Vestre reception

Norway’s foremost manufacturer of urban furniture, Vestre, takes on new challenges with its expansive production network 

Seamlessly bridging the gap between place and planet, Vestre is known for its shared commitment to sustainability, design, and society. The sustainable urban furniture company dates back to 1947 and has a long history of innovation behind it. As Production Director, Erik Olsson, begins: “In the early years, the company produced, among other things, equipment for playgrounds and gyms. Our first Hvilan bench was produced in 1980 after a design competition – which also marks the first of many successful collaborations with Scandinavian designers. The company has had many evolutions since then – in 2013 it opened its first factory in Torsby, Sweden, and in 2022 The Plus factory opened in Magnor, Norway. 

Large spiral stairway“Our values of design, quality, and sustainability run through everything that we do, including how we design and produce our furniture. These three elements are very closely linked to each other. For example, we design furniture that has a life-time warranty against rust, thanks to our hot-dip galvanizing process. This is more than just a manufacturing detail, it is also our way of ensuring that our products last a lifetime, which is the core of our sustainability efforts.” 

Energy efficient practices are part of Vestre’s DNA, as Erik asserts: “We believe that everyone can change the world, even a little. We only have one planet, and everyone needs to play their part. Our goal is to produce furniture that lasts, to minimize any negative impact on nature and climate, and to maximize the positive impact on people and society. And we want to inspire others, to show that it is possible to produce sustainable furniture, efficiently, even in a high-cost country like Norway.” 

Focus areas 

Ethically conscious production is paramount to Vestre’s goal. The company’s production network is always being refined, as Erik details: “The factory in Magnor has only been up and running since the spring of 2022, so there is a lot to learn and improve upon. Already in its second year in production, the volume output of the facility has grown by about 45 percent compared to the year before. This was a challenge, but with our outstanding production facilities and equipment we were able to manage the growth in a good way. 

“Painting and wood manufacturing are completely new processes for Vestre and used to be sourced from external suppliers. This equipment is technically advanced, and it takes time to establish the right set-up. During the start-up of The Plus facility, we have been focusing on insourcing, up-time and predictability in the manufacturing process. 

“Insourcing gives us greater capability to meet demand from the market, especially regarding lead time and manufacturing cost. This is because it gives us even more control over the production flow. To be able to keep the machinery like new, we are focusing on maintenance performed by the operators, who know the machinery best through firsthand experience. These teams can find deviation in its early stages, before it grows into a bigger issue. 

“During the year, we will install a system for monitoring the overall efficiency of the site and start measuring OEE in some pilot machines. In the steel factory, at Torsby, we are focusing on extending our use of existing robotized welding equipment. With higher volume, automation is becoming even more interesting. We are also working with pre-studies regarding automation in both grinding and palettizing operations in both factories.” 

Maintaining goals 

Much of the work undertaken in Vestre’s production facilities is the product of creative and innovative thinking from across the business. As Erik reveals: “We always need to stay up-to-date on how the industry is developing, as this gives us good insight into what products may see more demand, and what our position should be for the next five to ten years, if not longer.

“Knowledge is of the essence here. Furthermore, we have very close collaborations with external, recognized designers who can challenge us on the design language and expressions seen across our portfolio. They work based on briefs, given our knowledge of the market, our position, and future needs in the product portfolio. The external designers also work very closely with mechanical designers and production engineers, so that we find the best ways to produce our furniture according to the initial vision that was set.” 

Maintaining a clear goal helps keep the Vestre team united, as Erik discusses: “To keep our team motivated, we strive to inform them as much as possible about the workings of the business. We are working with standardized meeting structures and daily meeting schedules. We also have monthly meetings, quarterly meetings and half year gatherings. Additionally, we are using internal communication tools such as monitors in the factories and Microsoft Teams to spread news, success stories, and information between the teams.” 

The company’s community-driven approach extends beyond its internal family and includes the supply network, as Erik confirms: “Our suppliers are crucial for our success, and we are in close collaboration with them. We have relatively few suppliers, and we handle them more like strategic partners. 

“As an example, we arrange Vestre Climate Action Day where we invite all our suppliers to meet with our team and other vendors in the Vestre network. We think that it’s necessary to keep our suppliers in the loop and let them share their thoughts and ideas with each other, to have the biggest impact on both business and sustainability. Almost all our suppliers are in Norway or Sweden, so we have the huge benefit of short distances and lead times, which is necessary in our operations.” 

As processes are optimized and systems are streamlined, Vestre gears up for one of the most exciting periods in the company’s history. “We will have some exciting news regarding our most sustainable product yet in just a few months, so keep following our journey to hear all about that. In the longer term, we will continue to grow the business according to plan, so that we are able to create even more inspiring and sustainable social meeting places for people to enjoy. I am really looking forward to setting up the production organization, machinery and facilities to be able to meet the higher demand that lies ahead. We certainly have some interesting possibilities coming up soon,” Erik concludes.