Safety first

Phil Dewhurst Jr, commercial director at The Georgian Bar Company, talks about how the company has kept the safety of staff and customers as a priority, both during lockdown and as they returned to work.

It wasn’t long after the headlines for Covid-19 hit that I realised the UK would be going the same way as China and Italy, with mass shutdowns and restrictions to individual movement.

While unprecedented in the UK, we could see the number of cases were growing daily. Before the government put the country in lockdown, we took immediate action in protecting our team. Those actions included an individual care pack, no more than two employees in an office room, extra toilet and handwashing facilities, and we closed off our offices and distribution sites to visitors. We wanted to play our part in reducing the spread of the virus.

During this time, we also put plans in place to support customers by increasing stock levels by 20%. This means that as customers return to work, they will be able to get the products they need quickly.

We were keen to do our bit. The NHS is one of the UK’s most prized institutions and its protection was paramount in the face of this pandemic. As a country we had to stop the spread of the virus, to limit the number of people needing medical care, and that meant adhering to the government requirement to stay at home.

It was impressive the way the glazing industry worked together in the shutdown. Within a few days, from the top to the bottom of the supply chain, all were united in their support.

While the business has been closed, both our managing director and I have worked from home as much as possible, and visits to the office have been made to check security, accounting and administrative tasks, and offer a limited service to customers as they’ve needed products, mostly for new-build sites and emergency glazing issues.

We have made sure that all our suppliers have been paid on time and we believe that this is crucial to keep cash flowing throughout the industry, where possible. We have heard from several customers that they have not been paid for work; the knock-on effect is that they can’t pay their suppliers, and it impacts the whole supply chain. Cash might be king, but it’s cash flow that keeps industries alive.

On the occasions that Phil Sr and I were in the building together, we maintained the full 2m social distancing measures. Talking of Dad, I couldn’t ask for a better business partner through this lockdown; our skillsets and responsibilities differ for the most part and having each other to support and work through this has been fantastic. We have also used this time to stand back from the normal day-to-day issues and looked at ways of improving service to customers. We have streamlined internal operations, and this will mean customers will get an even better service.

We are not part of an industry that had to close – although a percentage of our products go into the home improvement market, where going into occupied homes has additional complexities. There’s been government pressure on house builders to keep housing development sites open. We know they’ve struggled to get building products, but this is now beginning to ease as businesses assess working practices. But our customers haven’t suffered as Phil Sr and I have maintained supplies to them throughout the lockdown.

We have started to get more orders and little by little companies are going back. Unless the government advice changed as this goes to press, we will have opened on May 11 and be operating at full capacity with the key members of our team. These have been difficult times for individuals, the industry, and the country. We need to maintain additional safety measures to keep safe and continue to reduce the spread of the virus, but at the same time we can use this opportunity to work together to build a stronger and more robust supply chain.