Fuda-Hobart Rose, which was established in 1959, has tapped into support from the Business Growth Service to reshore up to 20% of its manufacturing back from China after customers demanded greater flexibility and quicker lead times.
The company quickly recognised this need and invested over £250,000 and hundreds of hours of manpower into integrating the new lines and identifying local supply chain partners.
Boosted by strategic advice from its local business growth manager and funding from the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), the firm is now producing occasional furniture for the likes of Dunelm, John Lewis and Next.
Initial projections suggest annual sales will double from its current £8m to £16m by 2020, with 100 new jobs also due to be created.
“The UK’s furniture manufacturing sector was decimated between 2000 and 2011 as a result of imports, so it’s great to be able to ‘home-shore’ certain products to the north-east,” explains David Rose, executive chairman.
“Made in the UK is back in vogue with escalating freight costs and issues over quality making it a lot more competitive to manufacture in this country. Our customers are also looking for shorter lead times between the placing and delivery of orders, something that would be impossible if we were getting them made in the Far East.
“We needed additional support to set up production in just six months and received great assistance from MAS and consultants Oxford Holt Ltd, who are specialists in lean manufacturing and process improvement,” he continues.
“There’s no way we could have done it so quickly on our own. I’m delighted to say we are now producing 20% of our total product range in the North-east, with the long term plan to increase that to 60% by 2020.”
Fuda-Hobart Rose, which has recently secured a £285,000 grant from the ‘Let’s Grow Fund’, is now operating from four factories in North Tyneside, totalling in excess of 100,000ft² of assembly and manufacturing space.
The project to establish the latest factory started in November last year, with new plant and machinery successfully installed and now making up to 100 different soft furnishing and occasional furniture products every week.
Some skilled operatives have already been employed to cope with new demand and a training school for furniture making – including frame making, upholsterers and sewing – is now open for business.
Business growth manager Cameron Ross added his support: “Consumer choice has moved away from mass-produced imports with long lead times towards a wider choice of styles and fabric options on furniture and furnishings that they expect to be delivered quicker. These expectations can’t be met when relying on offshore manufacturing sources.
“Fuda-Hobart Rose quickly recognised that the only way to satisfy this demand was to manufacture more products in the North-east, a major challenge but one it has achieved in less than six months.
“We worked with the management team on identifying the right equipment, suppliers and processes that would allow them to be able to make products to order in a short timescale. This has already led to £1m of new sales, with the promise of more to come.”
The Business Growth Service, launched in December 2014 by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, brings together Growth Accelerator and the Manufacturing Advisory Service, with additional elements from the Intellectual Property Office (Intellectual Property Audits) and the Design Council (Design Mentoring).
The manufacturing offer is closely aligned with GROW:OffshoreWind and Fit for Nuclear (F4N), the latter delivered by the Nuclear AMRC (NAMRC).
The Business Growth Service also refers SME manufacturers to the right support provided by other agencies, including UK Trade & Investment, Innovate UK (including High Value Manufacturing Catapults), the British Business Bank, local Growth Hubs and UK Export Finance.