Andy Heath has worked at Flexiform for many years. A Product Designer by trade, Andy has worked in a number of areas in both Flexiform and the industry in general, from furniture design to bar and restaurant design. Andy’s current role is Marketing Manager for both the Flexiform and Asgard brands.
You have been in the industry for some time now, how long have you been in the furniture industry?
Forever! Since graduation, in fact before I graduated. I actually started on a year out as part of my (Product Design) Degree, I spent a year in the Design department of Carleton Furniture in Pontefract – that’s where I was taught traditional drafting techniques and was given live projects to run. From there I was lucky enough to walk straight into a Teknion Dealership just outside London. Suddenly straight from University I was sat in the Head offices of major companies – designing schemes for Mars, Cadence, Williams F1 and other huge organisations. I was very lucky to land that job straight from University that was an amazing few years, I learned so much from the owners Gary Helm and Alison Elliot. They were very good at what they did”.
How has your time at Flexiform been?
“A mixed bag, I was tempted back up North by cheap house prices and joined Flexiform in 2001/2002. Times were pretty tough then, money was tight and resources even tighter! So I became involved in Graphics, Marketing, Space Planning, Site Survey, Literature, Photography – you name it I did it. At the time it was tough. But looking back retrospectively, that sort of experience is priceless”.
Sounds like there was a lot to do back then, how is the Flexiform of today?
Yes, they were busy and tough times. The last few years have been a complete contrast to the old days. As Flexiform has found stability, our reputation has grown as has the company, there are lots of new faces around, we have taken on some really good people in the last few years, in particular the Marketing department is very strong! But then I would say that!
Flexiform are working with big names again, HS2, Marks and Spencer’s, numerous big Architectural practices and designers and lots of Government based jobs. The client list is huge. We have the other division of the company now (Asgard) which I’m also involved with (Marketing), though that is a different business model (secure storage). It’s really an online business. So, Asgard days revolve around PPC, SEO, affiliations, brand recognition, customer reviews and so on. The Asgard role presents a completely different set of challenges but does overlap nicely with Flexiform at times. For example we managed to get a tie in with team GB cyclists Elinor Barker and Helen Scott for Asgard, and they have helped to promote CDW this year for Flexiform. So it does all work nicely together.
Clerkenwell – Flexiform have designed some new products this year??
It’s been manic, we have really pushed ourselves this year – Flexiform are known for being sheet metal workers, making good quality storage units. What a lot of people don’t realise is we are so much more than that. We have a full Design and Marketing team, with 100’s of years of combined experience. This year we have decided to use that experience, so we set about designing (and making) products specifically for CDW – We have designed some stunning products using new materials and technologies – Credenzas in various styles, a totally wireless height adjustable bench, with integral wireless charging, tables that turn into football games, archery games… we have extended our very successful (Organic) Ferro range from last year’s CDW. We’ve experimented with printed metal techniques, laser cutting….the list goes on and on… We even have a living wall system we are working on. In the last few weeks we have even teamed up with a European company and have the most amazing seat you have ever seen in our London showroom. We have used our connections with the GB cycle team for this year’s CDW and are giving away a number of prizes for a local charity, including signed items, days in a sports cars and so on… It promises to be real eye opener for those who know Flexiform of old.
It sounds like you have some great products to show and you have even designed a pod?
“Yes, when we (design and marketing) were dreaming up CDW products, we set ourselves a personal challenge. Can Flexiform design something we have never done before? Flicking through some magazines we saw a pod and thought, “Let’s have a go”. We are really pleased with the result. The pod is new to us and fits in nicely with what we are doing at CDW this year. Showing the industry we are much more than a metal factory. Flexiform are a British, design led company that has the skills and resources to do anything”.
What will the next 12 months bring?
“Product development is really important. The prototypes we are showing at CDW will be worked up into full ranges in the next few weeks. There are a couple of new products not quite ready for CDW, which we need to push on with – and they are pretty special. Technology is our big thing. The 3D VR side is really looking good, as are some of our new manufacturing techniques such as metal printing and laser cutting.
Brand building is the other key focus area. Flexiform have a great Marketing department, small and highly skilled, we create good no nonsense Marketing campaigns – no frills, honest and to the point. Showcasing the company skills, and it just works. We have raised our profile a lot in the last couple of years with new products, some great literature and of course our shortlisting for Manufacturer of the year. We will keep that momentum going, with more of the same – pushing our boundaries and really shouting about our achievements”.