Howdens' promise to the builder is of guaranteed quality, availability, range and price. Because we have control of our manufacturing and supply operations, and good relationships with external suppliers, we can keep this promise.
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The role of Howdens' supply function is to ensure that the depots never have to worry about any aspect of product supply. With Howdens' in-stock depot model, this obviously means making sure that stock is physically available to the depots at all times. But the role involves much more than this.
The products that Howdens sells must meet the whole range of market requirements. They must be attractive to the builder and their customers, which means the range must include all relevant styles and price points. Quality and reliability must be of the required levels - Howdens' products look good, are easy to fit and do not break. They must enhance the builder's reputation. The price of our products must be acceptable to everyone: the builder must be able to earn a living and their customer must feel that they are getting value for money.
Commerical criteria inform the way in which we source products. Where we have a high level of the appropriate skills and the scale of demand is such that it makes sense to do so, we manufacture products ourselves.
On this basis, Howdens has focused on manufacturing kitchen cabinets and worktops, both of which we do efficiently and on a large scale. Each year, we manufacture around 4 million cabinets and 3,000 kilometres of worktops in our factories in Yorkshire and Cheshire.
The key raw material for these products is chipboard, which is required for every kitchen. We have long term agreements with chipboard suppliers because continuity of supply is crucial.
About one-third of the cost of goods sold by Howdens is accounted for by products we manufacture ourselves.
Other products, including kitchen frontals, joinery, wireworks, flooring, lighting, sinks and taps and a range of appliances are designed to our specifications and bought in from around 200 suppliers who can meet our our exacting requirements in terms of quality, volume, availability and cost.
Howdens manufactures products in two UK factories, one in Runcorn, Cheshire and one in Howden, East Yorkshire. On each site, there is a warehouse, and there is a third warehouse in Northampton for housing bought-in products.
Howdens has a transport operation that delivers products from the warehouses to the depots. This consists of around 100 'power units' (or lorry cabs) and 500 trailers. Its key role is to ensure that depots receive exactly what they require when they need it. As a result, each of our depots receives a bespoke service that enables them to meet the needs of the builders they supply. In order to maximise the efficiency of our fleet, we seek to minimise the number of empty return journeys and look for opportunities for the fleet to be used outside the hours when depot deliveries are undertaken.
In addition to these physical operations, our supply function is responsible for product design and development, raw material and product purchasing, quality assurance and inbound supply management.