As you would expect, the last week since my previous update has been exceptionally busy for all our teams across the business and we continue to be delighted, although not entirely surprised, by the tremendous response from our amazing workforce who are rallying to the cause, going above and beyond to ensure that Marshall is making a significant contribution to the National response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of them will be working flat out, and without hesitation, through the Easter weekend on the most pressing contracts and undertakings.
In all that we are doing, our three priorities remain to focus on:
1. The continued health and wellbeing of our experienced and highly valued employees;
2. The essential needs of many of our customers, including the UK Government; and
3. The continuity of the business through this period and its future beyond.
Our MFS teams are busier than ever, supporting our customers and their fleets of temperature-controlled vehicles which are so essential to the distribution of food and medical supplies around the country. One of our biggest customers is also bringing 600 previously-retired trailers back into service and our engineers are working around the clock to get them back on the road.
In MADG, work is moving at a pace to support the development of the Exovent negative pressure ventilator, with teams in Engineering and Manufacturing working long shifts, 7 days a week to maintain the momentum. We have also been helping with the design and manufacture of prototype parts for one of the other major ventilator consortia and we have a team of Marshall volunteers who will soon start work in another factory in this region, helping to increase production of an existing ventilator production line. Meanwhile, our additive manufacturing (3D printing) team has been producing parts to support the increased demand for PPE across the UK.
Though it makes uncomfortable reading, you will recall that we have offered one of our hangars (No. 22) at Cambridge to the County Council to be a temporary body storage facility and work started yesterday to get this up and running within a few days. Naturally we hope that the hangar will not be needed but it is part of the essential local planning for dealing with the pandemic and we are proud to be able to help in this way.
Since I last wrote, the decision has been taken by the Government and the NHS to focus on increasing hospital capacity through converting existing structures such as the Excel Centre in London and the NEC in Birmingham. In Cambridge, Addenbrooke’s is now pressing on with the building of a 120-bed structure. As a result, there is now no immediate plan for the Army to deploy ‘our’ field hospital, although it, and we, remain available and ready to respond if required at a moment’s notice.
Separately, we have now also started delivering food to help the individuals and families who are most in need in the East Barnwell district of Cambridge, right next to us at the airport. This is being co-ordinated on the ground by an established charity, Abbey People, whom we have worked with for many years. We are very grateful to our catering contractor, Thomas Franks for their support with this.
Through all of this, we also keep in close contact with the team at MMH plc, at a Board and operational level, sharing advice and experiences wherever we can to help each other. As you already know, MMH moth-balled all of its businesses on 23rd March, although they have subsequently re-opened 62 of their workshops to provide essential service and repair support for key workers. They also have a small online and telephone sales team handling enquiries through their website.
In parallel with this, we have been engaging closely with our banks and other key advisers in relation to our banking facilities and access to government schemes to ensure that we are taking the right steps, at the right time, to protect the future of the business. We have also been addressing the new challenges to secure the completion and sign-off of our Annual Report and Accounts.
We thank you for your forbearance and understanding while we work these matters through and I would also like to thank the many of you who have sent kind messages of support, which we sincerely appreciate and never take for granted.
I wish you and your families a safe and happy Easter.
Alex Dorrian CBE