The Sprinter 'hits the nail on the head' for Redwood Design

The Sprinter: Making Christmas happen for 25 years

In our fifth and final edition of ‘The Sprinter: Making Christmas happen for 25 years’ we speak to John Kinahan, Managing Director of Redwood Design. John shares with us how Redwood Design has grown over the past 21 years, becoming a leading specialist in furniture and joinery manufacturing and how the Redwood fleet of Mercedes-Benz vehicles makes Christmas happen for them. 

Tell me about Redwood Design?

Redwood Design are a specialist furniture and joinery manufacturer. We mainly deal with the commercial sector. We specialise in joinery fit-outs for the big Multi-national corporations, large pharmaceuticals, Aircraft leasing companies and general commercial office fit-outs, supplying them with bespoke furniture and joinery.

We are 21 years in operation as Redwood Design. The company was set-up back in 1999. We started off in a small location in Coolock, where we were located for 3 years before we outgrew the space. From there we moved to Ashbourne, Co. Meath, where we were located for 15 years. We then outgrew the Ashbourne location and moved to Duleek, where we’ve been for 3 years now. I’m not going to move again; I’ve done enough moving over the years! Our current space is 28,000 sq. ft so its big enough for all our operations.

Originally is started off with myself and Darren McEvoy who is the current production manager, we’ve now grown to have 30 staff employed directly and 3 teams of contract fitters. At the start it was only the 2 of us for about 6 months before my wife Sharon joined us. We then continued to grow organically over the years to get to where we are today. There’s currently a skills shortage in our industry, we could actually take on more employees if the skills were out there but unfortunately there not. As a result, we made the conscious decision to focus on quality rather than quantity.  We have a very low turnover of staff here, some of our employees have been working with us for 20 years.

Tell me about your fleet?

We have 2 Mercedes-Benz Sprinters. They are long wheel base high roof vans and we’ve had them for 2 years now. We also have 2 Mercedes-Benz X-Class, 1 Atego Truck, 1 e-Class & 1 CLS 53 AMG. We also have a new addition to our fleet coming in January 2021, a Mercedes-Benz Vito.

My first Mercedes-Benz vehicle was the first van we bought for Redwood Design back in 1999. We purchased a small, second-hand Sprinter that had around 150,000 miles on it. It was all that we could afford at the time, but it kept on going and going for us. We were doing jobs in London then so we were travelling over and back on the ferry a lot with full loads, that Sprinter never let us down.  I think we had near enough to 500,000 miles on it by the time we were finished with it. It definitely stood the test of time for us.

That was my first experience with a Mercedes-Benz vehicle. If you can get 500,000 miles out of a Sprinter, you’re not going too far wrong, so we stuck with the Mercedes-Benz brand since. 

What is the most attractive thing about the Sprinter in your opinion?

The reliability is a big attraction for us. They are also very comfortable to drive, you can sit in them for hours driving. We have had other brands in our fleet over the years, but the Sprinter is definitely a lot more reliable and more comfortable to drive in comparison. Our staff always preferred the Sprinter throughout the years. If there’s ever a choice of a van to go somewhere they will always choose the Sprinter.

What we really like about the Sprinter is that there available in long-wheel-base, so the payloads are particularly good on them. We’re making furniture and joinery which are often large, bulky items that can be awkward to fit into smaller vans, but the Sprinter LWB high roof is great, it nearly takes as much as a truck! The Sprinter has great pulling power, you can fill them up and there is never any shortage of power.

Where is your fleet in operation?

Our fleet could be all over the country from Cork to Dublin. A lot of our work is based in the greater Dublin area, but we work in Galway, Limerick and Belfast. Our fleet would be on the go non-stop. There’s generally never a van sitting outside free.

Our mileage would vary but we could clock up anything from 50,000-70,000 miles per year on a van, with most of that milage done with full loads.  

We have 1 full-time driver for deliveries. We then have all the fitters who generally bring loads with them every morning so they would also drive the Sprinters. They’d load up the Sprinters in the evening time and have them ready to go on-site the following morning then. 

Has COVID-19 had a big impact on Redwood Design?

We were hugely affected when the first lockdown happened earlier this year, but we got back to work when the construction industry re-opened. We had to introduce lots of COVID-19 measures in the factory, installing sensitization stations and keeping the vans sanitized with only 1 driver per van.  In the workplace we then have all the COVID procedures, staggered lunch breaks, social distancing and temperature checks. We have only had minor disruptions to our work, we’ve been lucky enough that none of the building sites we were working on had COVID cases. All the sites we work on have well managed COVID systems and procedures in place. In some cases this has add time to our fitting procedures but in general we have been able to work with it and are happy to be able to work at all in the current climate.

During the first lockdown we had to close due to the restrictions. After the first couple of weeks there was a shortage of face shields to protect people from COVID-19 and we had the facilities to make these shields for the hospitals, nursing homes and Ambulance services. We were lucky to be able to do this free of charge. Some of our staff came in on a voluntary basis to help with making the face shields. I think the staff were delighted to come in to have some human interaction and to get out of their own houses! It also had the feel-good factor in it that they were giving back and helping out in some way.

We have also sped up a project that we were working on with a subsidiary business of Redwood Design, called Red Cube. Red Cube specialise in building Washroom Systems amongst various other products. We’ve developed these touch-free washroom systems a lot sooner than we planned and we’ve brought forward the launch. 

Is Christmas a particularly busy time for you and your company?

Yes, Christmas in normally a crazy busy time of year for us at Redwood Design. From around October time the panic starts, everyone wants their projects finished by Christmas. We’re very busy at the moment as a result. We generally have our Christmas break from the 23rd for a week or two depending on what day Christmas falls on. We’re very much looking forward to the break after a hectic working period the past couple of months. We finish early on the 23rd and we make sure to have all of our fleet cleaned up and ready to go for the New Year.

Do your employees enjoy working during this festive period?

I wouldn’t say ‘enjoy’ is the correct word! But they definitely get a sense of satisfaction when they complete everything on time ahead of Christmas. We do enjoy the Christmas banter; we had our Christmas jumper day this week too, it can’t be all doom and gloom after the year we’ve all had!

Is the Sprinter a key player in making Christmas happen for your company and your customers?

Yes, it is from the point of view that we have to get deliveries done on time for our customers. We can’t have a van that’s on its way to a job with a kitchen for somebody breaking down on the road. From reliability to payload point of view, it’s a key player. 

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