29 May 2024, 15:59
By Paul Farley Apr 10, 2024

Hypnos looks ahead

In October 2022, driven by a desire to secure its long-term future, Hypnos embarked on a period of transformation which culminated this February with the decision to close its contract manufacturing facility in Castle Donington, and incorporate the workload at its Princes Risborough HQ. Furniture News paid the bedmaker a visit to find out more …

Despite making strong gains, it has been a turbulent time for the famed bedmaker, which marks its 120th anniversary this year. However, says group MD David Baldry, following the loss of its Premier Inn contract, and the winding down of its Keen & Able transport arm, the move to re-integrate contract production with the resulting site closure (and the 64 jobs lost with it) finally concludes a painful but necessary reinvention.

“The site closure was a difficult decision, of course,” he says, “but it’s one we needed to make if we wanted to grow sustainably for the next 120 years.”

In a statement, he wrote: “We’ve been working with the executive board and senior leadership team to build a secure foundation for future growth focused on quality bedmaking, and this unfortunate but necessary step marks the last phase of our two-year strategic focus to strengthen and build a foundation to achieve our ambitious goals for the coming decade.

“Production and administrative teams at the site are sadly affected by this news, and we’re working to give them support for their future. We’d like to thank our committed teams at both sites for their professional approach during the consultation period, and for ensuring a smooth transition.”

Despite the upheaval, the decision not to renew the site’s lease, and to instead absorb the hospitality operation and focus on “one home” for Hypnos at its fully owned facility in Princes Risborough, promises to deliver significant benefits.

Closing the 110-mile distance between the sites will naturally deliver greater efficiency, bringing all of the company’s knowledge, skills and industry under one roof, and closer to the hospitality sector’s London heartland.

“The opportunity to amalgamate all key business functions over one site needed to be fully considered,” David wrote, “but there are so many benefits to having all our manufacturing in one place. The move will improve overall efficiency and communication within the business, lower our CO2 footprint, and positively impact our approach to our premium position in the hospitality market.”

It will also enable Hypnos to make the most of a new ERP system coming online this summer – a change David has been looking to implement since he joined the business in 2022.

Yet the move would not have been possible without the significant improvements delivered by the team at Hypnos’ HQ. Contract manufacturing accounts for some 20% of the group’s business, and incorporating the additional volume would be no mean feat. Good news, then, that Hypnos’ production team had already stepped up to the challenge.

“Over the last year, the team, under the leadership of group operations director Stephen Faulkner, has successfully maintained and developed quality handcrafting whilst increasing manufacturing efficiency at the Princes Risborough site by almost +30%,” David stated. “In our dedicated batch production area alone, the bedmaking capacity has almost tripled, which means this can accommodate the needs of our hospitality partners without any impact on the bespoke retail products.”

This work has been assisted by Ashley Garside, now head of operations, who oversaw the gradual rearrangement of the factory floor, adding new production lines, relocating operations, bolstering the staff training programme and pushing efficiency ever further.

“It’s all down to a combination of distance, machinery, multi-skilling and supervision,” says Ashley, “all taken forward as part of a smart, measured plan. It’s a process of testing and gradual improvement. Try it, learn it, improve it.”

In 2021, Hypnos was making 1200 units a week, says David – now its output is up to 2000, without having to resort to overtime or extra shifts. Average lead times are just north of two weeks – a sprint compared to what was executed during the pandemic.

Those huge output gains are the result of countless granular improvements – a new approach here, a rearrangement there – carefully tracked and monitored by Ashley’s team, and coming together as a “force multiplier” that means the factory is not only able to take on the extra work coming out of Castle Donington, but to promise even greater efficiency.

With the move meaning a loss of production staff, performance training in Princes Risborough has been crucial, and has included a concerted focus on multi-skilling the teams based there. More and more of Hypnos’ mattressmakers are now able to tape-edge and upholster, and there is a palpable hunger to grow, says Ashley: “We’re lucky that a lot of the younger workforce here are willing to learn more, and that means we can better flex to meet demand.”

A further, but no less important benefit of the move is the energy savings that will be made thanks to having all the operations in one place – a crucial factor for a business that prides itself on being a pioneer in the field of sustainability, and which recently partnered with logistics specialist DFDS to ensure a greener fulfilment operation (David is eagerly awaiting the chance to utilise Volvo’s new electric lorry).

“For a business to be sustainable first, it has to be a sustainable business,” notes David. “From a holistic, carbon-saving perspective, we had to go to a single site.”

The incorporation will take place over the coming months, and Hypnos has assured customers that they will not be affected by the move, with the division’s field-based sales specification team and installation services remaining in place.

“We will formally exit the Castle Donington site in September, after dilapidation works are complete,” David concludes. “It’s been painful, but, following a year of investment, optimisation and process changes across the business, we’re finally ready to start the next chapter in our 120-year story.”

Read more in April's Furniture News.

Pictured: David Baldry and Ashley Garside on the (newly optimised) factory floor


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