Our Strength is Our People
Nothing in this world is certain, as we have all found out these past few weeks. All the things we have taken for granted, that we never in our wildest imaginations ever thought could be taken away from us, have, for now, had the pause button pressed on them.
Terms such as “unprecedented” “lockdown” and “isolation” are handed around like free Champagne at a society wedding. In fact it pretty much started with the usual suspects lapping them up before the waiter had barely made it out of the kitchen, but eventually we all got some. It’s fair to say it was a lavish reception and whilst most of us have reached our limits, we keep taking another glass at the host’s insistence.
And though many of us may feel dizzy (if not positively nauseous) from an overload of information and speculation about the impact of Coronavirus, we have to be able to recognise the trusted sources from the hangers-on and to cut through the misinformation to be able to make strategic and perhaps difficult decisions about how we continue to operate during this fear-fuelled time.
We are all under threat, and as humans in times of threat, we have two natural instincts – fight or flight. We believe as a business we have to adopt both methods if we are to survive.First and foremost, we look after our people. After all, without the knowledge, experience and integrity of our 450 plus workforce, we are nothing. We have to keep our people safe, that bit is pretty obvious.
The challenge comes from how do we do that, when we still have to remain operational to support our clients who fall into the key industries sector, for whom it is critical they stay open.
We have many clients who work in healthcare; data centres, pharmaceutical and telecom industries. Nearly every single key worker will at some point rely on an electronic communications device to be able to do their job effectively and efficiently. From the transfer of medical notes, the reading of an MRI scan and performing medical research at a critical temperature, to sending business emails or even calling the police to report a case of domestic abuse, telecom devices and servers are being put to the test and pushed to their limits. At the same time healthcare and pharma organisations desperately need their hospitals ventilated and their equipment and servers to work, first time, every time. And all of these things rely on critical cooling to do so. One thing that is for sure is that servers that overheat will quickly fall over and now is not the time for down time, nor for debating who does what. We just need to get on with it, and that is just what our people do.
Whilst it is very different, there are parallels to be drawn from the devastating fire that saw the destruction of our factory back in 2013. Little did we know back then that the fire situation would be the dress rehearsal for working from home, working remotely from one another, working without access to our usual resources and with a huge amount of sadness and uncertainty hanging over us – many of those who experienced those times still work with us now. In the aftermath of the fire, our people demonstrated a resilience and a togetherness that got them as individuals and us a company through tough times; it is time to draw on the positive experiences from that time again .
Of course we acknowledge this is different. Back then we feared for our jobs. Now we fear for our lives, or those of our loved ones, and as such we have had to amend working practices that keep our people safe whilst allowing them to work where necessary. Airedale is just one small cog in a very large machine that keeps the nation moving and we are proud to do our bit, whilst keeping our people safe.
As announced in the press we have scaled back operations, so we have as many people working from home that can do so, and reduced production in the factory. Those who are working out on sites have been trained on the importance of hand hygiene and social distancing. In our offices and factory we have adapted working practices to reduce the flow of people, spread people out and even developed new ways of opening doors so that hands don’t have to be used. We will go as far as we need to go to keep our people safe.
So what it is that we do that couldn’t wait?
Well just last week we received an order to provide a precision cooling unit for an urgent Covid -19 testing facility that is being set up to try deal with this health crisis we face. Our usual lead time for a precision unit is around 6 weeks; we are delivering this within one week. We are using the sheet metal and other components brought in for other orders on this new order for the Covid 19 testing facility. Everyone is pulling together to make this happen, including the clients whose orders we have had to postpone.
Another example of critical work done in the last 7 days was a project at a well-known pharmaceutical organisation that faced losing expensive and essential medical supplies due to a plant fault. It wasn’t our issue, it wasn’t our equipment that failed, but none-the-less we went to site and fixed it. In fact we received a lovely email from the contractor praising one of our team for staying late to resolve this issue and save these drugs. Whilst it is wonderful to receive such feedback, we don’t do it for the email, we do it because at the heart of Airedale is a team of people who take pride in what they do, and now more than ever want to do the next right thing.
We have always recognised that we are the sum of our people, but at times like this we are forced to review what really matters, at home and in business. We know we have a formidable factory with some of the most impressive research and development facilities in Europe, but we can honestly say that more than anything we are proud of our engineering prowess, of our northern roots and of the depth and breadth of knowledge and experience of all our teams.
If any lesson has been learned right now, it is that we should not wait for times of adversity to remind ourselves and each other how much we value them. In amongst all this unrest, there are some things that are certain and for Airedale, that is the integrity of our teams. We have said it before and we will continue to say it: our strength is our people.
Our Strength is Our People.