Key aerospace industry supplier continues safe production during lockdown

As part of the LEP’s round up of success stories in the Heart of the South West area, we bring news about South West Metal Finishing; a key player in the Aerospace industry supply chain, which is one of our major industrial sectors to build our resilience and recovery on.  

An Exeter based manufacturing company that predominately supplies into the aerospace sector has been able to continue production during the Covid-19 lockdown and is sharing how it has safely done this with others in the industry. 

South West Metal Finishing, who employ 180 staff, have their headquarters in Exeter with other sites in Yeovil and Chippenham. They have customers in the United Kingdom, Europe and Internationally within aerospace, defence, medical, automotive, power generation and nuclear.  

Despite the very challenging conditions, all of South West Metal Finishing processing facilities remain fully operational, with increased 24-hour shift capabilities within their Exeter facility.

The firm has also been supporting the NHS by engaging with the manufacture of urgently needed ventilators, offering immediate support for a plethora of treatment capabilities across all of their UK processing facilities.  

The additional steps that the company took to protect their workforce included changes in shift patterns leading to a reduction in hours worked, but not in earnings. Establishing rules for all rooms eg. only one person in the kitchen at a time, a maximum of six people in canteen, one person per table. Line marking by the clocking-in machines at 2-metre gaps. Regular, polite but firm policing, leaving doors open where possible and a lot more video conferencing for those who can.  

South West Metal Finishing shared their experiences with Members of the West of England Aerospace Forum (WEAF) as part of a working together drive instigated by WEAF CEO Colin Turner. 

The company’s example was flagged up as good practice at a recent webinar; one of a series that the Forum is running to support their members during this difficult time.

Jackie Jacobs Financial Director of the Group said:  

“When the first lockdown announcement was made we went into slight boardroom panic thinking we needed to shut down, but then we realised we had plenty of work coming in and plenty of work to complete, so we introduced a three shift pattern to enable social distancing. We also paid most staff for a full week, but they were only having to work for four days to ease the pain of odd shift hours. “ 

Karl Tucker, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership said:  

“This is a great example of a local business successfully adapting in the current crisis. The important thing is that businesses work within the necessary safety measures to protect their staff and keep the economy going and supply essential equipment, including the additional ventilators. The health, safety and welfare of our employees and their families remains of paramount importance and I would encourage all businesses with similar success stories to share their experience with their peers.”