22nd February 2006
18 Members and 8 guests visited Manhattan Kitchens factory, which occupies one of the main assembly shops of the erstwhile Southern Railway Carriage and Wagon Works at Lancing.
On arrival, Iain Flitcroft, the MD, gave an introductory talk tracing the history of the company from two ex-RAF wartime friends making wooden clock cases from scrap, new timber being scarce in 1945, to the present day concern which makes and installs some 8000 kitchens per annum. Their customers are almost exclusively builders and developers.
Following this talk, John Hinde, the Engineering Director, talked us through the fully computerised continuous flow procedure from initial enquiry to signing off the installation. It was very impressive to someone like your reporter who never went near a computer during his whole working life!
Subsequently, we split into two groups and toured the factory. We saw impressive woodworking machinery, all computer controlled, each attended by one person. They do, however, have a bespoke workshop where “top end” items are made by hand. Incidentally, doors, except for specials, are outsourced from the Far East.
In the manufacturing process, perhaps the most interesting point was the attitude to waste, where a calculation is made comparing the cost of the wasted material with the time required to use the material to the limit. Usually, it is cheaper to waste material.
The visit concluded in the impressive Showroom where a selection of kitchen finishes in all three-price ranges is displayed. This is to some extent a retail outlet operated by a separate franchised company who measure and fit kitchens in the retail sector but only use Manhattan items. Members are offered a 30% discount if RCEA is mentioned when ordering.
Judging by member’s comments, the visit was seen as both interesting and worthwhile.