Keeping the Wheels Moving

Photo Credit: Andy Clutton, PSI

I am from time to time accused of being too passionate, over-dramatic, or even grandiose when talking about our business’s place in the world or when ‘talking up’ our prospects for world domination.

Punching above one’s weight though is easy when you’re only 11 stone and 5’ 8” in Nike Vaporflys! My enthusiasm of course stems from my background in sales, an irrepressible optimism and an unerring belief in business, commerce & enterprise and the vital part they play in Keeping the Wheels Turning. 

Our business is saving the economy.

Last week we received notification from the FIA (Fire Industry Association) via a letter from the Home Office stating that the Fire and Security industry provide vital support to critical services as well as relieving the pressure on the emergency services. This in turn classes our staff as 'Key Workers'.

As a manufacturer of fire safety products, we are helping to keep buildings and their occupants safe from fire. The products that we manufacture directly impact public safety.

Vimpex is also a supplier of PPE, which now, more than ever is essential in supporting the health and wellbeing of our emergency services ensuring they can remain operational. Vimpex supplies 90% of the UK's NHS requirement for specialist safety helmets, which is huge. The helmets have full face visors which helps to protect staff from infection so we play a critical role in the supply chain by keeping front like workers safe.

Imagine for a moment if four weeks ago, every business had stopped. Not just the cinemas, gyms, hotels, restaurants and airlines, but also businesses like ours?

No fire alarm equipment, no PPE for frontline staff.

This is why the business I run, and many other companies like us, continue to operate. It’s because we desperately want to capture as many orders as possible then manufacture, assemble and pack these orders as quickly (as safely feasible) and invoice them before the purchaser decides to lockdown. We are doing this in the hope that it will guard against the failure of our businesses, will minimise the impact on the wider economy and ensure that key safety products remain available to the commercial fire safety market and keep the supply chain open for the key rescue and industrial sectors. We are also doing it because if everyone gave up working the world would be in a dire situation.

The alternative to this is to go into hibernation; go home, furlough all staff, stop paying rent/mortgage/direct debits of all types and hold off suppliers. I believe that too many businesses mistakenly thinking they were doing the right thing; believing they were following the government’s guidance to the letter, shut up shop too soon, too early and without need to. 

I have taken steps to keep our business functioning throughout these uncertain times to keep the cash flowing and maintain the health and safety of our employees. The majority of staff who can, are working from home and they of course can be contacted at all times due to the level of technology we have available to us today.

I have also enforced strict social distancing rules for the key workers who need to come into the factory as they are unable to do their job at home. The moment we made the decision to continue working, every door was propped open, every banister, light switch and kettle handle sanitised three times a day and all staff strictly instructed to keep at least two metres away from each other. It’s as if there’s an invisible forcefield around us – within a day or two of implementing the regime, people were remotely bouncing off each other in their keenness to conform and to be sensible. Like wearing high-vis vests, it’s become a habit.

Whilst I am sure there is improvements we could make to the adjusted working conditions we find ourselves operating under, I believe that our staff still coming to work - of whom incidentally I am extremely proud – are more at risk visiting the supermarket than they are at Vimpex.

Despite the government’s lack of trust in us, businesses have proven that not only can they operate as this lockdown continues into its fifth week, but indeed they must. Staying home is an option for the many, but for the few - sensibly, safely and responsibly getting to the factory, washing our hands on arrival and throughout the day, greeting one and other from afar and playing our part in keeping The Wheels Turning is what we should do. If we don’t, things after this is all over will be a lot worse than they might be.