Bus Industry News, Seats, Technology

StyleRide celebrates new premises anniversary in style

StyleRide Seating Systems has experienced plenty of growth in the past year, a lot of which can be attributed to the decision to relocate to a new, combined premises in Queensland’s Acacia Ridge

Since relocating to an improved facility nearly a year ago, seating manufacturer StyleRide has blossomed. Throughout the many positives amid a year of growth, StyleRide managing director Garrin Angel has barely been able to celebrate his company’s seats featuring in a blockbuster rom-com film.

“We were lucky enough last year to supply the seating for the set of the movie Ticket to Paradise, featuring George Clooney and Julia Roberts,” Angel told ABC.

“For all of the growth we’ve had in the past year, it’s pretty cool to think that our seats were on the airplanes used on the set of the film.”

To be doing so much that supplying seats on a set of a large-scale film is an afterthought shows the hard work that StyleRide is putting in for the Australian bus and coach industry. Angel says a lot of this work stems from the successful move to a new location in Queensland’s Acacia Ridge in early 2022.

The idea to relocate can be traced all the way back to March 2019, when Italian seating company Lazzerini acquired StyleRide Seating Systems. At the time, StyleRide was working out of two different facilities in Queensland, with the previous owners of the business also owning the properties. Angel admits the day-to-day operations of StyleRide back then was so inefficient that two full-time employees dedicated their days to moving products from the warehousing and fabrication site up to the cutting, sewing and final assembly factory.

 

“It all changed when Lazzerini acquired us,” Angel says.

“As part of a three-year tenancy lease agreement, they acquired the two premises and looked for an opportunity to consolidate StyleRide into the one facility.”

Upon drawing up the business plan for the change, StyleRide quickly determined that its growth as a business meant there was no point consolidating into one of its existing factories as there wasn’t enough space. In September 2019, Angel developed a relocation strategy for the business that involved the identification of potential properties that StyleRide could use to re-unite its two divided workforces.

As the managing director, Angel was at the helm of this change. After the strategy was approved by StyleRide’s new owners, he began engaging with the property market to find the perfect place to relocate StyleRide.

“Engaging with the market helped us identify properties that met the criteria we’d decided on,” he says.

“Our key needs were that it had to be around 2,000 square metres of productive space, have offices suitable to put in a permanent seating display, be close to our existing location in Queensland and have the space to install facilities that enhanced comfort for our manufacturing teams.”


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The last point was particularly important for Angel – in the diluted strategy StyleRide was currently operating under, there were no lunchrooms in any buildings for staff to use. He made it his mission to find land that could house lunch rooms that were air-conditioned to make the comfort of his staff a high priority.

Initial presentations from real estate agents landed on roughly 25 to 30 premises for Angel and his team to investigate in the hope of finding the ideal headquarters. Throughout this process, Angel found himself visiting one of these sites at Lysaght Street, Acacia Ridge, up to 10 times to inspect the existing premises.

“The Lysaght Street building was an existing facility that was part of a larger industrial complex,” Angel says.

“The facility was located just off Bradman Street in Acacia Ridge, so it covered the key criteria of being within our existing area so our staff didn’t have to travel extra.

“It had carparking, was single storey and had a great open floor plan in the offices, so it was definitely an early favourite that caught my eye.”

Although there were other buildings vying for Angel’s attention, the initial attraction to the Lysaght Street space proved telling. A collective decision from StyleRide’s management landed on that spot. StyleRide had its new home mapped out, it just had to complete the relocation.


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Angel didn’t waste time upon securing the space. After the lease was signed, Angel was granted access to the vacant property to complete floor layouts. He remembers stopping by often to put masking tape down on the floor to plan how the factory would be laid out.

“This process helped me confirm that the facility would meet every need we had,” Angel says.

“We negotiated with the landlord over the lease structure to ensure we had an efficient structure that still helped us grow the business.”

After first finding the spot, it took StyleRide only six months to sign the contract that sealed the deal. With the lease set to start on March 1, 2022, Angel was lucky to be granted access early from January 1 to complete any initial work. He leapt at the chance to install some of StyleRide’s most important and environmentally friendly equipment.

“Getting in early allowed me to construct our electric powder coat oven and install our welding facilities and fume and particle extraction,” Angel says.

“It gave me the chance to install it correctly and put the finishing touches on the additional electrical infrastructure required to open the new facility on time.”

Just 12 months ago, this process was completed when StyleRide officially launched the new premises in Lysaght Street. Angel says the past year has been a whirlwind, with the new facility proving to be pivotal in growing the StyleRide brand.

Angel says the efficiency of moving components within the facility without having to travel to a whole new factory has been noticeable for everyone on the floor. Extra space in the factory has also allowed his workforce to move material quicker and ahead of time to fulfil orders faster.

“One of the biggest gains in efficiency we’ve had is in the communication between factory sections,” Angel says.

“Before there was a clear disjoint between final assembly and fabrication. Now, having only the one building, daily toolbox meetings take place and there’s direct coordination between everyone, meaning we can operate efficiently without a specific, full-time production manager.”

Although this helps streamline StyleRide’s processes, Angel has also loved the way this change has allowed his workers to develop their skillsets. In an industry fighting to attract and retain workers, the ability to upskill factory employees to the point that they don’t need a director of traffic has meant they are all able to coordinate departments by themselves, such is their degree of expertise.

It’s a pleasing bonus for Angel, who, upon entering StyleRide in April 2019, found out that 80 per cent of the staff at the time were casual workers.

“Part of my HR strategy when starting with StyleRide was to bring people into permanent roles so we could offer the most to our workers,” he says.

“This has allowed us to focus our efforts on their training and skillset development. Now, having permanent placement in a new facility, the layout will help us build skills further.

“Since this move, we’ve had very low staff turnover and all of our permanent workers are learning so much.”

The new facility has also done wonders for StyleRide’s environmental approach to manufacturing transport seats. The relocation gave StyleRide the chance to transition from gas fire ovens to electric powder coat ovens. Angel, who installed the new electric ovens himself, says this has dramatically reduced the amount of fossil fuels burnt in the manufacturing process while also improving the quality of their powder coating.

StyleRide also took the chance to change how it glued its seats upon moving locations. Previously, Angel says the manufacturer used solvent-based contact adhesives in the seat assembly process, requiring extensive fume extraction systems as well as more masks and PPE gear.

Since moving to Lysaght Street, StyleRide has benefited from using water-based contact adhesive that are much better for the environment and don’t need expensive fume extraction equipment.

 

“With our old solvent-based glues, it took a lot of time for a new bus to lose the chemical smell,” Angel says.

“Now, our process is more or less using a salt water substrate that cures the contact adhesive and only needs basic masks while speeding up the gluing process.”

With all of these changes made, StyleRide is pushing forward with more motivation than ever before. Angel is set to be joined by a new national business development manager that will further expand StyleRide’s presence in both the bus and coach and marine industries.

At the same time, StyleRide will also target supplying seating into non-transport related industries to widen its scope as a manufacturer. Around supplying seats to rom-com movie sets, a major landmark looms on the horizon for the seating manufacturer.

“Now we’re under one roof, we have been able to redeploy our workers into direct production and we’ve seen the benefits already,” Angel says.

“The business has developed rapidly and combining the factories has provided great synergy. With the Brisbane Olympics coming up, we’re ready to seize any opportunities to expand and diversify our product range.”

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