British furniture company appoints KPMG administrators

07 August 2018 Consultancy.uk

A UK furniture producer has appointed administrators from Big Four firm KPMG, following a rocky start to 2018 for retailers and their suppliers. The administrators will aim to secure a buyer as soon as possible to avoid redundancies among the more than 200 strong workforce at QFC.

The UK retail sector bore the brunt of the sluggish growth seen across the British economy in 2018. Low levels of footfall and a decline in consumer spending power due to stagnating wages and rising inflation meant that stores saw in the year with a flurry of profit warnings. With 20 profit warnings in the retail sector in the first half of the year, many suppliers of companies such as Homebase and House of Fraser will also be feeling the pinch, due to the knock-on effect of a downturn in demand.

British furniture company appoints KPMG administrators

Now, a Lincolnshire furniture company has become the latest consumer goods producer to have fallen into administration. Since 1993, the Quality Furniture Company (QFC) has assembled more than 250,000 sofas a year for major retail brands, with offices and factories based in Grantham. The company makes sofas for retailers including DFS, Next, Argos, Homebase, Laura Ashley and John Lewis, and employs approximately 271 people.

Chris Pole and Mark Orton from KPMG Restructuring, have been appointed joint administrators to the furniture manufacturer. While as of yet, the administrators say there have been no redundancies, the company will need to secure buyers as soon as possible to evade the necessity of store closures and lay-offs.

Commenting on the situation, Pole said, “Like many operating in the retail sector at the moment, the Quality Furniture Company has been facing challenging market conditions for some time. This, along with cost pressures, a weakened pound and a decline in consumer spending, has impacted trading and has led the directors to take the difficult decision to place the company into administration. We will be looking to trade the business in the short term and would advise any interested parties to contact the joint administrators as soon as possible to express their interest.”

Related: AlixPartners to restructure Prezzo while Carluccio's hires KPMG.

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How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

11 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Amey Consulting has leveraged data insights to assist Network Rail with the improvement of its South-Eastern route. Using the Quartz tool, which monitors train movement, Network Rail will now be able to commit to data-enabled interventions to quickly improve underperforming train stations.

With rail services in the UK coming under strain from the demands of modern commuter life, while the infrastructure and service delivery of the nation’s railways has come in for sustained criticism in recent years, a period of regeneration is on the cards at last. Network Rail is the owner and infrastructure manager of most of the railway network in Great Britain, and has subsequently tapped the consulting industry on a regular basis to help find areas of improvement.

The group recently drafted in consultancy BearingPoint to conduct a thorough organisational evaluation and advise Network Rail (High Speed) on attaining a ‘fit for purpose’ organisational standard – for which the consultancy was nominated at the 2019 MCA Awards. Meanwhile, ArupArcadis and Aecom have been contracted to help Colas Rail and Babcock Rail implement a decade-long framework for Network Rail, aimed at supporting the delivery of the next generation of rail systems, with the contracts said to be worth as much as £5 billion

How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

As Network Rail further aims to improve its performance and customer service offering, another area it has sought help from the consulting sector for is its South-East route. The network of railways connects London with the southern parts of the country, as well as with Europe, making it the busiest in the country, with more than 500 million passenger journeys per year. This crucial expanse of rail was plagued with small minute delays, which were impacting millions of passengers every day, while reducing the efficiency and capacity of the overall network – something Amey Consulting was selected to help solve.

Amey Consulting soon determined that with the sub-threshold delays to services only lasting for 1 or 2 minutes, most were not the subject of detailed root cause analysis, and this made their corrections almost impossible – with dire consequences. Without addressing these delays, passenger satisfaction would fall, while the capacity and efficiency of the network would be reduced, stinging the income of Network Rail even before a host of delay-related fines would hit the company.

In order to help the client gain a better understanding of where, how, when and what these small delays occur, Amey Consulting looked to demonstrate the value of data-led consulting, with a significant reduction in delays within the first month of rolling out changes to key stations. The consultants embedded themselves in Network Rail’s team, helping them learn the key skills needed to support and apply data-driven solutions.

Agile transport

This involved the deployment of the Quartz tool. The system utilises to-the-second train movement data to present the performance of individual stations across the South-East route. It allows users to effortlessly understand station performance with a high level of detail, and use this information to identify losses caused by small-minute delays. The granular data allows for targeted actions to drive efficiency savings and performance improvements. More importantly, it allows users to understand the impact of small process changes on performance. 

Steve Dyke, an Executive Partner at Amey Consulting, said of the project, “We looked to identify the physical root cause on the infrastructure, building a case for change then managing that project implementation and tracking the benefit/value.  In doing so we are working to define a data performance improvement service to the operational and infrastructure owners.”

Just as important for the project as the technology, however, was teaching the Network Rail team how to leverage it after the consultants were gone. The Amey Consulting team worked to develop an agile working culture within Network Rail’s South-East division, helping staff to be confident in using data to improve the journeys of millions of people per year by attacking the problem from the ground up.

Dyke concluded, “This is less about the tools and about the approach to managing performance.  It meant using by-the-second analysis, data science, and then agile development to visualise and identify areas where improvements can be made.  We then worked with NR to change the way they approached the management of the infrastructure changes.  So rather than pass the information down the value chain, any of which could have been missed, we managed the change end-to-end.”

The project was so successful that Amey Consulting was also among those honoured at the recent MCA Awards. The firm scooped the Performance Improvement in the Public Sector prize for its work with Network Rail, at the 2019 ceremony in London.