What would you do if you had a huge backlog of orders but only were allowed access to your factory two days a week and only with ten employees at a time?
That challenge suddenly became a reality for Managing Director Mark Lawson and Hamworthy Pumps in early April when the Singapore government launched its so-called circuit breaker campaign to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
“We had four staff to build pumps, where we usually have fifty. I have no idea at all how many times my guys have come in voluntarily on a Saturday or a Sunday to keep things going in the factory. People have shown impressive flexibility, and we’ve really come together as a team,” says Mark Lawson.
Still maintaining a decent year
Mark Lawson does not hesitate to describe COVID-19 as by far the biggest challenge in the seven years he has been with Hamworthy Pumps. All planning is done day to day, and always with a plan B and a plan C as backup because the risk of employees being quarantined is high.
Hamworthy Pumps has therefore chosen to outsource some of the jobs that were previously performed internally at the factory, including, for example, impeller balancing and painting pumps. In this way, Hamworthy Pumps has managed to maintain a high level of quality and service during the pandemic. And, at the same time, gained an added bonus in the form of higher productivity and freeing up of resources for other jobs.
“Nothing can prepare you for a situation where your staff is prevented from entering the factory. It’s hard to do business with both hands tied behind your back. But we have managed to create solutions to keep customers going and we’re still maintaining a decent year. We have more orders this year to date than at the same time last year, and we have an extremely busy Q4 ahead of us. That shows how robust a company we are,” says Mark Lawson.
Restrictions are an eye-opener
Although 90% of the blue collar-workers are now back at the factory, the COVID restrictions are continuing to have a significant impact on the working day at Hamworthy Pumps. 75% of the white collar-workers are still working from home. Various measures have been implemented at the factory to make it COVID-secure and prevent the spread of infection: The employees are divided into small groups and work wearing face masks, the canteen is partially closed, and safe distance wardens have been deployed to ensure that everything is clean and social distancing is maintained. All travel activity in and out of Singapore has been suspended since April. All communication with customers therefore takes place via video apps, and external service partners perform service jobs with a Hamworthy expert as supervisor via the screen.
“The restrictions are forcing us to do many things in new ways, and it’s an eye-opener for us. Do we need to keep doing all jobs ourselves if others can do them better and cheaper? Should an employee necessarily come into the office five days a week if he can make better use of his time working from home? We organise our businesses in certain ways because that is what we have always done. We now have the opportunity to change that,” says Mark Lawson.