my job – is to produce devices and SensoSticks from the production prototypes in correspondingly high quantities with the high Lilian Labs quality requirements. All work steps and materials must be precisely specified to ensure absolute repeatability of customer measurements. Accordingly, work instructions are written and quality check points set up.
Quality management is established and implemented according to industrial standards used in automotive and medical technology. This is currently being developed so that everyone knows exactly what to look out for during assembly. Third parties can also assemble a LILIAN in this way. The same applies to Senso sticks. Here, too, ongoing quality checks are carried out and statistically evaluated. With the help of batch tracking, Lilian Labs will always be in a position to sustainably ensure the high quality requirements of our customers.
When should the production of the LILIAN start?
A small series production was already installed at the beginning of the year. This will make it possible to produce around 2,000 SensoSticks per month. This is sufficient to supply existing test customers. The small series already covers all necessary production steps. These are then transferred to series production in an adapted form. Numerous preliminary work has already been carried out here. We expect first quantities for the sale from 01.09.2019.
Does Lilian Labs pay attention to the environment during production?
When buying new SensoSticks, the buyers receive a return label so that the used sticks can be returned to Lilian Labs free of charge. The supplier who produces the sticks for us then turns them into new plastic from which new SensoSticks can potentially be made. We already had the recycling process in mind during development. We have made sure that the SensoSticks are pure to make the recycling process easier and more efficient. In addition, the sticks require technical outer packaging to last longer and prevent moisture from getting in. The customers should also send this technical packaging back to us so that new packaging can be produced from it.
In addition, we pay attention to environmental protection when shipping by sending exclusively climate-neutral goods via the GoGreen programme of Deutsche Post.
Should the production be outsourced later or will it remain here in the premises in the longer term?
Setting up production is a challenge. Once this has been mastered, one can consider whether certain production steps should be outsourced or, for example, prepackaging should be ordered to an increased extent. It is conceivable, for example, to assemble the LILIAN hand-held measuring device at external service providers. The SensoStick production requires a lot of know-how, which we also want to carry out internally in the future.
What other special features are there in production? For example, do those who assemble the LILIAN need special training?
Each of the individual steps already exists in the industry. Of course, the right interlinking of processes is important so that we have a new, innovative system. New employees must of course be trained. These can be unskilled employees, but we prefer employees with manual training. It turns out that people with training usually work more carefully and grasp the comprehensive more quickly. We attach importance to this.
What do you personally appreciate about the LILIAN system as you have come to know it so far?
I appreciate that it is very easy for the operator. You simply hold the device in the water with the SensoStick, press a button and after a few seconds the measurement is complete. If you consider that today’s measurement officers still have to deal with chemicals in a time-consuming manner and there are many potential sources of error, the LILIAN makes it much easier for them. This offers many advantages in a wide variety of applications. The SensoSticks available at the market launch can determine pH value, free chlorine, combined chlorine and total chlorine content in parallel and are therefore particularly suitable for the swimming pool market. The LILIAN can show its strengths especially in the current shortage of swimming masters: Due to the time relief, the swimming supervisor has more time for the really important tasks.
What are the hopes or wishes for the production of LILIAN and for Lilian Labs for the future?
Our measuring system forms the basis for a large number of water tests that are used in a wide variety of areas. The aim of Lilian Labs is to continue to simplify the execution of water tests in these areas until everyone is able to carry out a water analysis quickly and easily without prior knowledge. We believe we can make a significant contribution to sustainability with water as a valuable resource.