With over 6000 kitchen cabinets sold every week, Ultima Furniture is one of the biggest online kitchen retailers in the UK. Over the last couple of years, the company has opened several new production facilities, which are kept clean with the help of Modesta filters. Here, Mark Gibson and Stuart Hutchinson from the Ultima team speak on their revolutionary business model, avoiding downtime and the importance of dust extraction.
Innovative online-only strategy
Starting out building kitchens in their garage in 1983, Ultima Furniture founders Alf and Clare Ellis have grown their business steadily over the past two decades. The couple still plays an active role in the company, just like their son and daughter, but they’ve also expanded their team to 550 colleagues.
Boasting the UK’s most advanced automated cabinet assembly line, Ultima can manufacture and home deliver a bespoke kitchen in a couple of weeks. With its customer brand – diy-kitchens.com – anyone can design their dream kitchen thanks to an online planning tool.
The online-only retailer has a team of remote-based experts at the ready to help clients make sure that what they’ve designed is the right choice and answer any questions they might have. After the design is finalised, the kitchen is delivered pre-assembled and fitted as much as possible within less than six weeks.
“What our customers really appreciate is that they can design their kitchen exactly as they want it,’” says design and marketing director, Stuart Hutchinson. “They can request samples of materials or go to one of our showrooms to see our product with their own eyes. If they have a specific colour in mind, they can even send over a sample and we’ll provide the right colour match.”
Crucial dust extraction
Over the last couple of years, Ultima has opened several new production facilities, growing from one location in 2011 to six in 2024, spread out over South Kirkby, Sherburn, Grimethorpe and Dewsbury.
“Some of them manufacture cabinets, others specialise in spray painting,” explains production manager, Mark Gibson. “Overall, we produce around 6000 cabinets on a weekly basis.” And that’s where dust extraction comes in, he quickly adds. “Without proper dust extraction, we can’t do anything.”
That’s exactly why CEO Alf Ellis opted for a Modesta filter back in 2010. He chose the Dutch-based family company because of several technological advantages, but also because of the quick installation and repair service. “Since that first filter in 2010, we’ve added Modesta systems to every new facility we’ve opened, which means we now have six Modesta filters on five production sites,” says Stuart.
So why Modesta? “Their filters are modular, which ensures energy efficiency,” explains Stuart. “Instead of using one big motor, they use several smaller ones. Based on the demand in the factory, the fans adjust themselves to cope with the desired capacity, ensuring low energy consumption.”
Another advantage of the cascading fans is that if one of them has a problem, the other ones can keep running. That means the system never shuts off, which is crucial for any furniture manufacturer. “Our filters run 16 hours a day and we never experience any downtime,” confirms Mark. “And when we do have any difficulties, they offer great service. As soon as I contact field technician Johan, he’s online right away.”
Modesta has a real-time connection with its clients, allowing it to see what’s going on with the filter system and fix any problem quickly and efficiently.
Lastly, Modesta boasts a low air-to-cloth ratio, which means the filter sleeves live much longer. By keeping the pressure on the filter bags as low as possible, the filter’s performance remains constant and doesn’t go down because of sleeves getting clogged. “The first Modesta solution we bought 10 years ago is still working perfectly with the same filter bag after having run over 30,000 hours,” says Mark.
Stuart summarises: “The initial investment might be a bit higher than their competitors, but the value is in the long term. With reduced maintenance, lower running costs and reduced downtime, Modesta is the only option for us.”