AluK announced a partial reopening of its Chepstow manufacturing facility on 23rd April to supply customers working on essential commercial contracts. We have had longer than most then to adjust to a new socially distanced work environment. As a result, we’re able to share our experience with customers and help them as they also get back to work and make similar adjustments to their operations, in line with the latest government guidance.
Inevitably, like AluK, most customers are managing a phased restart and, while that’s frustrating in terms of sales and volumes, it does at least give them the chance to rearrange their factories and, crucially, train their staff so that new safe working practices become firmly embedded before volumes start to increase.
What is critical here is that there is simply no room for error. No business can afford to get things wrong and undermine not just the safety, but also the confidence of their workforce. The government has issued clear guidance on the rules which apply to factories, plants and warehouses on its www.gov.uk website*, but I would also offer some further tips of my own:
- Optimise the skills set of your workforce
When you are looking to un-furlough staff, carry out a detailed skills matrix across your team so that you first bring back people who can work across different areas and minimise the number of staff you need to have working on the shop floor
- Reinforce the message
Use all the tools you can to communicate the social distancing message – from stickers on the floor to posters and notices inside and outside of the building – these are available from AluK. It’s a really big ask to expect people to undo years of ingrained working practices in just a few days without lots of positive reinforcement
- Extend your planning to the car park and communal areas
Remember, you need to ensure full compliance with social distancing throughout the entire site – from the car park and the clocking-in area to the canteen and the toilet facilities. Plan for this in advance so that you don’t get caught out as the numbers coming in and out increase.
Throughout this crisis, and as we hopefully start to emerge from it, the crucial thing for businesses is the strength of the partnerships which exist throughout their supply chain.
In uncertain times, fabricators need to know that their suppliers have the experience to navigate the challenges which they will face and also the strength and security to be able to weather the logistical and financial pressures which come with that.
Obviously, in various forms, AluK has been in the UK for more than 25 years and we have the global backing of the AluK Group and its shareholders, which has given us unstinted support throughout the lockdown.
That’s the reason why we have been able to continue helping customers throughout, even when our manufacturing facility was initially shutdown. We were able to go on investing in product development, marketing and customer support and stay in close contact with customers to work together on bespoke operational plans for their recovery.
It’s already a cliché to talk about the ‘new normal’ but what is quickly becoming clear is that if fabricators are going to be able to recover quickly from this crisis, they will need much more than a ‘normal’ service from their suppliers. It will be all about adapting our approach for individual customers and being flexible in the products and service we provide to them. AluK is determined to stand by our customers in the difficult months ahead, and we have the resources and expertise to be able to do just that.
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