The most fascinating part of our whole journey was our excursion to the manufacturing facility that produces the Xplory stroller for Stokke. The first item on our agenda was a presentation that summarized the product development cycle for the Xplory. The stroller launched in 2003, but the project was initiated way back in 1998, when Stokke made the decision to expand into other areas of the juvenile market. They chose to focus on a stroller because it offered the opportunity to solve some of the same problems they had tackled so successfully with the Tripp Trapp chair.
We had a chance to see and touch the very first Xplory prototype, a wooden construction that bears little resemblence to the finished product. By the end of 2001, the Xplory had begun to take shape, but there were many details to refine. The adjustable footrest alone took six months to perfect. Since it launched, the Xplory has won 12 international awards, including the prestigious Stiftung Warentest Best Baby Buggy for 2006.
Many people wonder why Stokke chose to build their stroller primarily out of plastic when so many other high end models have turned to aluminum and steel. I was surprised to learn that the high-quality plastics in the Xplory will offer better long-term quality and strength than any alternative materials. So they chose to build the “spine” of the stroller from aluminum, and use an assortment of automotive-grade plastics for the rest.
After our presentation, we headed out into the manufacturing area where we met the resident plastic guru, nicknamed Plastic Fantastic. This guy is very passionate about his plastic, let me tell you. He gave us a tour of the injection molding process, even monkeying with the machine settings to show us what a sub-par molding job looks like, compared to the quality they demand for the Xplory.
From there, we donned some flattering blue jump suits and headed into the painting area. We watched various Xplory components move through the paint line, each receiving two coats of non-toxic, water-based paint and a thin topcoat of non-toxic polyurethane, for shine and UV protection. It was nice to learn that the factory is very environmentally conscientious. The place was spotless and surprisingly free of fumes.
Our last stop was the assembly room, where we discovered that each Xplory stroller is assembled by hand. Once the components are ready, they move through an assembly line of skilled craftsmen who take great pride in their work. It was amazing to realize the attention to detail that goes into every single stroller. At the end, we had a chance to give our feedback and suggestions to their team. Overall, it was very impressive, and now I understand why Stokke would want their retail partners to have this experience.