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Refurbished drives factory now at full production

29 April 2020

DPA spoke with the Control Techniques (CT) to learn how its Newtown factory in Wales was up and running with social distancing measures in place.

The 15 April saw Control Techniques’ Newtown factory reopen after three weeks of closure, following the lockdown announcement.

During those three weeks, around 80 people were working to prepare the factory to meet Government guidelines around social distancing. Dividers were mounted around workstations, door handles were moved to feet level, 10 portable sinks were placed throughout the factory and an innovative one-way system was created (involving several roundabouts!) by taping the floors.

Cleaning teams called “Virus Busters” have been brought in to clean surfaces throughout the day and “Virus Stewards” walk around the factory floor, making sure people are following the rules. 

Tony Pickering, CT President, said, “We’re doing as much as we can to make staff feel secure.”

The marketing team created “CT TV”, the company’s own TV station that regularly updates workers on the latest Government guidelines. Lifesize posters – that are 2 metres long – have been put up clearly to demonstrate social distancing rules. Other posters have been placed throughout the factory, depicting the various essential industries in which CT works in. Tony Pickering said, “It’s important to remind workers that the products they’re making are essential worldwide.” For example, field hospitals in New York are using blow-up tents powered by CT’s Unidrive. 

Before workers were allowed back on-site, an induction process had to be undertaken. Involving three workers at a time, CT spent an hour walking around the new factory layout to make sure the rules were clearly understood. The workforce has been split into three shifts, reducing the number of people on the factory floor and helping people that have children at home. Cleverly, as CT is one of the biggest employers in Mid-Wales and employees a lot of families, family groups are allowed to work together to provide more flexibility. Feedback from the workers has been positive.

Gareth Jones, Regional Director at CT, says, “Globally, we’re telling everyone we’re open for business.” 

In the middle of all this, CT is doubling the output of its Newtown facility. By July, it will be at twice the capacity. There are no supply chain issues because, due to the Brexit delay, the company has a higher number of drives in stock. It’s even re-shored its highest volume product from China, back into Wales. Gareth Jones said, “This is a plan we had before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is happening now and we’re even recruiting.”

The renovation required a significant investment, around £50K. Tony Pickering said, “We could either hunker down and wait for it to blow over or stay as we are, but we have a duty to the staff. We actually learnt a couple of things from this process – getting down to the factory floor and looking at what we’ve achieved has highlighted some improvements that can be made, particularly to the factory layout.”

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