Business as (Un)usual |Keyworkers in Manufacturing During Lockdown – Production
As key workers, our doors have remained open throughout lockdown here at Walker Filtration, and business has continued – albeit in a far from ‘usual’ way. Practicing social distancing, training new employees from afar, and juggling working from home whilst trying to entertain children has become the norm.
We caught up with some of our staff at our Head Office in Washington, Tyne and Wear, UK to find out more about what it has been like working through a pandemic. This week we are talking to production and finding out more about the challenges they have faced over the last four months.
Lee Patterson – Lead Operator, Dryers
“At the start of lockdown, we had people on our production section that had to shield due to underlying health conditions, which put them at a high risk of a serious illness if they caught COVID-19. This led to a skill gap and, as a result, we introduced cross training from other areas of the business to make sure we had the support we needed. We are continuing to look at how we can keep people safe and support those who have been shielding in coming back to the business.
“Training people and keeping to safety guidelines during the pandemic hasn’t been easy, but we have put processes in place to be able to train from a distance and support people working on the line. There is PPE available and cleaning products on hand, as well as hand sanitisers and gloves. Training time has increased, but we have managed to overcome any issues and our production operatives are doing an amazing job.”
Claire Waggot – Production Supervisor, High Volume and Dryers
“We have seen a dramatic increase in product going out of the door in the last few months as we have continued to manufacture medical equipment to support the fight against COVID-19. The team have coped incredibly well throughout the increase in demand, as well as the change in shift patterns, which we introduced as one of our many safety measures. I’m very proud of the high level of teamwork and commitment that we continue to see on the shop floor.”
Allison Miller – Production Supervisor, Filter Housings
“Working throughout the pandemic has been a huge challenge. We have had to make a lot of changes to the way we work on our production lines to maintain social distancing. At the beginning of lockdown, staff were apprehensive, but the health and safety team have done an amazing job at creating a safe working environment including one-way systems on site routes and additional cleaning facilities.”
All areas of production at Walker Filtration have faced their challenges during this time, one of the main areas impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic has been Medical Pipeline and Plant, who have seen demand skyrocket over the course of the past few months, especially for medical gas outlet terminals for use in hospital settings.
Morggen Turner, Production Manager for Medical Devices, talked to us about how the business has reacted to this increase in demand:
“To cope with the increased demand, we have moved to a 7-day staggered work week, implemented daily planning meetings to discuss urgent orders, and put on an extra shift – all while maintaining government guidelines and putting in measures to keep our team safe.
“It has required incredible commitment and coordination to react to urgent orders, not only from our production team, but from all areas of the business. From customer services entering an order, to supply chain reacting to an increased demand, the planning team working to schedule production, and despatch to get it to the customer – We are lucky to have a very dedicated and hardworking team that have pulled together to make it happen.
“It certainly hasn’t been easy working throughout a pandemic, but everyone continues to go above and beyond and we all feel incredibly privileged to be in a position to contribute and help in some way.
“Everyone’s attitude has been fantastic and there is a real understanding and appreciation for the settings that these products are used in. Some have been shipped to Nightingale hospitals, and others have been provided to hospitals local to our manufacturing plant in the North East of England.”
Julie Robinson, Walker Filtration’s Operations Director, who oversees the company’s end-to-end operations commented;
“We are extremely proud of the team at Walker Filtration, who are continuing to ensure that we can make and deliver product to our customers. Our people have shown superb commitment and flexibility in keeping going, and we couldn’t have done it without them.”