Working through the pandemic

Materials World magazine
3 Jun 2020

Impact on manufacturing

A new report from EY finds that more than half of manufacturing business leaders are already taking steps to change their supply chains in light of Coronavirus, while 45% are actively re-evaluating their processes.Nearly 70% of manufacturing leaders are also changing the way they manage their workforce.

However, the survey – the Global Capital Confidence Barometer –does highlight that 82% of manufacturers are expecting hostile mergers and acquisitions activity to rise because of lower valuations. Around 53% also anticipate a U-shaped recovery extending into 2021. 

David Gale, EY’s Global Advanced Manufacturing Transactions Leader, says, ‘Manufacturers are working rapidly to limit the impact of the already tragic human cost of COVID-19 on livelihoods. The first step is going to be tackling supply chains, which have been left dangerously over-exposed in many industries. 

‘As this unfolds, we can expect a shrinking of supply chains for the long term, with more key components made locally. The term unprecedented can be overused, but I think it is perfectly apt in this situation.’

Automating for PPE 
Tecman Advanced Material Engineers, based in Warwickshire, UK, has invested in an automated placement and packing system to ramp up production to over one million face shields per week. This investment follows the development of a new face shield addressing PPE shortages.
IOM3 helped to facilitate the search for automation companies via LinkedIn. According to Tecman, the investment in automation increases its manufacturing capacity by 100%, which improves production line productivity and efficiency.

Kevin Porter, Tecman’s Managing Director, says, ‘We are investing in automation equipment to streamline our processes, increase production volumes and automate packing to give us the capacity to manufacture over one million finished face shields per week.
‘This is a time for businesses to pull together to protect our healthcare workers and help to slow the spread of infection, which is reflected in the support we have received from our UK-based partners.’

Rolls-Royce to cut jobs 

Rolls-Royce has announced it will cut 9,000 jobs from its workforce of 52,000 employees to offset the impact of Coronavirus. Most of the cuts are expected to be at the company’s Derby site in the UK. As part of a proposal for major reorganisation of the company, Rolls-Royce will also cut expenditure across plant and property, capital and other costs areas, expecting to generate annual savings of over £1.3bln. 

‘This is not a crisis of our making. But it is the crisis that we face and we must deal with it,’ says Warren East, CEO of Rolls-Royce. ‘Our airline customers and airframe partners are having to adapt and so must we. 

‘Being told that there is no longer a job for you is a terrible prospect and it is especially hard when all of us take so much pride in working for Rolls-Royce. But we must take difficult decisions to see our business through these unprecedented times.’ 
He adds, ‘We have to do this right, which means we will work closely with our employee and trade union representatives as appropriate, look at any viable alternatives to mitigate the impact, consult with everyone affected and treat our people with dignity and respect.’

The company states that the proposed reorganisation will affect its Civil Aerospace business, where reviews of the company’s facility footprint take place. It will also impact central support functions.

IOM3 CEO Colin Church comments in response, ‘The announcement of job losses at Rolls-Royce is deeply saddening and worrying for employees and their families. The Coronavirus pandemic has hit the aerospace industry with one of the hardest blows seen in its history. IOM3 is ready to support our members through this crisis.

‘The IOM3 Members Benevolent Fund can offer support (including financial support) to IOM3 members, former members, employees and former employees, and their immediate families, who are in need.

‘In addition, advice on gaining professional accreditation/CPR to help bolster CVs for those looking for work is freely available – enrolment on one of our workshops is a useful starting point. IOM3 will be holding various workshops throughout June and July, visit

Unlocking safety
UK companies eLocker and Radical Materials are collaborating to introduce contactless lockers into hospitals with an outer casing that incorporates added antimicrobial protection throughout.

The lockers work by combining radio frequency identification with a locker management system. The protective outer casing is coated by Radical Materials’ polyurethane film covering. This film contains its SteriTouch antibacterial additives. 
‘SteriTouch antibacterial additives harness the properties of silver and can be used in almost any material, from plastics and rubber to paints and fabrics, where hygiene, performance or aesthetics are important,’ says Damian Harvey, Business Development Manager for SteriTouch. 

‘Silver ions embedded in the material substrate are released via ambient moisture and enter the cell membrane. The silver ions destabilise the cell, stop respiration and inhibit cell division, whilst blocking the replication of DNA, killing the cell.’ 

Jacob Hinson, Technical & Sales Director for eLocker, adds, ‘After having several requests from healthcare providers, it was evident that eLocker needed a fast and easy way to make locks ready for medical environments. It became evident we needed a way to do it in the UK.’