UFORM – Heart of the Home
Uform’s unique business infrastructure has allowed it to be as agile and adaptable as the kitchens it provides.
Uform Group is a well-invested business that has experienced significant organic growth, since it was established by the Donnelly family in 1993, from humble beginnings. The company was originally founded to supply painted MDF wardrobes from a small factory footprint of 6,000 square feet on the island of Ireland.
“We now employ approximately 400 people within the Group, operating out of two facilities totalling 280,000 square feet, selling 1,600 kitchens a week to Great Britain and the island of Ireland markets,” says the company’s Group CEO, Simon Oliphant.
Today the Uform Group consists of two companies. The larger company, Oakwood Door Designs T/A Uform, is a kitchen frontal distributor with over 1,800 active customers. Uform offers the most comprehensive range of doors and components on the market, supplying independent retailers, builders, and contractors. The smaller company, based in Donegal, is called Andoras, meaning “door” in Irish. Andoras specialises in bespoke, handcrafted products and has recently launched, what will be its flagship brand, “Novelle by Aisling”.
Due to the success of the Group, it has gone through two separate phases of investments, in 2018 BGF acquired a stake in the company and more recently, Cardinal Capital Group Ireland announced further investment to help facilitate the growth plan.
Creating Spaces Around Flexible Infrastructure
“Our vision is to be easy to do business with. Because of our customer-centric approach, we have got a very sticky, varied, and loyal customer base that is expanding,” Oliphant tells us.
That loyal customer base is born out of Uform’s ability to help customers create aspirational living spaces through an unrivalled, innovative, and extensive product range, designed primarily around kitchens, “the heart of the home,” as Oliphant calls it.
“We offer the widest choice including 92 ex-stock door ranges which are available to customers within a 24-to-48-hour delivery period from point of order,” Oliphant says.
Furthermore, Uform operates the largest Paint-to-Order facility in its sector, with the capability to spray and despatch products to order within a two-week window.
“We also have a colour match service. The beauty is that if the customer wants to create a point of difference, we can tailor their kitchen to that unique colour which can completely transform the overall aesthetic,” Oliphant points out. “We have successfully created an infrastructure that is extraordinarily flexible. In essence, we can provide large-volume manufacturing on a batch size of one. That is very difficult to achieve.”
In addition, Uform’s Andoras facility caters for bespoke sizes offering unrivalled choice and service in the market. Due to their manufacturing facility and expert knowledge, they can create a customised kitchen to the exact specification the customer requires.
This is not just about being able to provide a wide range of colours and sizes. It is about supporting smaller independent retailers and contractors through access to a complete product offering on a much larger scale using extensive marketing via its consumer brands, Kitchen Stori and Novelle by Aisling.
“We supply independent retailers so that they can differentiate the product offering to that of large multi-national furniture retailers, with a next-day service, bespoke sizes, and unlimited colour options. Combining this with our Novelle range which targets the very pinnacle of the most discerning customer is a very powerful proposition,” Oliphant says.
Uform can offer the customer a much more extensive range and service than that of German brands. They tend to keep the product range narrow and provide an inflexible service proposition. Uform challenge’s the status quo and thinks outside the box to offer solutions to problems. This gives the consumer a much wider choice alongside a more premium buying experience.
Building Skills for Scalable Growth
Uform’s entire range of capabilities is built on the foundation of its staff and their skill sets.
“We have a significant budget set aside every year for upskilling our staff,” Oliphant says. “People drive businesses and organisations- not robotics or technology. People put the systems and processes in place. The core of our business is our people, our established culture, and the values which we live by.”
“The infrastructure our people have created and operate in allows the necessary transparency to be dynamic and well-informed. Decisions can be taken and implemented quickly, and this agility gives us a unique advantage over our competitors,” explains Oliphant.
The result is a loyal, engaged, well-informed and highly skilled workforce that has performed phenomenally well through sustained periods of growth.
“Over the last six years we have tripled our turnover and dealt with the challenges of COVID exceptionally well, whilst protecting our service levels,” explains Oliphant.
Like any company, Uform seeks a return on its investments. However, that is always seen as a secondary as the customers’ needs come first. You can create nearly anything but if it is not right for the customer and the market then you can quickly burn resources needlessly.
As Oliphant points out, “If there is a need, there is generally a value. That is an important nuance. We look for the need within the market, be it for new products, new sizes, or a different service proposition. The value flows naturally from the need.”
It is clear the business innovates on every level and does not consider innovation to be only at the product level. Systems, processes, and new production methodologies, alongside excellent service, are all areas which the company considers when focusing on innovation.
Commitment to Sustainability
“Uform has always been committed to a ‘Green Philosophy’. Our products are either FSC or PEFC-certified. The materials sourced tend to be recyclable or from recycled sources and our products are engineered to last,” Oliphant says. “Where possible, paint waste is reprocessed to make cleaning agents and we procure green energy and heat the factory from waste material. The continuous training of our staff fosters behaviours which encourage productivity and sustainability. Being a responsible organisation is a fundamental requirement and we continue to find new and innovative ways of demonstrating our commitment through a meaningful ESG policy.”
There is a drive and focus on becoming carbon neutral; solar, wind and other technologies are planned introductions over the next three years. Uform is also running trials on new water based paint technologies which, although more expensive, underlines its commitment to sustainable practices.
“We want to continue to grow, with an evolution towards living spaces rather than just the kitchen,” says Oliphant. “Our future aim is to generate more revenue by accessing different opportunities in adjacent markets. Our existing ranges can evolve through different sizes and options to access bedrooms and bathrooms. In addition, it will open the opportunity to sell occasional furniture such as sideboards, TV units, coffee tables and bookcases bringing open plan living into the heart of the home and really contributing to enriching living spaces.”
With all of that in the pipeline, it is obvious that Oliphant is excited about the future.