The art of kitchen design

Over the years, Roundel has grown from a local Tyne and Wear business, to a national entity with aspirations to double its turnover by 2025

With the precision of a chess player, Roundel Manufacturing Limited has been carefully making its moves for nearly 50 years now. A two-man business in 1969, today the company employs 250 staff members, and recently reported a 2017 turnover of £25 million. Managing Director Jim Bebbington discusses with us the cautious, but ultimately well-timed steps Roundel has taken, to reach its current position of a leading kitchen furniture manufacturer.

“The business started as a retail studio importing German kitchens, expanding over a number of years to seven quality Kitchen Design centres. It’s at this point that the two owners, Geoffrey and Lindsey Oman, decided they should manufacture their own kitchens, implementing many of the strong German manufacturing disciplines. To support the capacity generated by their own manufacturing facility they entered the housebuilder market, some 35 years ago,” Jim overviews the early years of the company.

Hailing from the Tyne and Wear district, Roundel gradually began to enlarge its footprint, and in 1985, it expanded beyond the North East, into Yorkshire. Then, in 2000, it started to deliver its services in Scotland, but the major breakthrough came in 2006. “Before 2006, they were doing an excellent job, but to a very restricted client base and geographic coverage. Their national customers were keen for them to expand, resulting in heavy investment in both structure, plant and machinery. This was when I joined the company with the task of expanding the business nationally,” Jim narrates. Soon after, Roundel found its way to the Midlands, the South East, and the South West, turning into a truly national supplier.

The housebuilder market has proven to be a great market for the company, with 90 per cent of its revenue coming through B2B avenues. It operates two brands under the RML umbrella – Roundel Kitchens, and Nixons Kitchens. Jim clarifies: “Nixons originated as a retail brand but now also supplies more bespoke solutions to quality housebuilders who are looking for something that little bit more special.”

With Roundel on the rise, Jim gives his thoughts on the reasons why the firm has grown so successfully: “We have been delivering great service, and in this industry, if you do a very good job for a developer on one site, you get more sites, it’s that simple. We have grown the business knowing that we are only as good as the last plot we have supplied.” But there seems to be more to Roundel’s efficient model. Jim continues: “We have always looked to invest heavily in infrastructure ahead of the business we secure. For example, in the Midlands, we invested in advance, developed our facilities, got our people in place then started looking for orders. It’s not the most cost-effective way to do it but it works for us and we can afford to do it. Invest early, always.”

The policy of active investment is expected to continue in 2018, as Roundel is planning to upgrade its machinery at the cost of over £5 million. “We have already invested in a worktop facility for approximately £1.5 million in January, and we are also planning to bring in a new piece part production facility, which looks like an investment of about £3.5 million,” Jim reveals. “We like and trust HOMAG equipment, believing it to be the very best available. Occasionally, we would buy machinery from other suppliers, just to keep some competitiveness in the tendering process, but we are generally, unashamedly biased towards the HOMAG products. They have a fantastic reputation for quality, durability, and lifespan.” In addition to the new equipment, Roundel also acquired two new next-door facilities to expand its headquarters in Tyne and Wear. “We now have seven units, four of which are in the same complex, but all of them are within a tight radius of each other,” he says.

Serious investment in plant and machinery will not distract Roundel from what it does best, great products. The development and the introduction of new products continues, and Jim announces the plans the company has for the market: “On the 1st of April we are set for our biggest and best product launch which will also see the introduction of our new Fusion cabinet.”

We star ted the ar ticle by likening Roundel to a chess player, because of the well-thoughtout business decisions it has consistently been taking throughout its lifespan, and the company’s long-term strategic planning underpin this. “We have aspirations to double the size of the business, however, we will invest to allow us to increase the current capacity of our operations fivefold. We will be careful, as always, to invest in front of requirement,” Jim wraps up, outlining Roundel’s goal to reach a £50 million turnover by 2025

Roundel Manufacturing Limited
Products: Design, manufacture, supply, and installation of fitted kitchens