As production returns to a new ‘normal’, Rupert Gatty, CEO of CoolKit, reflects on the Covid-19 crisis and what we can learn from it.
“Events escalated so quickly that we had no choice but to react and respond rapidly when it became clear that a constrained supply chain was our most immediate threat.
“As a busy manufacturing business, we were on constant high alert; poised for any and every government and industry advice about the situation as it unfolded.
“When Rishi Sunak announced the furlough scheme, we made the tough decision to furlough three quarters of our staff; we had a full order book for the year, but there simply weren’t the adequate resources for full-blown production to continue.
“The skeleton workforce who carried on during this time volunteered to do so and I petitioned MP Antony Higginbotham to give us key worker status, to help our employees access childcare and travel to work unimpeded. This was granted on the basis that we were suppliers of critical pharmaceutical wholesaling equipment.
“Complete closure seemed imminent as suppliers began to close their doors for foreseeable future, leaving us without access to vital parts and resources.
“Yet, by remaining vigilant and determined we’re proud to say that the doors didn’t close. In fact, it’s safe to say that we created a vital lifeline for our customers and a competitive edge for the CoolKit brand during this time.
“How? In our 15 years in business, CoolKit has built a strong reputation among supplier and partner relationships, which, during the pandemic has enabled us to navigate difficult situations. Staying close to and engaged with such collaborators has been crucial to getting work completed on time.
“The customers who placed orders with us during this time absolutely value our capacity to get the work done straightaway without compromising on the quality they have come to expect from CoolKit. That is arguably the overwhelming reason we were chosen and we’re proud that we were able to deliver against the odds, ensuring the vital delivery of food and pharmaceutical supplies.
“Those orders continue to be met by a complete workforce who return to us with renewed vigour; it is incredible to see a busy shop floor in full operation once again, albeit with strict Covid-19 measures in place.
“We now find ourselves with a new ‘normal’; manufacturing colleagues operating within socially distanced zones and a ghostly first floor office space, as desk-based staff continue to work from home.
“As we now take time to breathe and reflect on the last three months, we are looking at increasing our stockholdings in order to protect against the threat of depleted stock in the future, as this was without doubt our greatest threat during the lockdown period.
“We’ve learned to plan further ahead in terms of labour resources and have identified areas of the business that were inefficient and need attention as we enter this next phase.
“We’re also remaining alert as to the true extent which the impact of Coronavirus has had on our hospitality and tourism industries, given that these form a large part of our customer base, while anticipating extraordinary growth in others and adapting to meet those needs.
“Our formal sales and operations strategies will help us optimise responsiveness to these markets as we navigate our way out of this period.
“Like so many businesses, we’ve had no choice but to reinvent much of our office team as home workers; a concept I had previously considered would be unproductive and impractical. The pandemic has really opened my eyes to the benefits of home-working and I will certainly be re-evaluating our approach to this in coming months.
“On a personal level, I’ve been reminded that you can never take anything for granted. No one was safe from this pandemic, it hit us all unexpectedly and we were all forced to respond.
“It’s safe to say we’ve survived the storm, and whilst the scale of it has been unprecedented, the opportunities which will arise from it will be vast for those who are ready to adapt.