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3 minute read

Investment helps furniture maker reduce lead times & increase output by over 30%

A wood furniture manufacturer is expecting turnover to top £4m this year, after using state-of-the-art VR technology to revamp its workshop and chip-away at lead times.

Funky Chunky Furniture, which manufactures its handmade furniture and shelving product range at its 1,200 sq ft workshop in Jarrow, revamped its entire facility last year after receiving support from the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project.

Employing 24 people, the North East firm reported three consecutive record months during the pandemic – with sales topping £350,000 in June – thanks to the introduction of new machinery and processes allowing it to significantly reduce lead times and increase output by over 30%.

Working with academics and manufacturing experts from the SAM Project, Funky Chunky Furniture utilised state-of-the-art VR and simulation software to completely redesign its workshop and explore how it could use floorspace to maximise output and reduce costs.

With the help of the SAM Project, Funky Chunky Furniture has reduced lead times and increased output by over 30% – it now plans to create 12 new jobs / Picture: RJM Photography


This helped the company mitigate the majority of challenges brought about by the pandemic, allowing production to flow seamlessly, while the UK home improvement boom led to soaring demand for its products from customers across the UK and Europe.

Kevin Johnston, founder and managing director, said: “The company has grown year-on-year since we launched in 2013 and we’d been considering revamping our processes for some time until we were introduced to the team at SAM.

“Originally, we had an idea of how we wanted to do it, however being able to use state-of-the-art VR and simulation technology allowed us to map out our workshop digitally and use the software to visualise how we could move our machines around, ensuring we maximised lead times and identified bottlenecks up front, without actually having to halt production and move a single machine.

“Not only did this allow us to continue operating while we transformed the workshop but it also helped us identify and invest in new automated machinery that slashed sanding and waxing times, while eliminating the bottlenecks across production lines. The support we received has been fantastic and has helped take the business to the next level.”

Having reported three record months during the pandemic, Kevin and the team are predicting turnover to more than double in the next year – from £1.9m to over £4m – and are sparking a recruitment drive in a bid to match their ambitions.

He added: “We’re forecast to double our turnover this year which is really exciting. We’ve invested in a major rebrand and have significantly ramped up our marketing efforts over the past 12 months which, combined with this expansion, we’re confident will stand us in good stead.

“We’re also looking to bring on board another 12 members of staff, which will take our headcount to 35 36, as we look to capitalise on this growth and ensure we grow at a sustainable rate. However, we also need to make sure we bring the right people in so that we can maintain our company culture, but I suppose that’s all part of running a growing business.”

SAM offers four key support functions to businesses that are gearing up to grow, including access to technical expertise, with industrial specialists using their skill and expertise to guide businesses through the process of understanding and implementing technology; R&D, with a team of researchers able to support with the development of new products and processes; factories and facilities, including access to £1m of industry-leading advanced technology and equipment; and its grants scheme, that offers financial assistance to businesses that qualify.

Ken Teears, project manager at SAM, said: “We are delighted to have been able to work with Kevin and the team at Funky Chunky Furniture to not only explore the possibilities of VR but also to invest in the machinery required to take the business to the next level.

“As an SME that manufactures its entire product range here in the North East, it’s a real success story for the region’s manufacturing sector and Kevin is a perfect example of what can be achieved when business owners embrace new technologies and continue to innovative, even during the most testing times.”

The SAM Project is a scheme for businesses based in the North East LEP area.

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