Flexiform designs, manufactures and installs furniture for blue-chip companies and Government bodies across the UK and overseas. This requires incredible organisational skills with dedicated Project Managers and Installation teams working from Flexiform hubs across the country. These huge teams are controlled on a day-to-day basis by our Delivery and Installation department. We caught up with our International & Northern UK Installation Manager, Natalie Parkinson, to gain a little insight into this complex logistical process.
Natalie, how long have you been working for Flexiform?
I’ve been working at Flexiform since 2018, although I actually began working for Flexiform’s sister brand, Asgard Secure Steel Storage, in 2017 through a 3rd party distribution company. At that time I was principally in charge of scheduling deliveries across the UK, liaising with Asgard staff, customers and our manufacturing facility – really quite a challenging position.
Tell us a little more about yourself, what did you do previously and what made you choose Flexiform?
I studied media production & technology at Preston University but ended up working in Hospitality for 12 years. I worked for Premier Inn for 7 and a half years, eventually becoming Operations Manager.
I wanted to leave the Hospitality industry due to the unsociable hours, so I decided to do some temporary contract work and get a feel for the ‘real world’. This was how I ended up with a local distribution company, working with Asgard. As my contract ended and I was set to leave, I was asked to join the Flexiform Installation and Delivery team, and we went from there really.
Can you explain your day-to-day role?
It’s my role to plan all jobs for the North of England and some International jobs. This includes booking in the installation teams and delivery vehicles for large fit-outs, covering every aspect of the install from when it’s due to arrive on-site, to loading in the factory, even who’s driving it the vehicle. I am in constant contact with each of our Project Managers to understand the schedule of the project, so we know which products need delivering to site at the right time.
Our Despatch team also handles all service calls. I speak directly to the Client or Sales Team to fix any faulty products or other onsite issues, scheduling in the work for our installation teams. It’s also my role to keep on top of all the Despatch admin and general day-to-day management invoicing.
It’s a great role which I really enjoy doing, it keeps me busy! The North covers a large sales team including the Scotland Hub staff as well as our main manufacturing Hub in Bradford. Some of the jobs are huge, installing hundreds of products over many days, often out of hours. There is never a dull moment.
What are the biggest challenges you face in the role and what’s the greatest challenge you’ve overcome?
Constant changes to the delivery date! Our Clients are major corporate companies and large Government bodies, with Clients of this size, it’s not uncommon for them to make last-minute changes to delivery times, dates, and even product choice. This can be a real challenge.
As a female in the delivery and installation role, a typically male-dominated area, do you find any drawbacks or difficulties?
When I first started there was a lot of extra attention when I was in the warehouse and shop floor, but I think it was because it was something they weren’t used to at the time! Everyone was friendly, nice and polite, I can understand why some women might find it an intimidating environment at first, but everyone was really helpful and I was instantly part of the Flexiform team.
How many deliveries do you book in a day?
This varies week by week, generally around 50/60 jobs in a week, these can be small snagging jobs or major installations – no two weeks are ever the same.
Some installations can be almost a thousand desks or storage units. What processes do you go through to ensure an installation runs smoothly?
We work closely with the Project Managers to ensure the installation teams have approved installation plans from the Space Planning team and project-specific information prior to install.
We ensure the deliveries are made methodically and accurately – for example sending all the desking first and then the units, or delivering by floor or wing. We ensure the delivery times and lorry sizes are suitable for the location and the right amount of time and people are allocated to a job.
I particularly enjoyed the two different site installs for a Government organisation that overlapped, the job went on for about 3 months around May 2019. These were the first big installs I was involved in and it actually made my job easier taking on larger installs. I learned a lot during this time.
I am really looking forward to the next few months as the new factory planning software has now been launched, giving us total visibility of production, this will make us really efficient and let me plan ahead. The new machinery investments will also help the Despatch team, as the product is now made much quicker, helping us to plan ahead.
Thank you Natalie for taking the time to give us some insight into your role. For more insights and to catch up with Flexiform staff, see our other spotlights: