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THE VERSATILE FLOORING COMPANY - Flooring Specialist Receives Government Help To Open New Production Facility In Luton

The Versatile Flooring Company, suppliers of the EcoTile range of 100% recycled, interlocking floor tiles, is investing its way out of the recession by opening a brand new, state of the art, fully robotic manufacturing facility in Luton, Bedfordshire. The government funding scheme Grants for Business Investment, The Carbon Trust and committed suppliers, have been crucial in making the new plant possible in an area severely hit by this recession.

The Versatile Flooring company makes a range of interlocking floor tiles called EcoTile. They imported their entire product range from Europe and China until December 2008 when the company began manufacturing its range of floor tiles in the UK using sub-contractors. This decision was driven in part by the huge currency fluctuations which affected profitability and the next logical step was to bring production completely in-house, within the UK.

The company believes that in-house production at its new Luton plant will better service growing domestic demand, including the wholesale market, and aid the development of export markets.

James Gedye, Managing Director of The Versatile Flooring Company commented, "We have seen growth in excess of 15% per year over the last three years and this year will be the same if not better, which is a remarkable performance in the current market conditions. Our two biggest competitors have either ceased trading or gone into administration in the last 9 months, which has created a huge opportunity for us."

Getting government help
Firstly a detailed costing was drawn up for a brand new injection moulding manufacturing facility, tool room, and warehousing and distribution operation of approximately 12,000 square feet. To make this happen the company approached a number of organisations to assist with funding.

With backing from the Department for Business, Enterprises and Regulatory Reform, the Grant for Business Investment scheme (GBI) offers grant support for sustainable business investment and job creation projects in disadvantaged areas in England. This is administered at a local level by the Regional Development Agencies, accessed through Business Link.

James Gedye explains, "We were able to finance the vast majority of the project in-house, but the grant has made all the difference and allow us to drive the project forward far faster, creating employment and export opportunities. GBI funding means that the project can start sooner rather than later."

The Carbon Trust is also providing funding in the form of an interest-free loan. Loans are available to businesses for the upgrade of equipment to save energy and improve efficiency. The Carbon Trust is a government-backed scheme that helps organisations reduce carbon emissions and develop commercial low-carbon technologies.

James believes now is the perfect time to start a project like this as excellent prices can be negotiated on machinery and premises. Also, excellent highly qualified people are currently available, and recruitment may not be as easy as and when the market improves.

The latest technology
The new Luton manufacturing plant for The Versatile Flooring Company will be state of the art. The company has worked closely with leading injection moulding company Sumitomo Demag and robotics specialists Hi-Tech Automation. The use of the latest high specification equipment and technology allows for high production rates and efficiency. At the heart of the project is the requirement to keep carbon emissions and energy costs as low as possible.

Nigel Flowers, Managing Director of Demag Hamilton, believes the development of this plant offers a special opportunity for his company. "It’s great to see state of the art manufacturing investment going ahead in the UK with a clear focus on carbon efficiency, allowing us to implement some very novel technical solutions to dramatically reduce the plant’s carbon footprint."

A FANUC Robotics M710i robot, supplied by Hi-Tech Automation, will help The Versatile Flooring Company plant to produce its EcoTile range of interlocking floor tiles in 12-hour periods without any human intervention. The facility can run as a ‘lights out’ operation.

Ricky Thompson, Director of Hi-Tech Automation, commented, “This robot unload system has been designed with energy saving as the key objective. By using a six axes robot we have reduced the capital equipment cost normally associated with this type of operation, where a single robot would be required on each moulding machine. We demonstrated very early in the project development what would be possible by using the FANUC Robotics RoboGuide simulation software. This has the added advantage of ensuring the installation process time will be minimal before reaching full production levels.”

Exciting opportunity
James Gedye of The Versatile Flooring Company added, "Our new plant means we can create jobs, start exporting and generate healthy profits. It is a really exciting opportunity to invest in UK manufacturing.


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Arundel Jones Associates Ltd Registered in England and Wales No. 07334149
Hill Farm, Linton Hill, Maidstone, Kent ME 17 4AL
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