Jacky Sidebottom-Every, Joint Managing Director at Glossop Cartons, explores the challenges currently facing global industries in light of the COVID-19.
This time last year I talked about the challenges Brexit was having on the packaging industry and how it would continue to do so in the future. I don’t think any of us could have foreseen that just one year on, we’d be in the middle of a global pandemic, facing even more difficult challenges. Not just in business, but for everyone personally.
As the Government starts to lift some of the lockdown restrictions, I’ve been reflecting about the last few months and how we’ve coped at Glossop Cartons through tremendous challenges, and look to what the future holds. It would be good to hear from others in the industry for their stories and how they have managed.
2020 started very positively for us here at Glossop Cartons. We’d continued the investment in the company with a property expansion, in last half of last year. By acquiring the 2,300m2 industrial building next door to our existing 4,143m2 Stockport production units this meant we could accommodate new machinery, streamline our production process and increase the size of our onsite storage facilities. We welcomed Simon Boden to our management team, as Business Improvement Manager as we continued to look at operational efficiency, increasing production capacity and reducing customer lead times, whilst maintaining quality.
This investment and continuous improvement in the business stood us in good stead for what was to come in March with the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent UK lockdown.
Glossop Cartons has continued to operate throughout the pandemic as we, like many more in our sector, are key workers, producing packaging for pharmaceuticals, personal care, food and household products. Although some of our clients saw demand fall flat for any luxury or none essential products, whilst our food, pharmaceuticals and personal care customers experienced a huge increase in demand, due to consumer spending.
The Glossop Cartons team has been magnificent, rising to the challenge of an unprecedented carton demand, often with large numbers being ordered in very short timescales. The increase in food packaging, in particular, has been very high, but the team has really met this challenge head-on and I am very proud of everyone.
The management team had to manage this high demand with changes to our operations to keep staff safe, introducing social distancing measures and more stringent cleaning regimes. Having a lot more space made this easier, but it was still a challenge to change the way we work when demand was so high.
We also had to cope with many members of staff off work either due to illness or shielding because they were in a high-risk group. This has fluctuated throughout the lockdown but it has put pressure on the working team having to cover and do many extra hours. Maybe this will become the new normal for the rest of the year as we continue to battle this virus. Other businesses will have similar challenges as they now start to return to work.
It has been very strange bringing onboard new starters throughout the pandemic, trying to manage the induction process with systems and equipment whilst still maintaining distance. It’s been a challenging time for everyone and something we could never have envisaged or planned for. But the fact that we have coped and have delivered our commitments to our customers is testament to the whole team effort and also the strength of our business processes. I think when there is a crisis businesses soon learn more about their strengths and weaknesses, as there’s nowhere to hide, giving us a learning opportunity to boot as well
Of course, many businesses have seen their marketplace decimated and the Guardian reported on the 29th May that UK manufacturers are planning tens of thousands of redundancies with slumps in orders from the on-going pandemic. So it is good to hear that some of the restrictions are now being lifted so that the country can get going again and companies can get back to work.
I think Glossop Cartons has fared well through this unprecedented situation as I know many businesses that have had to deal with a lot worse. I am hugely proud of the whole team, stepping up to the many challenges that we faced to continue to deliver the high-quality products our customers expect when they needed them most. I also know it’s not over yet, we’ve still got a lot of work to do and many more challenges to face, including Brexit, but we can do it.
I would love to hear your experiences and we can compare notes.