Quality at Nugget
Here at Nugget, we’re proud of so many things that we’ve built over the last six years. We’re proud of our commitment to transparent communication, we’re proud of the community we’ve built that’s eager to give back, and we’re proud of our products and the way they encourage open-ended, imaginative play. We’re especially proud of our team’s all-hands-on-deck commitment to ensuring that Nuggeteers receive a great product. In that spirit, we wanted to share a bit about how we make that happen.
From the beginning, Nugget has been led by a strong underlying quality philosophy — at our core, we’re minimalists. We had the idea for the Nugget because we were bothered by the amount of poorly-made futons that ended up in the dumpster at the end of every college semester. We set out to make the opposite of clunky, heavy, ugly furniture that only served one purpose.
The Nugget was born out of a desire for something versatile and lightweight, free of attachments: no nuts, bolts, screws and bars that could break and bend. We wanted something so simple that it could be delivered right to your doorstep, and set up without having to rely on an instruction manual. Product development for the Nugget meant unlearning what we knew about regular furniture, but we were up for the challenge.
Simplicity is difficult to design, but that careful design allows for the carefree play that we’re proud of. Minimalism in the product experience was clear, and minimalism in materials meant one big thing: we get to focus on, be careful with, and invest more in fewer, better, more durable components.
Early on, we made a conscious decision to build a simple and responsible vertically integrated organization. Our focus has never been on ancillary things like opening a storefront (and we don’t have plans for one in the future) — our business is online, from selling our product to serving our customers. This allows the majority of our mindshare to be spent adding value to the product and product experience.
Think about this: when you buy something from a store, the store had to buy that thing from a distributor, and the distributor had to buy it from a manufacturer, which means that there are layers of markups on the item you purchased. We chose our business model — assembling Nuggets ourselves and selling directly to you through our nuggetcomfort.com storefront — in order to cut out those markups, which means that we get to invest that money into quality materials. But even more importantly, Nugget has largely grown from word-of-mouth advertising, so in order for people to continue recommending our products, they need to be remarkable, and remarkably made. Exceeding expectations for feel and durability isn’t just nice to say, it’s necessary!
Fast forward a few years and a few thousand Nuggets later, and never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined the excitement for Nugget that we’re seeing today. Season after season, the excitement about our product travels to new customers and we’re blown away by the continued level of support. Our local material suppliers have even been shocked: “You want how much foam?!” Demand has increased quickly, and so has our production.
Despite that growth, we’ve never sacrificed quality for scale. We’re constantly asking the question: how many Nuggets can we make, comfortably? A comfortably made Nugget is a quality Nugget. In many situations in the past, we could have more Nuggets than we did, but would they have been made comfortably? Probably not.Our product is intended for humans (and sometimes their furry family members), and we are only humans ourselves. As high as we set our standards, we understand that a small number of Nuggets will leave our factory with defects or mistakes that should have been caught — loose threads, marks on the foam — but that’s why we stand behind every Nugget with replacement pieces and a refund/trial.
Since 2017, we’ve used the same core suppliers, and the same core materials. Since 2017, the only updates we’ve made to the product have been improvements: subtle changes for experience and clarity, comfort in manufacturing, and long-term durability. While peddlers of conventional business wisdom have encouraged us to cut material costs, we’ve only moved in the opposite direction.
No matter our size, our philosophy on our products is this: We create furniture for growing imaginations. This requires durability to match Nuggeteers’ energy, top-notch comfort for their rest, versatility to keep up with their creativity, and tasteful curation to sit well in homes — all grounded in the materials and workmanship that produce it. Every person at Nugget plays a part in ensuring every Nuggeteer gets a quality play experience.
We wanted to take the time to give you a peek inside Nugget HQ and meet the key players on quality, and to share what they do specifically to ensure that products are living up to the Nugget name. This interdepartmental group is constantly discussing the product experience at Nugget, from beginning (sourcing and manufacturing) to end (customer). Together, they weigh the voice of our production team and the voice of our customers to drive decisions related to the product experience. Here’s what they each bring to the table:
You’ve read our philosophy, you’ve met our team, but what does quality look like on a daily or weekly basis at Nugget HQ? Beyond designing a simple product and a simple supply chain, how are we further reducing the instances of defective Nuggets that leave our facility? Let’s cover a couple of quick examples about our foam, and leave the rest for future blog posts!
Measuring our foam
Even though we source from trusted, long-time suppliers, it’s still important that we keep an eye on the characteristics of the raw materials that are being delivered to us for assembly. One crucial component of our raw materials is the size of our foam — while a 1” or 2” deviation from our foam specs may not immediately stand out on its own just sitting on a conveyor belt, it will definitely become apparent (and disappointing) in the usage of a Nugget. That’s why we regularly take random pieces out of batches of foam and test them in our QA measuring tool, assessing whether the height, width, and depth are staying within our tolerances for our specs (¼” in every direction).
Identifying common defects
There’s an old expression you may have heard: “Know thine enemy.” It probably wasn’t originally inspired by foam furniture quality control, but we think it applies here.
For our team to catch mistakes and defects before they end up in your home, they need to be well-versed in the most common offenders. That means knowing the difference between foam yellowing from normal oxidation (as seen in the photo at the bottom of this post) and a stain that shouldn't be there. Whenever our customer experience team or production team sees a new defect emerge, we add it to our defect library, so our whole quality team can learn from it — our production team keeping an eye out so the defective piece doesn't ship to you, and our manufacturing team working with suppliers a step earlier in the process to make sure the defective piece doesn't ship to us in the first place.
As stewards of play and imagination, we have our heads in the clouds sometimes, and we think that's a good thing. When it comes to our product names, photoshoots, events (pre-COVID), and company culture, we'd rather dream up new approaches than just do things the way they've been done before. Even if it means taking a chance that doesn't pan out.
But on some things, like manufacturing, we tend to be pretty down to Earth. We think that's a good thing, too. We take fewer chances. We measure three times and cut once. There are some hard, inescapable truths about what it takes to consistently ensure quality across tens of thousands of products, and we don't want to reinvent the wheel (or fight against gravity). When it comes to quality, we of course care about creativity (it's Nugget, after all), but also about consistency, reliability, and attention to detail.
It's a constant balance — one that has worked well so far, with more than 10,000 customer reviews that average 4.9/5 stars. In the coming weeks, we'll share more about our process and what we're doing to keep quality as a priority, even as we grow. Until then, we'll just be here making and QA'ing Nuggets.