Smarter processes for window treatments

New process development leads to new product range

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The Company

Order Blinds Online is a small family business based at Bottesford, Leicestershire. In their 10-year history they have grown steadily and developed from an online retailer to manufacturer.

What they do

The company manufacture a range of vertical and roller window blinds to order, which are sold to retail customers, interior designers and blind specialists throughout the UK. Orders are taken online and over the phone by a dedicated sales team who are based in the factory.

The Challenges

The online blind market was growing, and the company identified two areas that needed addressing to ensure they could take on the competition.

  1. Productivity and Efficiency
    1. Roller blind cutting process: The company were limited in the number and quality of roller blinds they could cut per day using their existing roller cutting table. The current method involved cutting with a razor blade, which was manual, and which left a poor finish on certain fabrics.
    2. Vertical blind productivity: this was set to increase, and they were likely to reach full capacity soon.
  2. New product development
      They felt they needed to develop a more specialised range of blind solutions in order to increase their competitiveness. They had identified a gap in the market for uniquely printed designs and wanted to offer custom colours and individually designed patterns.

    The Solutions

    1. The company applied for and were awarded a grant from The iNet’s ERDF PACE programme. This provided part-funding towards the cost of an automated roller blind cutting table which utilises crush cutting technology and would allow them to increase their productivity significantly and enable cutting of all blind fabrics cleanly. They also purchased a new vertical blind sewing machine to solve their capacity issue.
    2. The company applied for and were awarded a grant from The iNet’s ERDF SING programme to help with the cost of a new UV digital printing machine and associated hardware as part of their development of a new range of blinds. The equipment uses UV light to cure inks, a relatively new process in fabric printing which means the inks are cured instantly, enabling repeated over-printing, and resulting in more vibrant colours and enabling them to achieve unique effects, such as day and night printing which display different designs at different times of day, depending on the lighting configuration. The company are now be able to experiment with different styles and develop bespoke blinds.

    The Outcome(s)

    The improved roller blind production has increased average output from 30 blinds per day to 70 and at peak times the company can now produce as many as 120 blinds in a day. This has allowed them to win bigger jobs, reduce lead times, and produce better blinds.

    The digital printing programme has been more of a challenge to get right and has proven a steeper learning curve. Altering the machine setup to print blinds was not straight forward and learning how to run the printer effectively has been challenging and rewarding at the same time. They have now launched over 150 designs, gained an exclusive collaboration with renowned designer, Lorna Syson to produce roller blinds for the UK and Ireland for her and are winning more and more custom printed blind jobs.

    Since starting the first project in June 2017, Order Blinds Online have created 3 new full time roles within the business and increased the company turnover from just over £1million in 2017 to £1.3million in 2018.

Throughout the process the support from PACE and SING has been fantastic. SING and PACE have allowed us to change the way that custom blinds are bought online. The limits have been removed and the lead time hugely reduced. The company continues to grow and that is very much down to the new machinery we have been supported on.

Matthew Forde, Director
About the client

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Order Blinds Online Ltd
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