Factory Visit – Self-Balancing Scooters

Factory Visit – Self-Balancing Scooters

 Visit to Shenzhen Freeman Intelligent Power Co (See Free Factory Videos inside)

Introduction
Shenzhen Freeman Intelligent Power Co., Ltd established in March 2013, was battery producer previous, and produces batteries for electric vehicles, power banks, cameras and tablets, and started their self-balancing scooter manufacture in this year. Freeman’s parent company, Shenzhen DBK Electronics Co., Ltd, was established in 2004.

Products
DBK has four factories, the factory in Jiangxi province is producing the power supplies and battery charger, and the three factories in Shenzhen are producing batteries for laptop, DC/DV, cell phone, interphone, PDA/PMP/MP3/MP4, as well as chargers and photographic accessories, which involve in many fields such as IT, telecommunications, digital electronics, consumer electronics etc.
Freeman managed to get the independent intellectual property rights of intelligent self-balancing electric scooter. Their products include self-balancing unicycles and scooters, such as, A4 Self balancing unicycle, F1-C 2-wheel self-balancing scooter, Electric scooter S1, F9 Freeman Mini Scooter.

Factory
They own a new industrial area of nearly 20, 000 square meters, with more than 1,200 employees and monthly production capacity of over 1.5 million sets. The factory has a burn in a room in which they fully charge and discharge the battery packs before they are assembled inside the scooters. Take note of how often the factory undertakes this process and whether they test the battery packs under different heat conditions.

Battery Manufacurer China

Quality Control
They have a professional quality control team with around 100 employees and have a quality inspection control system to make sure they are providing high quality products, good service and can deliver the finished goods on time.
The factory tests 100 percent of batteries before put into the production lines, even for the batteries from Samsung. The factory keeps a full record of quality failure rate. They have a zero failure on the incoming batteries from Samsung.

Battery Manufacturer China Test Station

Since the motors are part of the wheel, they also do fully tests after they are fixed to the scooter chassis. They have a 2 percent failure rate and find that 40 percent of the failures are due to connections inside the scooters (the rest of the failures are inside the wheel). They are working with the supplier to reduce their failure of the motorized wheel. The three scooters in the photo below failed the machine drive test. The final test is when a person rides the scooters.

Self Balancing Scooter Factory Test

Human Resources
Their staff turnover is 4 percent whereas other factories are around 10 percent. it is very low due to their bonus system and non-financial rewards given out, also they have employee activities every month.
They have a recreation area where staff can play with the products during their free time. The importance of having a low staff turnover is critical to quality and having a sustainable business, as less training required and learning curve associated with the onboarding of new staff. Over time, this helps the factory control costs and maintains profits.

Customer
They are doing both OEM and ODM for domestic and international customers. And their biggest oversea markets are US and Europe. They do not have a specific MOQ, because the MOQ for OEM and ODM are different, the unit price for the ODM is over 500USD, which is much higher than the OEM orders.
What is worth mentioned is they have an after-sales service department in Los Angeles, and they plan to set up the after service department in UK.

Competitive Advantage
Even though they are the manufacture of the battery, they still use the Samsung battery for the Scooter to make sure the quality and safety issue. The key parts of the scooters are the AC Charger, the battery, and the connections the link the battery to the motor. For Freeman, they have a history of making the AC adapter in the Jiangxi province factory and the factory in SZ is sourcing the component directly from their sister factory. Next the battery comprises 20 cells of 2200 mAH to make a 4.4 Amp battery for the scooters. Importantly, the cells are made by Samsung, which provides a high-quality level as the Japanese, and Korean firms have the quality control to necessary to make the rechargeable batteries stable over a lifetime of 800 to 1000 recharges.
For the connections that link the battery to the motor, Freeman has a kill switch that engages when the battery temperature gets to 60 degrees Celsius, or when the current exceeds a certain level. The photo below shows the owner with the kill switch mechanism in his hand.

Number one challenge and response
Their biggest challenge is how to perfectly match the motor with the mainboard in the scooter, because if they cannot match well, it will cause the problem of the reaction speed of the wheels and result in falling down from the scooter.
Positive
I met with the owner over a 3-hour period, during which time he described the history of his factory and his vision for the factory. He accompanied me through the whole factory tour, during which he took us through (we also videoed) every step in the process. At one stage, he showed us the temperature control and kill switch unit that they specifically designed but importantly he connected his hand to the anti-static wire during this time he was touching the electronic component (see earlier picture). This further showed his commitment to quality. The ultimate test of the commitment of the owner/factory is when it has its own brand. This puts the factories reputation on the line when a product fails. This also forces the factory to engage the end user directly and this process provides a direct feedback mechanism especially if something goes wrong.

Surprise
They are now focusing on the R&D, they have a R&D engineering team with over 70 people who research and develop new products independently. Each professional project engineer guides and follows up the whole product procedures from mold design, circuit design, and structure design to final performance assessment, sampling and mass production.

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Dr. Neale O'Connor

Cofounder of the China Sourcing Academy, founder and director of the China Supplier 1000 Project. Founder Ricebox.com (Hong Kong). Currently teaching at the Monash University Malaysia.