It was 1996, a spring day in Pretoria, and grandfather Johan Buitendach was on baby-sitting duty for 7-week-old grandson Daniëll. Little Daniëll was a curious child and wanted to be able to look around; to engage with his surroundings. But he wasn’t yet able to sit upright. So he pulled and tugged on Grandpa’s fingers, and Grandpa propped him up with some pillows. A great solution, until little Daniëll tilted to one side…. And then, Grandpa Johan – an inventor and toolmaker – had a brainwave.
Using a large piece of polystyrene, Johan crafted a freestanding seat with a circular design, featuring leg mouldings, a gently rounded crotch bar, a backrest and side handles. This seat, placed on the floor, made it possible for Daniëll to sit perfectly upright.
The Bumbo Baby Seat was born.
Why is the Bumbo such an important part of baby development? “Well, it enables and encourages babies’ interest in their environment, which, until now, has been problematic for moms (who, contrary to popular belief, only have one pair of hands). And this interest, a crucial element for stimulating brain development, profoundly affects Baby’s intelligence over the long term.” Said Donald Pillai.
Equally suitable for indoor and outdoor use – TV room, lounge, kitchen, beach, park, playground – the Bumbo is easy to pack into the trunk of any car. Bumbo features a simple, practical design that facilitates interaction between mother and child. But more than that, it allows parents and caregivers the freedom to let their babies satisfy their inherent curiosity with confidence.
In 2001, Johan Buitendach established Bumbo (Pty) Ltd, to address the need for functional, visually appealing and affordable baby accessories that began with little Daniëll and soon extended to the design, development and testing of South Africa’s flagship baby seat, the Bumbo Baby Sitter.
Although not dissimilar in structure to Johan’s original polystyrene baby seat, today’s Bumbo is made of moulded polyurethane. Its coated surface is hygiene-friendly, easy to clean and free of sharp edges, uncomfortable straps or bracing clips. It is also sturdy and 100% freestanding.
Other products in the Bumbo range include an attachable play tray, toilet trainer, a ‘crawl ball’, Baby bath and a pushcart, whimsically titled the ‘Bumbo Mobile’.
The factory itself is impressive: a noisy and busy yet superbly organised assembly of skilled people who know their job and who do it effectively and quickly – standing to attention around a massive custom-designed and built wheel-shaped production line, each worker with their own ‘spoke’.
The process begins in the blending room, where the raw materials are combined according to international standards and norms and piped to the carousel. Here they enter the Bumbo moulds.
A chemical reaction results in expansion and forces any excess out through tiny pinholes. The units, now having assumed their basic shape, are trimmed, cured and stamped with laser tracking numbers, a disclaimer and safety information, before being packed neatly into their custom cartons for boxing and then shipping.
The Bumbo factory operates as a one-stop shop – everything happens there: tooling, packaging, filling shipping containers. There’s a wood workshop across the road, and for the staff, a canteen serving two hot meals a day, an outdoor assembly area, musical instruments and equipment, a choir, a laundry facility and two on-site counsellors to discuss issues, concerns or personal problems.
The prevailing culture throughout the Bumbo complex is one of friendly industry. The factory staff members are smiling and chatty; the office personnel warm and engaging.
On top of that, it is clear that good work is being done, within a pleasant atmosphere, by people who like what they do.
Little wonder, then, that the factory complex is able to produce a Bumbo every four seconds. That’s 16,000 Bumbos per day across two shifts, yielding a remarkable monthly
output of 348,000 units of just the one product.
The transformation from Bumbo (Pty) Ltd to Bumbo International was a quick one. With more than 38 partners worldwide, Bumbo is able to service a total of 130 countries including Canada, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom. This number continues to grow rapidly, aided by the many local and international awards Bumbo has won; by its paediatric and orthopaedic endorsements; and by its widespread use in children’s homes, day care facilities, crèches and hospitals. Awards and accolades include:
- The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), USA – Membership
- TUV Rheinland Group Quality Assurance Management Systems – Certification
- British Associate of Nursery and Pram Retailers (BANPR) – Award
- Baby Product of the Year, Netherlands – 2003 Award
- The iParenting Media ‘Hot’ Award
- South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) Design Institute – Engineering Award 2002
- South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) Design Institute – ‘Most Exceptional Design’
- Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) South Africa: Business Excellence Award
- Age of Innovations Economic Non-ICT Award – Winner 2004