Making the right impact

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A day out to see the work in progress at Elite’s new state of the art facility

“We asked John Hull, CEO why he doesn’t slow down and perhaps put his feet up a little. His response? ‘Continued enthusiasm and a drive to progress the company, our products and people to elevate our market share and presence’.”

On the face of it, driving virtually from the west to the east of England to look at a factory on Monday morning would sound like a particularly unappealing prospect. Half an hour from Hull, this year’s City of Culture, Elite are expanding their manufacturing bases – in a big way!

Julian Jowett, Elite Sales Director, has been talking about their new factory for the last two years – and sometimes you must have faith in others’ exuberance. We met at a suitable junction on the M62, where we were asked to follow.

Our first thought was that the building across the junction ahead appeared to be more akin to a tech manufacturer, but as you can guess, it was not. The new Elite factory, all 22,692 sq m (nearly 250,000 sq ft) is due to be completed in August this year and really befits the ambitions of the firm established by John Hull back in 1986.

Elite are on a charge – although there is nothing elitist about this organisation. It was clear from our visit that they have very significant ambitions – but are very clear they want to do it in the right way for their staff, clients and the impact on the environment.

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As you will have seen in the rest of this Spotlight feature, manufacturing is alive and well in the UK and this was in evidence at almost at every turn as we were shown around the new factory. Elite are keen to do the right thing and take advantage of the clean sheet that is their new factory. The mix of natural light and LED technology means that this is far from the dark and glooming environment often associated with this sector. The LED lighting was sourced locally from Contrac Lighting. This approach to sourcing locally should make logical economic sense but we got a sense that the management team set out to genuinely provide a benefit to the local SME businesses, for example, the main contractor, L Harrisons (Eastoft) Limited, is based just nine miles away.

Sustainability has many faces and the motivation for the company to focus on environmental issues usually falls into three categories; driven by costs and savings, driven by regulations or by the desire to do the right thing for the environment. Elite are very aware that, increasingly, clients will demand stricter environmental policies. However, again we were left with the impression that they thought a robust environmental policy was the ‘right thing to do’. An example of this is the recently installed Biomass plant (1Mw boiler), which will take excess wood and create heating for the factory, reducing Elite’s carbon footprint.

Saving energy was also key. Using the most effective materials and systems, the new factory will be twice the footprint of the current factory – yet will have the same energy use.

Efficiency was evident in the machinery that has already been installed. The powder coating line with its ‘quick change booth’ enables 10-minute colour changes (a three-stage cleaning process so the same water is used continuously in order to conserve water) giving the flexibility to meet customer demand and to ensure Elite maintain their swift lead times and high service levels.

In total Elite have invested over £4m in new machinery at this plant, including an angle plant, tube laser, flat bed laser, panel processing machinery with the ability to edge panels without a visible glue line, a CNC (BAZ) machine and the aforementioned power coating line. Yet further demonstration of Elite’s commitment to increase production capacity and ability to enhance their product portfolio.

We walked through the vast halls to the three tiers of the front of the building; office staff will be on the first floor while the next two floors, all 14,000 sq ft of it, will be given over to showing off the furniture.

Elite will be creating new ranges to fulfill the increasing need for more flexible and collaborative furniture. Whilst we aren’t allowed to say too much, expect to see some great new designs soon, which the firm hopes will show the market that they are making real progress.

Currently, the clear majority of business goes through their network of dealers. However, the recruitment of an A&D representative is on the cards, with the hope that they will get the message across to those previously out of the loop.

As we were walking through the cavernous building we met up with MD John Hull. A qualified electrical engineer, John has overseen the creation of the new factory – not surprisingly down to the detail of the wiring. Perhaps it could be argued that his time would be better spent doing CEO duties. However, like much else here, it is clear the Elite like to do things their own way – they believe the right way – and if you get a chance to visit the Goole factory you’ll undoubtedly see that for yourselves. For what it is worth, we feel that for the boss to get involved in something he knows all about to ensure they have a building that is going to run smoothly makes an awful lot of sense. We asked John why he doesn’t slow down and perhaps put his feet up a little. His response? ‘Continued enthusiasm and a drive to progress the company, our products and people to elevate our market share and presence’.

We finished by asking Julian if there was one thing this new factory represents. Quick as a flash his response was ‘progression’. If you are in manufacturing you must be in it for the long term, so regardless of the uncertain world we are in, it is clear that Elite have nailed their colours to the mast – and to us, following our visit, that flag says progression.