Despite the furlough scheme offering companies and workers some relief throughout the pandemic, many firms are looking to shift focus from their usual work to keep the business moving. One company in the mobility industry which has done so is Scooterpac.
The mobility scooter manufacturer has adapted its daily operation and managed to start up a face mask production line within just a few days. AMP caught up with managing director Dane Lawrence to find out more about the new production
How has Scooterpac’s operation changed?
DL: We have adapted quite a lot over the last few weeks. Our products, like everyone else, are not all in high demand at the moment due to the current circumstances. We’re seeing 75%-80% of mobility shops we deal with closed at the moment which means that demand isn’t there and even if they are open the demand may still not be there.
Because of that, we’ve done two things. One; we don’t like sitting around twiddling our thumbs, we want to be busy and two; we want to be providing products that people are screaming out for and that are going to be of use to people at the moment and there has been loads of stories of people not being able to get a hold of face masks or gloves and so on.
What did the Scooterpac team do to get this incorporated into your business?
DL: We spoke to our supply chain network about a load of the items, which included about 14 or 15 pallets of toilet roll which was amusing, as well as hand sanitiser, clinical wipes, face masks and face shields and we are offering and supplying them out to care environments.
Two interesting things came from this. The first is that we actually started manufacturing face shields due to shortage and requests for it we actually decided we would set up a manufacturing operation.
We worked literally night and day over the weekend and now have a production line set up for face shields which is really interesting. We’ve had calls from doctors, NHS trusts, ambulance services who are all desperate for them.
Tell me about the scale of getting than in place.
DL: We are currently producing between 2,000 to 3,000 per day which we can ramp up to more like 5,000 per day should the demand be there and we have had enquiries for 50,000 and 70,000 all in the last couple of days so the demand is there but we are trying to keep it manageable.
We’ve been doing that and we can offer that out to dealers and to the mobility trade as well if they want an involvement of some sort and make a margin on it. This obviously isn’t about making money and no one would get rich from it anyway but it is good to be providing and important service while keeping the till ringing and the team at work so it is a win win from that point of view.
You say there’s additional work being done as part of the effort.
DL: Yes, in addition to that we’ve launched an e-commerce shop on our website so end-users and people who need it can actually buy directly from us. There is also a dealer/trade login which allows dealers and people in the trade to log in and use their discount to buy and offer products using that.
This has all happened really fast and it is very different. Obviously neither of the things I’ve spoken about are what we usually do but it is keeping busy, helping our trade partners and helping the people on the frontline.
How has getting this into practice worked with staff and the current guidelines?
DL: We obviously didn’t want to have to shrink down and didn’t want to lay people off so we have been creatively coming up with new ideas to keep people working. Yes, some people are furloughed on the production but from an office point of view we are only two down and one of which was going off for an operation anyway.
So we are trying to keep things as normal as we can. I’m not going to sit here and try to pretend we are making a lot of money because we definitely aren’t but we are keeping busy and keeping in touch with customers rather than sitting at home and not being productive.
How has supply chain worked for the equipment used to manufacture?
DL: For some of the components, we’ve had to get some to make some of the components for us which is why it has been a challenge to get this to happen so fast. Some of it we have been able to set up here, while others are with we’ve brought in from Europe so it has been a sourcing and logistical challenge.
In one sense, the selling and supplying of it is the easy bit, it is the manufacturing and sourcing that is the challenging part. If anyone had have told me last month that we’d be manufacturing face masks, we’d have laughed at them and even more so, if someone had have asked if we could get a production line up and running in three days I would have told them of course not. It is amazing what you can do if you have to.