In the three weeks since my last update on activity across the Group under the Covid-19 lockdown, I am sure you will be pleased to hear that the core business has largely achieved a position of stability, with around half of the Company working remotely and about half working as normal on our various sites (and out on the road in MFS), maintaining good progress on our many ongoing contracts and commitments, albeit under the new working practices which we have adopted from the beginning to help protect our valuable employees.
MADG has announced the delivery of our 200th DVOW shelter from Land Systems and the signing of a new contract with the Cameroon Air Force in the last couple of weeks, both of which are good news.
At the end of April, however, we took the difficult decision to furlough just shy of 100 people around the different businesses. Initially this is just for May, although we will review it again at the end of this month, and we have committed to top up their salaries to 100%.
As we have done throughout the battle with Covid-19 so far, we are continuing to monitor closely the Government’s advice and, following the Prime Minister’s statement last Sunday and the details which were published on Monday, we have been able to refine and improve our plans for the next phase.
Having stabilised our interim ways of working and with many of our employees already at work ‘on site’, there will be no immediate or sudden change to our operations. We anticipate from early June that we may start slowly to bring back on site some more of those who have been working from home. This, of course, depends on government advice at the time.
We are maintaining our absolute focus on protecting the health and wellbeing of our employees (and their families), as well as customers and contractors when they are on site. In order to ensure compliance with the government guidance, including social distancing, we have been reconfiguring our sites and investing in appropriate new kit and facilities, long-range no-contact thermometers, face masks, and gloves etc.
As we look forward for the next few months, each hangar/building/workspace will continue to be isolated with strict restrictions on movement around the site and even between floors in our buildings. We refer to these as ‘bubbles’ and they extend to car parking zones, rest areas and wash rooms. Inevitably, these changes reduce the usable, safe capacity of many of our office buildings so we will balance office- and home-working through selective use of shifts and rotas, depending on the business requirements by division or function.
All meetings will continue to be conducted via telephone and video conferencing, with no
visitors coming on site or into any of our buildings, probably for several months to come. A
key factor here is to help our employees build their confidence and trust that it is safe to be
at work. We are also hugely grateful to our highly skilled and committed IT teams who have
been working flat out to ensure that our systems have stood up effectively, even with so many
people accessing the business remotely.
One activity temporarily closed during lockdown was the Marleigh development on the north
side of Newmarket Road. Following direct industry advice from the Government and in line
with the changes to the lockdown restrictions, construction on Marleigh has now resumed,
albeit not yet fully as we comply with the social distancing and safe working guidelines. The
marketing suite remains closed pending approval for shops to reopen.
Following the changes to the lockdown restrictions announced by the Government this week,
Marshall Motor Holdings has also started a slow return to business. The 62 workshops which
have been providing service to key workers now accepting bookings from regular customers,
with a view to ramping up capacity as demand grows, being mindful that more than 80% of
MMH employees have been furloughed since the lockdown started. Daksh and his team have
been working round-the-clock to prepare their sites for reopening, hopefully on or soon after
1st June (but not confirmed yet, but maybe with a ‘click and collect’ option starting before
that). This includes preparing some videos which will be sent to customers and employees to
explain how the site will conduct business and protect them.
I am also pleased to say that (so far) the temporary storage facility in 22 Hangar has not yet
been used, although it remains at a ‘standby’ status in case it is needed. Let’s hope not.
Whilst there is little more we can say at present about Exovent, I can tell you that work is
progressing at a pace and we continue to be delighted by the response from our partners and
the many medical staff who are working with us to bring this innovative, potentially life-saving
piece of kit into service.
Alex Dorrian CBE