Investing in the Future
As a longtime partner of Sunbrella, we proudly offer the following insight into our industry operations.
For the last two years, the pandemic has caused extreme volatility in the global supply chain, causing shortages and extended lead times in almost every industry.
Sunbrella, the leading brand of high-performance fabrics, was not immune to these challenges. During this time of uncertainty, Sunbrella acted swiftly and pulled forward a strategic growth plan: $250 million investment, 75% of that in the US operations, in expansions to increase production efficiencies and capabilities and output in yarn manufacturing, weaving, and finishing.
While this massive capital expenditure had been part of the long-term strategy, Sunbrella recognized the need to accelerate their plan to meet the unprecedented demand. In addition to increasing production capabilities, the expansion plan also included a novelty yarn plant, greater warehouse capacities, and enhanced shipping capabilities.
While seemingly risky in such unpredictable times, Sunbrella saw the investments as necessary to continue to serve their customers, as well as position the company for long-term success. “We wanted to do right by our customers,” said David Swers, President of Glen Raven Custom Fabrics, parent company of the Sunbrella brand. “We saw this as an opportunity to make changes for the long term.” And the risk has paid off, according to Swers, who said that the plan has been successful and lead times are close to pre-pandemic levels, with most stock fabrics ready to ship immediately, and made-to-order fabrics available within 8-14 weeks. And Sunbrella will continue to make progress to meet and exceed previous service levels.
CUSTOMERS DESERVED MORE
The $250M expansion plan consisted of two phases. In the first phase, system enhancements and upgraded equipment increased output by more than 25 percent, which allowed fabric to be delivered to customers more quickly. The second phase, which is still in progress, includes increasing yarn manufacturing, warehouse capacities and shipping capabilities. In addition, when the new finishing facility is completed and up and running, Sunbrella will have increased internal finishing capacity and capabilities. “We know our customers deserve more, even with the challenges in the supply chain,” said Swers. Not only did the expansion plan allow Sunbrella to significantly reduce production lead times, but it also offered more flexibility for the future. As an example, the new novelty yarn plant increases the company’s ability to create yarns with unique, innovative textures and dimensional colors – while still offering the legendary performance of Sunbrella that consumers desire when shopping for their home.
Given the supply chain challenges that were being felt around the world, it would have been understandable for Sunbrella to wait and hope for things to improve. But according to Swers, that kind of approach is not in the company’s DNA. “Many of our customers have worked with us for decades,” said Swers. “We felt an obligation to support their needs and these improvements were ultimately to be great long term partners.” Swers added that it also would have been tempting to take shortcuts and compromise quality standards. This was also not an option. “The only option was to make the investments necessary to ensure we could meet our customers’ needs,” he said. “Now and in the future.” This approach stems from the company’s optimistic culture, according to Swers. “We have managed through many times of change in our long history, but the past two years have been unparalleled,” he continued. “We remain focused on what we can do to navigate challenges and fulfill orders for our customers while producing the highest-quality fabrics in the industry.” Most importantly, the capacity investments made by Sunbrella demonstrate their commitment to long-term success. “Customers are much more than a purchase order to us, and we remain committed to their ongoing success in today’s ever-changing business environment,” Swers concluded. “This expansion reflects that commitment. It’s a long-term investment in the future of our industry.”
Credit: Furniture Today X Sunbrella Fabrics