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Encouragement for our part to play in maintaining the economy UK Government

Manufacturers in the UK have been praised by the Government for their abilities to “dig deep” and help to protect the economy, along with contributing to the national effort to defeat COVID-19.

In a letter sent out to industry through trade associations and the media, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, The RT Hon Alok Sharma MP said: “As you know, the Government’s priority is saving lives and we have advised that where possible, people should stay at home and work from home. However, our country needs your support to keep supply chains moving and key workers mobile, as well as to protect the economy as much as possible. Every business has a role to play in helping the country defeat coronavirus.

“Manufacturing is a critical part of our economy and I would like to be clear that there is no restriction on manufacturing continuing under the current rules. Guidelines from Public Health England provide best practice advice on how this can be done safely. Many across aerospace, chemical, automotive, steel, aluminium, pharmaceutical, packaging and other sectors, including those providing essential services and materials, have answered the call to action and are playing a direct role in combatting COVID-19 by producing the material we need to fight the spread of the virus. It is vital that we ensure that servicing, parts and raw materials are available to keep vehicles and services on the road and operating. I would like to give you all my personal thanks for everything you are doing.”

He reminds that: “Those who cannot work from home and have to travel to work can continue to do so, consistent with the Chief Medical Officer’s advice.”

He goes on to enthuse: “I realise this will be challenging for you personally, but you are contributing to the resilience of our nation and I am grateful for the enormous efforts you are making in order to support the UK at this testing time.”

The Chancellor has announced a far-reaching package to support businesses including government-backed and guaranteed loans, making available an initial £330bn of guarantees during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the Coronavirus Job Retention and VAT deferral schemes. Changes to insolvency rules have also been announced, to help UK businesses which need financial rescue or restructuring to keep trading.

Countries throughout the world are issuing similar statements as each nation works to ensure the stability of its economy in the wake of this global pandemic.

More information for UK businesses is available at www.gov.uk

UK foundries respond

A Cast Metals Federation (CMF) survey, backed up by a series of virtual meetings with member companies found that at least 30 CMF member foundries (at the time of going to press) had been identified by their customers as being in essential supply chains, with several having received letters to this effect. These supply chains include medical and pharma (including parts for ventilators), commercial vehicle (such as spares required for transporting lorry freight), rail infrastructure parts, public utilities such as water and energy (oil and gas spare parts, pumps and valves, diesel generator or IGT parts) as well as parts used in the manufacture and packaging of food. In some cases, this has required significant and rapid increases in capacity with some now working 24/7 and recruiting additional staff to meet the demands of these critical sectors. In other cases, foundries have to balance dramatic reductions in some of their markets, requiring some furloughing of employees, with the needs of these essential supply chains, enabling critical parts to be supplied.

Companies supplying foundries, including toolmakers and suppliers of raw materials and other services, are also being identified as essential parts of the supply chain and again are having to cope with huge changes in supply needs.

Many CMF members have also taken significant steps to change working practices to ensure that they are able to keep employees safe and to maintain social distancing with some additional guidance provided by CMF; in some cases, foundries have closed for a short period to enable this, in others portable washing facilities have been sourced to provide additional sinks and toilets for delivery drivers, and temporary buildings hired by some to provide additional changing and rest facilities for employees.

In all cases, CMF members report that where staff are able to work from home, this is being facilitated.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Pam Murrell, CMF CEO said: “I think that our foundries, alongside so many in manufacturing, are to be commended on these responsible actions to protect employees, preserve jobs, and support our critical infrastructure supply chains, under very challenging conditions.

“Suppliers of cast components to the automotive sector have seen dramatic reductions in orders as the main OEMs have also ceased production for a period of some weeks. Clearly the auto OEMs will be seeking reassurances about how quickly their just in time supply chains could be reinstated and normal supply levels resumed, with some foundries already being asked for information on this and with the risk of more people self-isolating, or worse falling ill, this could be very challenging.”

Suppliers are also requesting that foundries contact them in advance of planned start-ups so that raw materials supplies can be planned and maintained so as to avoid shortages.

Several foundries, from different sectors and processes, are continuing to operate largely as normal where possible, with good order books and with the necessary employee safeguards in place.