Moving Back To Normality
A couple of weeks ago the UK was informed of its roadmap to come out of the COVID lockdown and the easing of restrictions. Now that things are slowly but surely starting to open back up again, it seems like a good time to look back at the rollercoaster ride that was 2020 and also to look ahead at what we can expect in the chemical, steel and plastic industries in the coming months and years.
When the first lockdown was announced, Pensteel was in a bit of a difficult spot – staff-wise we are a small company with only a handful of office staff, some of whom also double up as warehouse staff also. The general rule was to work from home if you could, but with very limited access to things from home and no-way of remotely loading up lorries it was decided to furlough half of the staff. Of course, we all thought that other companies would be in the same boat and that it would only be for a handful of weeks.
Unfortunately as we now know, it went on to be almost a year of on-and-off lockdown measures. From Day 1 though we were inundated with orders for full lorry loads to go to customers making medical alcohol to keep up with the amount of hand-sanitiser being bought. It wasn’t uncommon for 52 SX-EX IBCs to turn up at our warehouse to replenish our stock, only for it to be completely decimated the very next morning. We were both lucky and thankful that Schutz were able to prioritise our demand and keep us supplying the UKs medical industry.
As the lockdown continued it became clear that some of our customers and suppliers were unfortunately feeling the effects of COVID. Schutz in Worksop were running a skeleton staff a couple of months into the lockdown, which pushed lead times from days, to a week and then to almost a month. It was at times like this, we were grateful that as a nation everyone understood the implications the pandemic was having on our industry and customers were putting in orders in advance but also not panic-stocking their tanks.
During the summer as many restrictions were lifted, the lead times came tumbling back down again as a lot of the country went back to normality but sadly it was to be short lived as we were plunged back into lockdown again. This once again pushed lead times back up at a much quicker rate than the first time, as employers now knew who could and couldn’t work from home. Pensteel had adjusted to the conditions and allowed another couple of members of staff back to work, taking extra precautions to keep our staff safe and happy.
Possibly the worst possible time to transition out of the EU was amid a global pandemic with half of the worlds industry and economy on shut down, but sadly the date had been decided long before any of the coronavirus pandemic was a word on anyones lips. But us Brits do like a jolly good challenge, so we stuck with it. Whilst the effects of Brexit are starting to be felt, with trade between ourselves and the EU being a little trickier to organise – especially our Stainless Steel containers which come from Finland, it’s been fairly similar to life before we split away from the continents trade market.
Whilst our prices have sadly had to increase accordingly with the price of raw materials, this has mostly been down to the pandemic still and not as a result of Britain leaving the EU. Whether things will get easier, harder or remain the same will likely become clearer over the next couple of years, but until then we will just have to wait and see.
Throughtout the pandemic, Pensteel have found our way through. Some months have been harder than others, but to proudly say that we survived the pandemic, despite so many other companies sadly shutting down, is a testament to the actions that were taken and the way the company operated in order to not only survive but to also keep serving our valuable customers, both new and existing.
Whilst things have slowed a little over the past year, there is now light on the horizon and Pensteel are looking forward to the world returning to a more normal state so that we can continue to grow and thrive. As we’re sure plenty have noticed we’ve redesigned our website, have started using social media and started to streamline things in the office more to help the company appear more personal and approachable (not that we weren’t already) as well as bringing the company into the modern age a little more. We’re eagerly looking forward to growing as a business still and what the next few years entail.