Producing soft toys and happiness

Today in Ho Chi Mihn city we visited Danu Vina factory, which produces soft toys for IKEA and thus also contributes to the Soft Toys for Education campaign and creating better life for children. We saw the whole process of soft toys manufacturing – from creating a 3D design of the future soft toy to packaging it.

The visit started with a meeting with the business manager of the factory, representatives from Save the Children and IKEA Vietnam Trading Office. Ally, the manager of the factory, presented her enterprise. This factory has been producing soft toys for IKEA during 12 years, from 2001, and now around 60% of the production facility is occupied with IKEA toys.

The sewing shop with many co-workers
The sewing shop with many co-workers

The factory employs 1,600 people; around 80% of them are women. We were pleasantly surprised how much attention the management of the factory pays to sustainability and good conditions for their co-workers. For example, they give more days off than is required by law, pay around 40% more than the average wage and provide free food for their staff.

The production of a soft toy starts from creating a 3D design based on the sketch provided by IKEA. Then the research and development department makes a sample and performs safety tests and a production risk assessment. Working in close cooperation, IKEA designers and factory co-workers find the best option to create a good-quality, low-cost, safe toy. All the results are documented and used during the production.

Once all these details are agreed, the factory orders fabric and other materials and starts the production. The first stage is cutting. The factory is equipped with different types of cutters, including laser cutter that allow co-workers to cut small details precisely.

Laser cutter which can cut very small details
Laser cutter which can cut very small details

After cutting, the embroidering process starts. For all IKEA toys, only embroidery is used for noses and eyes of the toys. It is much safer for kids, who could tear out plastic pieces and swallow them.

Then cuts go to the sewing shop. There are 750 sewing machines in the factory. They are organized in 24 lines, each producing one type of toy.

80% of the co-workers are female - they have better sewing skills and attention to detail
80% of the co-workers are female.

After being sewn, the toy shell is turned inside out and sent to the filling shop. At this stage, already sewn but without filling, the toys look really funny. Every hour the co-workers run tests on the toys’ shells, trying to pull them apart to make sure they are strong enough. The co-workers control the quantity of filling to make sure the toy is the right weight and has the right features.

After being filled, the toys get finished. The co-workers sew closed the holes that were left open for the filling and make the toys nice so their future little owners like them right away.

LAKAMART toys need to be brushed and dressed.
LAKAMART toys need to be brushed and dressed.

When the finishing process is over, the toys are packaged and sent to stores. The production of one soft toy takes from 1 to 2 hours, depending on the complexity of the toy.

DUKTIG sets of vegetables a being packed. The piles of carrots, tomatoes and garlic look gorgeous!
DUKTIG sets of vegetables being packed. The piles of carrots, tomatoes and garlic look gorgeous!

In total the factory needs around six months to start production of a new soft toy. The factory pays a lot of attention to the safety and quality of their products. A quality control specialist works on each sewing line. The factory also does random quality checks of the finished products. To avoid injures they carefully control all the needles used during sewing. Each broken needle has to be registered in a special book before a co-worker gets a new one. If the needle is lost, the co-workers check all the toys produced during this time with a metal detector to make sure that this needle is not inside one of the products. Each toy is also tested with metal detectors three times: after sewing, after stuffing and before packaging. The factory works in close cooperation with their fabric suppliers and other materials. They require strong quality control and organize tests of the material at least once a year.

KNORRIG soft piggies go through metal control
KNORRIG soft piggies go through metal control

The factory appreciates the cooperation with IKEA. Our long-term partnership allows the factory better use their capacity. For example, they can produce a seasonal range for IKEA several months in advance during their low period – and special toys for a UNICEF campaign are produced in March.