Picture above: Robert Kaiser, CutPRO’s CEO
CUT RESISTANT CLOTHING FOR THE GLASS AND GLAZING INDUSTRY, POST COVID-19, AND THE VIEW OF CUTPRO® CLOTHING
Chris Champion, Glass News’ Editor, talks to Robert Kaiser, CutPRO®’s CEO about how the Covid-19 epidemic will affect CutPRO®’s business, specifically, and the cut resistant clothing sector in general.
CutPRO® is a supplier and manufacturer of cut resistant clothing of every kind made from a variety of materials. Did you have to close, completely, or have you managed to provide a service of any kind during the lockdown?
Robert Kaiser: Our Headquarter here in the UK remained fully operational. Almost all our employees from our sales, marketing, admin and accounts department are now working from home. It took us around two weeks to put the infrastructure in place e.g. laptops, mobile phones, two daily welfare calls a day, daily reporting procedures etc. We also hold large levels of stock, which allowed us to continue to supply and, in many cases, continued to deliver next day. Our cut resistant clothing production facility in Poland also continued to remain fully operational, following their legal guidance and regulations.
How many of your customers locked down completely? Of those that kept open, what level of service did they offer during that time?
Robert Kaiser: I don’t believe many locked down completely. We are supplying some of the world’s leading glass producers and processing plants. I believe the majority continued to operate somehow on a minimal staff level. Some of them may have closed a large selection of their plants. However, our key contacts within senior management and the purchasing, as well as health and safety departments, did continue to work like the most of us, from home.
We have experienced a two to four weeks difficulty to communicate, because they had to make the same infrastructure changes as we had to, enabling their workforce to work safely from home.
Did you continue to receive supplies from your various suppliers and did you see a marked difference according to their geographical origin?
Robert Kaiser: We continued to receive supplies. Having said that, we have certainly experienced our fair share of delays, simply due to lack of directions within all European Governments. Importing, exporting, shipping, dealing with customs, it all became a little more complex. A market difference was soon easily to identify. As soon as a country noticed an increase in COVID-19 infections their action and guidance of social distancing and ‘lockdown’ immediately started to impact the speed of communication and movement of goods.
You offer a wide range of product, if you have to source materials or products from abroad, do you anticipate that you may have to change suppliers in the future or look for new ones?
Robert Kaiser: We certainly have learned many lessons from what has happened around the world and to our business. However, I do not believe we will be looking at any new supplier. We have a key supplier and a supplier within our contingency plans and this system has worked and would work again.
Do you think ‘the blame game’ over responsibility for starting this pandemic will influence either your thinking over suppliers or prove to cause problems from a political aspect?
Robert Kaiser: Our professional opinion is that something in China was not handled ‘appropriately’, but therefore we have never and will not in the future utilise suppliers from that region. We believe in the fantastic capabilities within the UK and Europe.
In your opinion, will there be an increase in the amount of product purchased from Europe and less dependence on overseas suppliers or will logistics and world trade return to how it was before coronavirus?
Robert Kaiser: As per my previous comment. We have in the past and will always in the future continue to utilise quality and certified European raw materials. I believe others will come to realise that this is by far the safest way to operate.
What have been the key difficulties with returning to work? What exceptional arrangements have you made in terms of staff and customer protection?
Robert Kaiser: At this stage we have not returned to ‘office work’. Our employees continue to work from home till 30 May. We will then review our position. The arrangements and infrastructure change we have made have proven that our systems and SOPs work. If there is a second wave of infection following the relaxing of social distancing rules etc we will immediately revert back to this system.
Relationships are bound to change following the pandemic, particularly if you have had customers who have been slow or reluctant to pay what they owe you. Has that been an issue for CutPRO® and, if so, is there a way to repair the damaged relationship?
Robert Kaiser: I believe we have been very fortunate. We have not experienced any major delays in payment from our customers. If anything, we will have been forced to deliver a little later to our customers than promised, but the response was good and most have been very understanding.
Looking at timescales, have you re- opened for business or, if not, how long do you anticipate it will be before you are fully operational?
Robert Kaiser: We remained fully operational but with less staff. I would like to return back to ‘normal’ by 01 July 2020.
Have you started to receive deliveries from your suppliers and, if not, when do you expect those deliveries to commence?
Robert Kaiser: We continued to receive deliveries and have not experienced any major, or unacceptable delays.
Do you think we are talking about months or, perhaps years, before CutPRO® can say that you have returned to the same financial position as you were prior to December 2019?
Robert Kaiser: I believe we are talking about a very few months. In fact, we continued our social media campaigns, based on our belief that our customers and clients will use these forums whilst in ‘lockdown’, and I expect that we have increased our brand awareness by doing so. Our hope is that we will benefit from it and receive additional enquiries by the time glass producers become fully operational again.
Finally, what is your vision for the future? Will CutPRO® have changed substantially? Can it be as successful as it once was? And do you think the market will return as it was and, if so, how long do think that will take?
Robert Kaiser: CutPRO® has not and will not change. We are very humble, but equally we do believe we are the best in what we do. Quality, durability, and reliability is fundamental in our line of work. As far as this is concerned nothing has changed and nothing will change. Our hope is that our business returns close to ‘normal’ after the summer holidays, meaning September.
If that is not the case we shall improvise, adapt and overcome.
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