Back on its feet
Collins and Hayes Furniture Ltd puts people first as it undergoes a major operational overhaul and modernisation
Based in East Sussex, Collins and Hayes Furniture Ltd is a complete design and manufacturer of high quality upholstered furniture supplying the UK retail market. Despite over 140 years experience, the company was not in the best of states when the current Managing Director, Matt O’Flynn, took over in September 2014. It was suffering from margin erosion, market share was reducing and manufacturing processes were out of date. Since joining, Matt has brought about a major process of modernisation to lift the company back into profitability and into the present day. To accompany this he demonstrates a genuine commitment to offering his employees the best opportunities and working environment to help bring about a new era of success and results are starting to show.
Historically, Collins and Hayes had a reputation within the market as a designer and innovator of high quality furniture. “It’s not particularly unique in what it offers, but people have always done business with people and along with an interesting and diverse product range, this is where the reputable name has come from,” explains Matt. “What I am looking to do is to re-establish the brand in today’s market as a high quality designer and innovator, and to excite the market with a new product direction.” To do this the company has started to take a number of significant strategic steps and the first has been to improve its marketing approach. “We are making a concerted effort to bring on a lot of new customers to broaden our market reach and we have just sold into John Lewis as a brand, which is the first time we’ve had our name on their floor,” he says. Usually supplying retailers under an own-brand agreement, to have the Collins and Hayes name in a major retailer is a significant move to rebuild the company’s brand and market position. To accompany this marketing push the company has also opened up two new trade showrooms, one at the factory and another in the Midlands. Also serving its outward facing business strategy is a complete refresh of the company’s IT systems to bring about a leaner and more responsive operation within the offices. “The IT side is very much focused on delivering a world class customer service,” says Matt. “By eliminating processes that slow us down, we are becoming much more nimble to serve the customer requirements better and this gives us a much faster and robust service within the business.”
Behind the scenes an equal measure of improvement is being driven into the company’s manufacturing processes. “We are aligning our operating areas throughout the business to create a better flow and encouraging an internal customer philosophy so that people look at what they’re doing from a customer’s perspective,” outlines Matt. “It is very much focused on a no-faults-forward and quality first ethos. The company had become quite stuck in its structure, both in terms of personnel and physically. As we start to restructure the staffing and the layout, we are starting to find the champions within the business bubble back up to the surface. Continuous improvement is a real mantra of modern manufacturing and we are starting to really benefit from lots of quick wins as people are becoming far more engaged with what’s going on. This has also reignited our customer base to look at what we can do and offer.”
Significant work has also been put into a general refresh of the facilities and implementation of policies across the business, which recently rewarded Collins and Hayes with a passed ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative) inspection. The next stage of updating the manufacturing capabilities for the company will be investing into new machinery such as new CAD and CNC machines. “This will mean bringing some new skills into the business as well, but will take the business to the next stage in terms its product offering to the market,” adds Matt. Matt is also keen to express that Collins and Hayes is focused on improving its supply chain, with the addition of a dedicated Supply Chain Manager to help establish strong working relationships that can help improve efficiencies whilst driving quality. “The terms that that we renegotiate with our suppliers will be based on growing as a business and as a customer to them, which will enable us to make better deals in the future. We are not reinventing the wheel, we’re just bringing the company back into line to where it should be.”
Collins and Hayes remains acutely aware that it still has a long way to go to reach the profitable and reputable position it has set a course for. With so much change going into the way the company operates, it is important to Matt that the employees are very much part of it. “I’m really driving the importance of people working together rather than in isolation,” he says as he notes that he is setting up a number of training opportunities. Typifying his exemplary people-focused attitude, when asked about his vision for the company he answers: “I want the company to Furniturebe an employer of choice and I want my staff to be well paid, because they’re not at the moment, and this isn’t satisfactory.” Change can be implemented, but to make it successful requires the support of people and Collins and Hayes seems to have grasped this as it looks to pull itself back to being a successful and well-regarded brand on the marketplace.
Collins and Hayes Furniture Ltd
Products: Design and manufacture high quality upholstered furniture
Sites: East Sussex, UK