The Road to Sustainability Series – New factory designed for a sustainable future

New factory designed for a sustainable future

Across industries, the post-pandemic picture is one of renewal and focus, bringing new approaches to the fore. For Roger Lewis, it’s accelerated the decision to invest in a new state-of-the-art facility, which became its new home last month.

It marks a major milestone for the business with a roadmap of zero-to-landfill central to its operations. The site has been modelled on zero-waste principles, incorporating circular design thinking alongside the latest technology in furniture manufacturing to increase efficiencies.

Set in the historic Somerset town of Frome, just outside Bath, it has been designed around lean manufacturing disciplines and a rigorous analysis of in-house and supply chain processes.

Currently the business sends 10% of waste to landfill but has committed to ambitious targets to become a zero-to-landfill business by 2025 as it strives for sustainability excellence in its operations.

It has switched to a fully sustainably sourced energy supplier and next year plans to install solar panels and bio mass heating systems, burning dust, timer and combustible waste to power its facilities.

Diesel-powered vehicles have also been decommissioned and replaced with electric ones to cut emissions and clients will soon have the option of selecting alternative, greener logistic companies to manage delivery of their orders.

The instillation of new machinery at the factory has also increased the site’s capabilities, reducing the need to transport products to third-party operators, cutting both emissions and packaging waste. While increased storage will enable Roger Lewis to batch-produce orders, upping manufacturing efficiencies significantly.

“Some furniture factories can be quite antiquated with old-fashioned machines and ways of working,” says Gary Chivers, Roger Lewis’ Head of Operations. “The pandemic made us review what we needed to continue to grow as a business and we saw sustainability as a key part of these discussions.

“We looked at various sites balancing the need to protect our existing team with the commercial requirements of the space we needed. This started in earnest in the final few months of 2020 and we found Vallis Road in Frome in January this year. After months of planning, contract negotiation and renovations we finally moved in this November.”

Significant investment

Chivers says the company has invested significantly in new machinery, racking and work areas, designing the space to be as modern and flexible as possible. He explains: “It’s really increased what we can do in-house. For example, we’ve installed a new automated fabric cutting machine to supplement our existing one.”

The investment means the business’ production capacity has increased fourfold, enabling it to respond even quicker to customer requests. Chivers says: “Our already fast prototyping process will be significantly enhanced so that we can produce in mock-ups within hours. Clients are able to be on site with us while we create mock-ups so they can be hands on in the creative process.”

With circular thinking in mind, Roger Lewis has also partnered with local interior design company, Pure Interiors, to sell end of line products and sample stock, cutting waste and landfill use.

If products remain unsold, Pure donates the goods to local social projects or charitable organisations, depending on the type of furniture and whose needs in the community it would best benefit.

Roger Lewis’ sustainability efforts also extend to its team and supporting them to make a positive contribution.

Incentives for employees to go car-free have also been launched with cycle to work schemes, assistance purchasing railway season tickets and incentives for car-sharing. The team’s workwear has even had a makeover, moving to sustainably made items using organic cotton and recycled polyester.

Chivers adds: “We’re incredibly proud of what the team has achieved and excited about showing customers the modern manufacturing processes we’ve put in place, which are aligned to our commitment to becoming more sustainable as a business.”