Time for beds

Posted on 8 Apr 2009 by The Manufacturer

Making sure its customers get a restful night’s sleep is keeping Healthbeds wide awake. Caroline Merz talks to managing director David Smeaton

Getting a restful, healthy night’s sleep is something we all need and crave, and Healthbeds’ mission in life is to help people achieve just that.

The independent company, based in Rotherham, has been making beds for over a hundred years. The business has passed down through generations of the same family: David Smeaton is currently the managing director, while his father Tony is the chairman. The 52-strong workforce is also remarkably stable, resulting in outstanding expertise that has been built up over the years in every aspect of production and development.

Being well-established doesn’t mean standing still, as David Smeaton explains. Only four months ago the company moved into a state-of-the-art £2m manufacturing facility covering 33,000 square feet. The main building, on a three acre site owned by the company, includes a 5,000 square foot dedicated mezzanine showroom, while a second 10,000 square foot building is used for storing raw materials.

“Although we’re long-established, we’re not especially traditional,” says Smeaton. “We produce a huge range covering the whole bedding spectrum, and we’re at the forefront of the bedding market.” Healthbeds’ expertise has been recognised by many awards, including coming top in a recent Which? award for memory foam mattresses in both its Best Buy and Best on Test categories.

The company, which sells mainly through independent bed retailers, has a continually growing customer base. “Having such a big range, we like to think there is something in the range for everyone,” says Smeaton. “We hold no stock, and every order is manufactured for the individual customer. It’s all bespoke; nothing is mass-produced. So we can make a bed to any requirement, whether this is wider, longer or lower than normal. Where access is a problem, we can split a bed into quarters rather than in half, which is more usual. We’re quite niche, and we play to our strengths.”

What about the competition? “In one sense we’re in competition with everyone else because our range is so wide,” explains Smeaton. “But we also like to make beds that aren’t comparable to anyone else’s beds, so in another sense we have no competition. One example is a new base called Healthflow, which allows the mattress to breathe.”

It’s the use of innovative technology together with traditional craftsmanship that has allowed the company to survive and prosper. Each bed, which takes two to three weeks to produce, is individually made using the highest quality materials. Careful attention is paid to every stage of production.

Flexibility is at the core of Healthbeds’ continuing success in manufacturing, and the key to this flexible approach is a sophisticated bespoke ordering system, says Smeaton. The system, known as Advanced Revelation, was created for them by a Rotherham-based IT company, Quad Microtech. “It allows us to react and adapt as something goes through the factory. It keeps us light on our feet.”

While you might assume that the company’s name derives purely from the manufacture of orthopaedic beds, this isn’t strictly true: it’s actually the fillings that are behind the name. The house dust mite’s ideal environment is old-fashioned fillings, but it doesn’t thrive in the manmade hypoallergenic fillings used by Healthbeds. Mattresses are treated with anti dust-mite protection to try and keep the free of dust mites right to the deepest fibres, providing welcome relief for allergy, asthma or eczema sufferers.

As well as its range of bespoke divan beds, the company has developed a range of adjustable beds which provide support and comfort tailor-made for individual requirements.

Listening and responding to customer needs has been vital to Healthbeds’ continuing success. For example, while memory foam has been the on-trend mattress of recent years, the more traditional pocketed feel mattresses are currently experiencing a renewed surge in popularity. Rather than resting on its laurels, the company is bringing out a new range with traditional fillings. “In the past we might have made a new bed and gone out and said, here it is,” says Smeaton. “Now, we have members of staff with significant past experience in retail who can give us the retailers’ outlook. This allows us to empathise with what our customers’ needs are.”

Most of all, Smeaton attributes the company’s success to its people. “It says something for our workforce that every single member of it moved into the new factory with us. We’re only ever as good as the people who work for us; they’re very valuable and they have a wealth of experience. That’s why we were able to build a new factory in the current economic climate.”