Issue Issue 3 2008
Comfortable growth for Bellus
I would say that most importantly we have remained true to our basic ideals – trying to be an innovative and flexible, customer orientated furniture developer producing exactly what the market wants,” says Rolf Relander, joint owner and director at Bellus, when commenting on the considerable growth the business has experienced in recent years.
Last year alone the company, which specialises in producing leather and fabric armchairs and sofas, experienced an expansion of around 60 per cent, and this looks set to continue.
As Rolf explains, this is impressive growth for a company that has only been operating for little more than a decade: “We originally started the business inFinland in 1997 with a small number of staff carrying out the operations, and have subsequently built up a good reputation in the industry. We have expanded continually since then, and now have around 300 employees producing a broad range of sofas and armchairs in a number of different models for the Scandinavian and Baltic markets.”
Bellus, which is a Latin word that means beautiful, fine and comfortable, builds on the strong tradition and reputation for furniture building that exists in Finland. The company, which is 100 per cent owned by Rolf and his brother Rikard, designs and produces a wide range of sofas and armchairs consisting of more than 60 models. Its product catalogue is both wide and dynamic, and is renowned for its comfort and excellent quality. All products are available in a high quality range of fabric and leather covers, together with speciality finishes on request.
Rolf believes that this extensive product portfolio is key to the company’s success: “I would say that our flexibility is certainly one of our main strengths. We have a collection of maybe 60 different models, all of which can be ordered in more than 200 different covers and finishes. Essentially, what we are able to offer in comparison to some of our competitors is a mass customisation service – they are standard models that are modular, but every client has the ability to make their sofa look the way that he or she wants. This benefits the wholesalers we supply, as they do not have to build up stock of certain models but can easily order specific customer orientated products.”
Bellus Furniture supplies its products to furniture retailers in Northern Europe, predominantly Sweden, Finland and Estonia. Rolf explains that the company’s method of mass customisation significantly benefits customers’ operations: “Our goal is to be the most profitable supplier for a shop or a retailer. There is a lot of furniture entering the market now from the Far East, which obviously has to be bought in bulk in a limited range of models, colours and finishes per container.
“When working with us however, a customer will have one or two of our sofas on the shop floor, knowing that there are more than 200 finishes to chose from, together with different legs, different sizes and various armrest designs,” he continues. “The benefit of this is that there is zero cost for holding needless stock of one model, and that the customer can get the exact sofa that they require in a short time period, and very easily. I think that this really is our main strength, and is something that we are aiming to make more wholesalers aware of.”
An important part of this flexibility at Bellus is the organisation’s emphasis on efficient production at its manufacturing facility. Together with installing a culture that is constantly working towards leaner production, the company has invested in the latest manufacturing technology available to the furniture industry. The entire fabric cutting process at Bellus is fully automated, and all gluing activities use two component glues that are efficient and environmentally friendly.
Additionally, the business operates a ‘just-intime’ production philosophy that makes the factory highly flexible to changes in demands. For example, all products are digitalised to ensure maximum quality, and the use of the Navision production software system allows each order to be followed in real-time on-line during manufacturing.
Looking into the future, Rolf explains that the company is aiming to maintain its high growth rate by attracting new customers in additional markets: “We would certainly like to become a major player in the European furniture market. We have already started some co-operative operations in Holland and Germany, with the aim of commencing work in those sectors in the near future.
“I think that the main challenge for us will be to keep up with the change in the market conditions. Prices in the Baltic region can rise quite heavily so it is important that we pay close attention to the market. Also, the furniture industry has a history of being tough. It is not very costly for a small company to start in the business, all you need is some nails, fabric and sewing machines, so there are many small companies entering the sector and upsetting the market conditions. Ultimately, we have to keep on working to get more recognition for the Bellus brand, with the aim that in the future we are one of the well-know European furniture producers,” he concludes.
Services: Furniture development