Inside Sir James Dyson’s Dyson-land
LONDON — Bagless vacuum cleaners, bladeless fans and wand-like hair dryers are just some of the products that British technology brand Dyson makes from its base in Malmesbury, a small town in southwest England.
The brand is the town’s main employer with more than 3,500 recruits. Malmesbury’s population is 5,380.
The inventor Sir James Dyson, who has multiple patents to his name, has sat at the top of his empire since 1991 with no plans to sell out, slow down or take the company public.
“Dyson is a global technology company, but it remains family-owned and that really matters to me. Without external shareholders to hold the company back, we are free to think for the long-term and take radical decisions,” Dyson said in an interview with Beauty Inc.
“I have no interest at all in going public because this would spell the end of the company’s freedom to innovate in the way it does. When you own the whole company, from the early days, for better or worse, all decisions are your own. The company has grown now, and we have professional management and a highly capable board. Like me, the majority of our leaders are engineers — I want to keep it that way,” Dyson added.
Over the past 30 years, Dyson has become a leading name in international engineering, as its owner is one of Britain’s wealthiest families. He ranks number two on the Sunday Times Rich List, with a net worth of 23 billion pounds.
Sir James Dyson
Dave Benett/Getty Images for Lux
The Dyson Group saw record profits in 2021, with 1.5 billion pounds from 6 billion pounds of sales.
Those billions are generated at the Dyson campus, which is not just a place of work, but a large community that lives and breathes the brand, and hones emerging talent.
In September 2017, Dyson opened its doors to the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology. Every year, the program accepts 40 undergraduate students, providing them with on-campus housing and the opportunity to work on projects. Each student also earns a salary.
“We have 160 undergraduate engineers. They question things, challenge things and approach problems with an untrained eye,” Dyson said.
At the end, they’re offered a job with Dyson’s global engineering team which is constantly expanding, and, of late, putting the focus on hair care.
In 2012, the company invested 50 million pounds in developing its first hair care product — the process took four years, and the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer was launched in 2016. It costs 330 pounds and looks like a wand, or a lollipop — but nothing like a traditional hair dryer.
Hair care has become a booming business and the company continues to put money behind it. Over the next four years, Dyson said it plans to support the launch of 20 new beauty products and open new beauty research labs with an investment of half a billion pounds.
“We are dedicated to understanding the science of hair; this is the foundation that underpins all of our beauty technology. We have been researching the science of hair for a decade, and have already invested over 100 million pounds into hair laboratories,” Dyson said.
In October, the company unveiled its first Dyson Beauty Lab in South Florida at Saks Fifth Avenue Bal Harbour. There, customers can purchase and receive one-to-one service about their products.
On the Dyson campus, there are assigned spaces for each part — however small — that goes into making the beauty products. There are sound and frequency rooms to trial the products and hair testing rooms, where the final product is used on every type of hair, over and over again. The hair is then taken to a lab to assess the damage from multiple blow dries.
There are special facilities dedicated to the improvement of hair. The 3D printing room is one of the most expensive on the campus. It contains four machines worth between 500,000 pounds and 2 million pounds each. Each machine produces a different 3D component in order to speed up the pace of production.
Employees and guests are instructed to wear specially provided footwear and white robes with a strict no photography rule when moving between facilities.
Dyson said that, in the past, “hair dryers relied on bulky motors and crude heating systems, making them slow and top heavy. They often used very high temperatures, which is damaging to hair. We realized that if we took an entirely new approach that the core technologies in them — motors, fluid dynamics, thermodynamics — could be vastly improved.”
With a robust balance sheet, billions of poundsand multiple inventions to his name, Dyson said his proudest professional achievement has been his commitment to sustainability, and reducing energy consumption.
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“This has been primarily through our long-standing commitment to progressing the state of the art in motors technology. This enabled us to develop hand dryers that use 10 percent of the energy of hot air hand dryers — and do away with unsustainable paper towels,” he said, adding that the company’s high-speed digital motors have enabled it to develop machines that use 200 watts instead of 2,000 watts, reducing electric consumption by 90 percent without affecting the performance of the product.
Dyson took over St James Power Station, Singapore’s first power station which previously operated as a 110,000 sq ft nightclub and completed restoration in March 2022.
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In 2019, following the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union, Dyson made the decision to relocate the company’s headquarters to Singapore. It means that Dyson will be near its fastest-growing markets, which are in Asia Pacific. The company will also be able to swerve new trade restrictions between the U.K. and the EU.
The Malmesbury base will remain and it will not affect any of the employees, however, it will give internal staff the opportunity to work abroad.
The company has taken over St James Power Station, Singapore’s first power station which previously operated as a 110,000-square-foot nightclub. It completed the restoration in March 2022.
“We are about to enter entirely new fields and these will spark other opportunities,” said Dyson, naming the newly Dyson Zone, noise-canceling headphones with air purification.