Window Supply Company CEO Duncan Murray sheds light on the challenges of returning to work, keeping everyone safe and doubling production capacity post-lockdown.
Following the announcement from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the 23rd of March, we closed Window Supply Company’s manufacturing site and all trade counters with immediate effect. Tools were downed, the factory made safe and we locked the doors for a then unknown length of time. We estimated that, at maximum, it would be for around ten weeks. The decision to re-open in early June with only a skeleton staff was not one taken lightly, but with construction one of the first sectors given the green light to re-start and specific guidelines available on re-opening safely, the time was right.
Like so many other businesses easing out of lockdown our first step was to implement strict social distancing and hygiene measures to keep our team safe. In the factory, face masks are compulsory, we added protective screens at each workstation with social distancing throughout. Staff temperatures are taken daily and there are several sanitation stations throughout the factory and trade counters. All our trade counters adhere to social distancing with a new queuing system to keep both staff and customers safe.
Initially, with a team of only five in manufacturing and just two in our Livingston trade counter, we started back cautiously with the simple plan to firstly complete jobs that were in mid-production when we closed and to then start working through the backlog of orders. By returning more stuff from furlough each week, we managed to reach the same level of manufacturing capacity as before lockdown, largely attributed to our commitment to LEAN manufacturing. The full team were back at Window Supply Company within six weeks of re-opening and it is due to their hard work and dedication that we quickly reached pre lockdown levels of production.
Whilst a surge in demand was not entirely unexpected, the level of demand is higher than anticipated, but we are certainly not the only window fabricator to experience this. Our trade customers tell us that retail demand has soared since the restrictions on working in people’s homes in Scotland has lifted. With lock down forcing consumers to spend more time in their homes, with little else to do, they have focused their attention on home improvements.
Whilst this increased demand is a welcome boost for the sector, it does come with challenges. The entire supply chain has been affected from raw materials to glass and hardware, therefore we are experiencing delays which are negatively impacting lead times. Whilst some of the supply chain challenges are completely out with our control, we have made some significant investments and implemented several measures which will allow us to work towards restoring our standard levels of service.
We have installed additional machinery in our window manufacturing plant to the value of £0.6M and added another thirty members to our team, twenty window fabricators and ten to our trade counter network. We have also introduced a new shift pattern to accommodate the huge increase in demand which has enabled us to double our manufacturing output.
We have invested in new infrastructure and now have a dedicated warehousing space for despatch and added additional delivery vehicles to our fleet. Further investment in barcode scanning allows us to control visibility on the movement of goods in and out.
I would like to thank our valued customers for their patience during this uniquely challenging time. As we continue to learn and adapt to a new way of working, exceptional quality and service remain at the core of everything we do, and standard levels of service will be restored in the coming weeks. With our industry leading supply chain partners and through our investment in people, technology and infrastructure we are well equipped to deal with the surge in demand our sector is currently seeing.