Out of the darkness and moving ahead
By Alex Dahm16 October 2020
Sarah Spivey, managing director at specialist lifting equipment engineering company Modulift, shares her experience of implementing a clear strategy and quickly adapting to the changes caused by 2020’s global events.
As February 2020 turned to March, we all became aware of the global pandemic that is Covid-19. As the warmer weather started to appear, our minds normally turn to summer holidays – where we’ll be going, what clothes we’ll be taking, as well as looking forward to the food we’ll be eating when we get there. But the summer of 2020 was very different and, as we head towards the end of the year, it may be for quite some time ahead. Our thoughts no longer turn to holiday plans, summer or winter, but on how to keep our friends and family safe and well. Our minds also turn to work, and how we continue to keep our businesses working, while ensuring the safety of our staff.
The summer of 2020
Watching the news closely as developments unfolded, our initial thoughts were towards the business. It was becoming clear that soon there would be a lockdown and we needed to be prepared for that.
With robust structured processes and procedures already in place, we weren’t single man dependant. However, we put together a working committee and planned through home working. We added in some new processes and procedures to support the team through the unchartered territory of working from home. This included having access to all the resources needed to be able to manage work effectively in a different environment. Being able to communicate with colleagues and teams to ensure people didn’t feel lonely or isolated was key too. Microsoft teams was and still is a god send and the Trello platform for managing team workloads is another.
As our factory has stayed operational, we implemented additional safety procedures. Social distancing, enhanced cleaning operations, additional personal protective equipment, staggered breaks to reduce gatherings and so on.
The harder element, as always, is the unseen. We have been working with Mind UK for some time now, developing our mental health strategy and providing a positive inclusive environment for everyone. The most important aspect of any business is the people that work within it and our ultimate goal is their wellbeing. Health, safety and wellbeing are at the forefront of everyone’s minds right now. We had our safety procedures in place, but we also needed to look after wellbeing and understand how everyone was feeling in this very stressful situation.
While all our staff are now back working, over the summer we made the decision to furlough those in our office and keep a skeleton team. This was one of the hardest decisions we have ever had to make. The biggest factor being how we could ensure we supported the team without burdening them with additional financial stresses through an already worrying time. We worked through the cashflows and made the decision to top up salaries to 100 percent. We also gave everyone training programmes to help them stay mentally alert and help with their wellbeing. We are big believers in the 5 Steps to Wellbeing. Providing some normality to them in an abnormal world.
During this somewhat strange time, we have found a shift in products being requested. While sales of our standard stock of spreader beams, spreader frames and lifting beams for next day delivery (we maintained stock levels, so our customers didn’t struggle) have remained buoyant, we have seen a substantial growth in two other key areas.
First, sales of our latest product innovations. Products like our Trunnion End Unit, where it requires only one top shackle, not two, enabling a safer and quicker sling attachment. As well as our load monitoring spreader beam, sales of the Active Link, that replaces the standard drop link, have increased like never before. Both products save time and money which, in today’s economic climate, is even more important for businesses right now.
Second, and unsurprisingly for us, the major shift this whole time has been for our custom design lifting solutions – and it’s not showing signs slowing down, with September already achieving our highest revenue growth since 2016.
Our team of engineers and our factory specialists, all of whom are well known for their technical knowledge, have been kept very busy designing and building a large number of complex custom lifting solutions. Many of them have been designed, manufactured and delivered in less than a month, including the initial detailed discussion to fully understand the lifting requirements. This is made possible as all of our technical experts, including our sales team, are under one roof, since we moved to our new state of the art manufacturing facility last summer.
Onwards we go
We have learnt a lot over the last six months and we continue to do so as the pandemic keeps a grip of us all.
We are fortunate to have a business that’s been built on a strong foundation of teamwork, with everyone across all specialist departments working together to build robust processes. It is this spirit and determination to look at opportunities and to go that extra mile for our customers that we continue with now.
Regular strategy meetings continue to take place. These help us to determine the necessary adjustments we need to make to ensure our staff stay safe, while continuing to meet and support the needs of our customers with whatever challenges they may face.
What happens next may be uncertain. I think this will change the business landscape forever as we have all learned very quickly how to work from home and communicate effectively from remote locations. We’ve also learnt new skills. Whether that’s taking on additional roles, becoming multi-skilled, or by taking the time for training – which is a gift we never would normally see.
As we continue to adapt to the changing environment around us this is the biggest challenge anyone has ever seen, certainly at Modulift. I am proud of how everyone has managed through such a fast-paced and unseen change.