As we move into Step 4 of the lifting of COVID restrictions from Monday 19 July we wanted to provide an update on:
- our current operational status;
- the potential of some disruption from COVID isolation and supply chain;
- our working practices and how we are managing visitors to our sites; and
- our continued growth and investment.
Current Operational Status
Omega Plastics, Gateshead – FULLY OPERATIONAL BUT POTENTIAL DISRUPTION (SEE BELOW)
Omega Plastics has remained fully operational throughout the pandemic to support all customers. Our toolroom continues to run at normal capacity and shift patterns. Our moulding and assembly teams continue to provide our normal 24/5 low volume or technical moulding service across our 50T-330T press range. However, there is the potential of some disruption explained below.
Signal Plastics, Washington – FULLY OPERATIONAL BUT POTENTIAL DISRUPTION (SEE BELOW)
Our moulding and assembly teams continue to provide our normal 24/5 high volume or technical moulding service across our 40T-1,300T press range. However, there is the potential of some disruption explained below. Signal Plastics will also be closed for the normal summer shutdown between 26 July and 8 August (weeks 29 and 30).
Increasing numbers of colleagues in isolation
As you may be aware, the North East of England is seeing a significant increase in the number of positive cases of COVID-19. As a result, we are seeing an increasing number of colleagues who are being required to self-isolate, in most cases due to close contact with someone who has tested positive in the community or through being alerted by the Test and Trace app.
In the last 3 weeks, 22 colleagues have been required to self-isolate, which is approximately 1 in 7 of all colleagues. The teams across the Group and at both Omega Plastics and Signal Plastics are doing an incredible job working with agility and flexibly to minimise any impact to our customers. To date, we have been able to manage this without any disruption.
For the first time during the pandemic, we are starting to see challenges on recruitment or the availability of agency or other temporary workers to help cover in certain areas. This is in part due to pressures on agencies from their workers being required to self-isolate and general demand in the labour market.
If the number of colleagues being required to self-isolate continues at the same levels, then combined with the normal holiday period reducing cover and challenges on short term recruitment, there may be some operational disruption to timing of deliveries or our ability to respond in some areas of the group.
We will continue to manage this the best we can to avoid any disruption but, as it is in most businesses across the country, the position is changing daily. If we believe there may be impact on any specific areas of the business, projects or deliveries, we will try to talk to customers as early as we can about this and keep in communication.
Supply chain challenges and material availability
Several of our suppliers and sub-contractors are facing and managing similar challenges in relation to self-isolation from their employees. We are working with them to try to minimise any potential consequential impact to us and our customers. However, conceivably, this could impact the supply of components or the provision of any sub-contract services (welding, painting etc).
As we updated in May 2021, we are continuing to experience extended and variable lead times when purchasing injection moulding polymers due to current global conditions in the polymer supply chain. We are advising all customers that we ideally need 8-12 weeks firm commitment for materials for us to be able to ensure we can meet required moulding delivery dates. Some material lead times are extending beyond this, and we will advise accordingly in those instances.
We are also seeing variability in polymer prices based on global demand and availability, and we will confirm any changes to component prices at time of order.
Please can you factor in these general market issues when looking at future order requirements, so that we can ensure material availability to support your demand.
Working Practices/New National Restrictions
We have put in place measures to adapt both of our sites and to change our working practices to ensure good hygiene, maintain social distancing and manage transmission risk. Those measures are summarised here.
We have been reviewing those measures regularly and consulting with our colleagues on the steps we are taking to make our facilities and working practices as safe as we can.
We have decided to make no immediate change to our current measures, and we will continue to work on the same basis. Given the level of community transmission, we do not believe it is the right time or review or relax our measures. We believe they continue to be appropriate and balanced to reduce the risk of transmission for all colleagues and others on site. The measures have also been working well for us to date and allowed us to limit any transmission in the workplace and remain fully operational throughout the pandemic with no significant impact on customers.
Going forward we will continue to assess the risks of COVID-19 in the workplace identifying control measures to manage that risk.
To reduce the number of people on either site, wherever possible, we are using video conferencing, telephone calls or email to communicate with customers, suppliers, or business partners. However, where there is a business-critical need for an in-person visit we have in place protocols to accommodate those visits. Only a limited number of visitors to each site will be permitted daily. All visits must be arranged in advance and approved by an executive team member.
If you have been unable to visit us since our relocations to our new facilities in Gateshead and Washington – we have a short video on our website which provides a tour.
Our continued growth and investment
Despite the ongoing challenges from the pandemic, we continue to look forward with great optimism.
We have continued to grow during the last 12 months and have added an additional 60 colleagues to the team since March 2019 across all areas of the business (105 to 165 colleagues). We have appointed a number of key customer-facing roles including:
- Ged Pattison as Head of Operations at Signal
- Darren Evans in a newly created Head of Group Quality and Compliance and Keith Hind as Quality Manager at Omega Plastics
- Sharon Gray as our first Account Manager
- Aaron Khalid in a newly created Senior Quality Meteorologist role
Despite the pandemic we have continued to invest in apprentices and graduates and growing talent for the future, with 5 new starters across all areas of the business.
We have also continued to invest in our facilities and equipment. On the moulding side we have invested in 4 new injection moulding presses between 50T and 520T over the last 6 months, to increase both our capacity and our technical moulding capability (the 50T all electric machine has two barrels for smaller shot weights and more control on smaller technical mouldings). In our toolroom we have invested in a new CNC lathe to increase our ability to turn parts and components in-house, to reduce and manage any supply chain risk on turning.
We will make some further exciting announcements in relation to this investment in people, facilities, and our capability over the next few months.
If you have any additional queries, please do not hesitate to contact your OPG contact. Our contact details are on our website here.
I would like to thank all colleagues in the Group for their continued dedication to support our customers through the pandemic. I would also like to thank all customers, suppliers and business partners for their continued support and trust.
Stay safe and well.
Group Managing Director
Issued: Week 28 (15 July 2021)