When is a faceplate truly flat? When it’s the Focus SB Smoothie.
What does it take to design and manufacture new products that no-one else can in the UK?
Focus SB is well-known for pushing the boundaries when it comes to electrical wiring accessories ‘design firsts’, notably the launch of a new collection for China’s luxury construction market in autumn 2017. Our company chairman Roger Kemp recounts how one unique product launched in 2014, the Focus SB Smoothie®, was conceived, on the cusp of the company’s 40th anniversary.
How did the idea for the Focus SB Smoothie come about?
Spence Harris Hogan Ltd (SHH) approached our OEM accounts manager, Richard Robertson, to see if we could produce a flat plate that was smooth to the wall. The original request came from an American client who had seen one in the USA. We tracked this down as a product called ‘Trufig’ which really was only suitable for dry lined walls. There was nothing like it in the UK so I got a friend of mine to buy one in the States and ship it over.
At that point, we signed a confidentiality agreement with SHH and Sizebreed Construction Ltd (the installer) to protect our design rights. We then approached Design+Product in Newhaven to see if they could come up with any ideas as to how we might manufacture a similar product for the UK. Meanwhile our engineering manager, Nick Howe, put his engineering cap on and set about seeing how it could be done and we therefore had two processes going on at once!
Why was there a need identified for a totally flush plate?
Apart from this particular client, we had been asked before about the possibility of a truly ‘flat plate’ in addition to flat plates that were in the market already. We had not done anything about it as we realised it would be expensive and we needed to be sure we could recover our design costs.
Once development of the Smoothie was embarked upon, who took the lead on developing the product and why?
SHH looked upon us as ‘the’ company to solve the problem. We took some ideas from the suggestions made by Design+Product and eventually Nick Howe worked out a solution that did the job, although the Smoothie does require a highly skilled installer to ensure the product is fitted correctly. So we ended up with a system for holding the plate to ensure it does not move (thus affecting the plaster) as plugs are put in and out.
How complex was it to develop the Smoothie?
It was pretty difficult to and took us 6-9 months of trial and error and we then had to get an installer to test the product to ensure it did fit properly when wired up. Each one is individual and all the parts are accurately machined in order to ensure that the desired result is achieved, no parts are interchangeable between plates.
What testing processes were required to ensure it reached industry standards?
None. The inserts are standard fully UK compliant accessories and the way it’s fitted does nothing to compromise that.
Did Focus SB have to design bespoke tooling to manufacture the Smoothie?
No, we machine everything.
What are the main differences in manufacture process compared to a standard plate?
None, the actual plates are really the same. The difference is the system behind the plate to hold it in place.
How popular is the Smoothie on projects and why?
As these retail at around £350 per plate, they have not proved to be very popular unless the end client has a real desire for the concept. It is not a replacement product.
Back box is installed.
Wall is plastered flush to plate edge.
Front plate is attached with magnets.
What are the pros and cons of the Smoothie - i.e. looks flush, but is it difficult to install?
Whilst it achieves the desired effect of being truly flush with the wall it does require a highly proficient installer and plasterer. They have to ensure that all the depths are correct and straight.
What options are available with the Smoothie compared with other Focus SB plates?
The same options are available, we have developed the capability to configure all products into the Smoothie range.
What makes the Smoothie different from other flush fitting products?
Some which are supposed to be ‘flush fitting’ still have the plate proud of the plaster. There are now one or two other products that are similar to ours but these are generally one or two gang plates whereas we can engineer bespoke plates.
To discuss the suitability of the Smoothie for your project please contact us to book an appointment with one of our product consultants.
Cover image copyright AVP Group.