Robens Behind the Scenes

It takes more than a year to create a new tent.

This means all the new tents that appear in the 2016 catalogue will have started out on the drawing board in autumn 2014 to allow time for all the many tests and optimization phases a product has to go through when in the design process until we are satisfied they meet our exacting standards.

However, to reach this stage we start to create product focus by evaluating questions such as:

  • Have the existing models satisfied our dealers’ and their customers’ expectations?
  • Which products do consumers and retailers demand?
  • Is there feedback from our testers and long-time travelers who take our products to the extreme?
  • Are we missing something in the existing range?
  • Are there new opportunities through the use of new materials?
  • Are there cheaper materials with similar features to make the tents even more affordable?
  • What are the trends or we can even start a trend?

THE PREPARATION BEGINS

Our purchasing and development department now considers commercial implications, such as what can be implemented and whether it is affordable for the end user? Would it be a typical Robens product and can our DNA be seen in it?

Once focus has been established our industrial designer, Olaf Bracht (PIC AT CAD COMPUTER), enters the scene. With over 30 years experience he is ‘Mr Robens’ for many of our Robens dealers. Olaf puts the ideas down on paper and names the first features. If this design is in line with our expectations, the production of the first tent sample can begin.

The first sample is rarely perfect, but it provides a base from which to perfect the design. After a few weeks we receive a new sample that features our suggested improvements and we can begin our product testing.

Our Danish headquarters contains our own test facility. This includes a 380hp mobile wind machine that we use to inflict extreme wind speeds on a tent from all angles. In addition, we have a rain system that subjects a tent to simulated extreme rainfall. A Robens tent prototype must be able to withstand these in order to move forward into the next development process.

Our test facility is the only one of its type in Europe and is used by Europe's largest Trekking magazine Outdoor to conduct its prestigious annual independent tent tests.

During these tests we pay attention to numerous factors that include:

  • If the pole construction is the correct size and form.
  • The flysheet fit.
  • Guyline positioning.
  • Number of attachment points for guys and pegs.
  • Vent efficiency.

After a prototype has passed the tests then the calculation process starts to ensure it has commercial merit. Meanwhile, the spring is over and we need to produce a new tent to present to our dealers. The final tent sample in the right colour is now manufactured.

MARKETING BEGINS

We start catalogue production in May and take the final samples to photoshoots in suitable locations like Garmisch in Germany. This is the start of a busy time for our marketing team – catalogue, POS material, press releases and more have to be created ready to present to the trade in July.

We launch our products at the international Outdoor trade fair, held in Friedrichshafen, Germany. These are exciting days for us for forward orders now start to arrive. By the end of September we are able to the production figures for the upcoming season.

Meanwhile, our purchasing team visits the Far East production facilities. For more than 20 years we have operated a branch office in Shanghai to be in permanent close contact to production. All components are organized for the fabrication, production schedules set and final inspection implemented.

PRODUCTION VALUES

A tent cannot be made solely by a machine, but is produced in many time consuming steps by people. Such craftsmanship means labor forms a large part of the cost price. 

We are very aware of our product responsibility. It would be easy to produce tents at cheaper factories with lower standards and thereby increase the profit, but that would not meet our company values.

In addition to long-term partnerships, we, as an independent family owned company, find it important to maintain a reasonable and social interaction, both with our customers and with our employees and suppliers. We place great importance to fair working conditions with improved social standards, as well as to resources conservation and protection of resources.

UP TO 1KM OF THREAD

The production of a tent is very long process. There are more than 60 different steps. Even for a compact trekking tent will use up to 1,000m of thread – and this can go up to 2,000, for a larger tent with standing height!

After cutting the tent fabric to size the fabric is sewn using special machines operated by specially trained staff. The control of speed plays an important role for if sewn too fast accuracy suffers and the needle may overheat. This can melt the tent fabric and create oversize needle holes.

All flysheet and floor seams are then sealed by a modern welding machine using special tapes that enhance the physical characteristics of these fabricated areas so they match the quality of the rest of the tent.

At the end of the production chain, the various components are brought together: the inner tent, the flysheet, poles, pegs and carrybag. Then, each tent is set up, the guylines and inner tents are mounted, and the follow-up inspections can begin.

Everything is inspected, any protruding threads are cut off, pegging points and zippers are tested. This is an important step that differentiates true Robens craftsmanship from a machined product.

A LONG JOURNEY BEGINS

Then the assembled tents are packed away and sent to a container ship. The 30+ day journey takes the tent from Asia through the Suez Canal, through the Mediterranean into the Atlantic and up the North Sea where the ship finally reaches the container port. After customs clearance the container is loaded on a truck and arrives at our warehouses to be shipped to the dealers, ready to join you on your adventures.