Improving Customer Satisfaction: From Design to Large Scale Production

EkoLakay toilet with new urine diverter

Research plays a critical role in SOIL’s efforts to achieve strategic goals and advance knowledge in the sanitation sector. The Research team is also actively engaged in projects that aim to improve toilet design to better meet the needs of customers and ensure customer satisfaction across the entire sanitation chain. To do this, we regularly gather customer feedback to improve product quality and ensure a design that meets the needs of all users. Since 2015, the Research team has been testing new urine diverters for our container-based toilets, and the design is finally ready for large-scale production!

SOIL collects the waste from the household toilets through our weekly collection service, but the urine is diverted within the toilet and discarded so as not to contaminate the waste (but don’t worry – we’re looking into nutrient recycling in urine too!). According to Job Etienne, SOIL’s Waste Treatment Manager, “the new urine diverter prevents urine from leaking on the side of the bucket and it looks much nicer.” The new diverters would greatly improve the customer-experience and we are so excited to update this component of the design!

Prior to this, we were fashioning plastic funnels to fit onto the toilets as urine diverters, which was an affordable method, but not ideal as it requires a lot of work. Further, feedback gathered from our customers confirmed the design was not meeting the needs of all users. To remedy this, we started brainstorming ways to improve our urine diverter design.

SOIL’s toilets are a unique technology, and therefore we could not use existing commercial urine diverters, so we consulted with design expert, Matthew Lippincott, to customize the diverters to fit our EkoLakay toilets – and the new diverters are getting rave reviews! While the SOIL team works on improving the new urine diverter, we are also working to standardize toilet production to reduce variability from one toilet to the next. Each one of SOIL’s EkoLakay toilets are hand built, which means there can sometimes be a slight margin of error in the final construction that can impact the installation of standard seats or urine diverters.

We are now looking for a way to manufacture the new urine diverters to equip all of our existing and future clients to ensure uniformity, which means thousands of diverters need to be made. For the prototypes, SOIL used 3D printers to test out the different designs, however, this won’t work for large scale production as it is extremely cost prohibitive. A less costly option is injection molding, which involves having a customized mold made by a specialist, and then using a local plastics company for mass production. Once we are able to have a mold made, we will be able to produce the urine diverters in Haiti!

This project is a big breakthrough for SOIL because having a standard toilet with a standard urinal means scaling up the service will be easier, as less time will be spent trying to custom fit a hand-cut urinal to each household toilet. We have already received great feedback from our clients that have tested out the new toilet design and we are using that feedback to make our service even better! Improved customer experience is very important for us at SOIL, and we strive to increase customer satisfaction each and every day. We’re proving that providing access to safe and dignified sanitation can be done in a way that is affordable, accessible and sustainable, even in the most vulnerable areas of the world. Stay tuned for more updates on this pivotal project!  

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