Bucking the trend for staff redundancies, long furloughs and falling turnover, Nottinghamshire based manufacturer Interflex was able to re-open their factory in May before the end of the first lockdown, bringing back most of their workers at that point, as well as investing £140k in new equipment, taking on new staff and turning a profit during the year.
The company achieved this by diversifying into PPE production when automotive manufacturing temporarily shut down in the UK during spring 2020. They now manufacture masks, face shields and aprons alongside a range of NVH and sealing solutions for vehicles, including door seals, interior trim, under carpet and boot seals at their 38,000sq. ft. site.
As part of the plan to expand services, Interflex purchased specialised machinery in the latter half of 2020 which enabled them to manufacture up to half a million three-ply surgical style face masks every week. They also invested in a new packaging machine to ensure they have capacity to cope with demand along all aspects of the production and supply process.
As a result, Interflex was able to take on two new staff at the end of 2020 and is also looking to appoint a trainee project engineer and a trainee process engineer via the Kickstart programme, a government funded initiative to support businesses in employing young people.
One of the new appointments was commercial director Paul Neale who has extensive experience working in the automotive manufacturing industry and has been brought in to help Interflex continue with their drive for expansion. The company is also planning to take on their first apprentice during 2021 as well as up to four additional staff to help meet demand.
MD Jim Griffin came into post just two weeks before the first national lockdown and oversaw the investment and diversification project, which included the creation of a subsidiary company, Pinnacle PPE to manage PPE operations and production.
“No one can deny that 2020 was a tough year for manufacturers, with the automotive industry hit pretty hard,” Jim comments. “So, when the first national lockdown was announced, we decided to take a proactive approach rather than sit around waiting for things to improve - which is why we invested in PPE production. It was a good fit for our current site, staff skills set and equipment.”
Ten months after the first national lockdown, Jim is optimistic about the company’s prospects in 2021.
“We are delighted to have been able to make profit and to actually take on staff during 2020 despite periods of enforced closure and the significant investment required to set up completely new production lines,” he says. “As we enter 2021, we have new processes and operations set up and are able to plan for the coming year rather than reacting to circumstances which means we can build on the foundations put in place during the last year.”