It’s the end of the year… Where did 2020 go to? It seems to have been non-stop, with a huge amount more to think about and manage than normal.
As you might know, in the Joseph Ash Group we made the decision early in the Pandemic not to allow the situation to impact our customers, but nor could we allow our employees to be put at risk. So we worked hard as one big team across all eight plants to quickly develop our protection systems and order extra sanitising gels and PPE as quickly as possible. The Furlough Scheme allowed us to reduce concentrations of staff (although we’re pleased to say we are able to repay it in line with the decision of our parent group, Hill & Smith Holdings PLC). Alterations to shift start and finish times helped as well.
What pleased us the most, however, were the messages of support from several customers who also stayed open and who said they would have been in difficulty without their “last production process partner”. We were also delighted to have the opportunity to showcase our abilities to many new customers who knocked on our door for the first time during the Spring lock-down, and have elected to keep us as their production partners ever since.
It also pleased us to be able to help the national pandemic effort by processing steel for much-needed facilities such as the NHS Nightingale Hospitals, an extension to an oxygen tank facility at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London, and equipment such as clinical waste bins and trucks, and crash trolleys.
I guess it should be no surprise to anyone if I say that April and May were tough months. However, we seemed to regain some equilibrium by the last week of May and volumes thereafter increased each week by several percentage points, until today we find ourselves extremely busy. This is in no small part due to our excellent Sales teams who were not furloughed and spent their time working very hard and effectively from their kitchen tables – with no office conversations about football or TV to distract them!
We have had two significant challenges to deal with in 2020 – I guess no different to many of you:
So, maintaining capacity has been a challenge at times, but we have been saved by the reasonable distances between our plants and a very cooperative desire by them to help their sisters. Now, we are well on the way to rebuilding our teams, with the last tranche (or recruits) set to join us in the New Year.
In all, whilst 2020 has been grim in many respects, it has given the people of the Joseph Ash Group the chance to really show their mettle and I am inordinately proud of every one of them. I believe that, whilst our profits might be down, in more ways than one this has been the finest year of our 150-year history.
But none of the above would have been possible without you, our excellent customers. You too have faced adversity, come through it and supported us in our endeavours to keep going and maintain our standards of service. What a great partnership! I thank you most sincerely for your efforts and our relationship.
On behalf of everybody at Joseph Ash, I wish you and your loved ones a happy, peaceful and healthy Christmas, and a far better New Year!
Joseph Ash Group