CJ Sheeran’s in Mountrath is Ireland’s largest manufacturer of timber pallets with 180 employees across their sites in Laois, Westmeath, Dublin and Mayo.
Though they’ve been effected by the outbreak of Coronavirus like every business, they have been able to keep going throughout the pandemic, as their director Ashleigh Doyle explained recently on a video interview with Laois Chamber.
With a vast customer portfolio that includes food and beverage suppliers and pharmaceutical services, they were deemed essential to the supply chain and therefore allowed to continue working.
While some of their customers that were non-essential weren’t open and weren’t doing business, the ones that were open were increasing their orders.
Their administrative staff were able to move to working from home while production obviously had to continue on site, following the new safety measures.
“It was very important for us that we were allowed continue working and to ensure continuity of supply to our customers,” said Ashleigh in the interview with Laois Chamber CEO Bernie Everard.
“In the early weeks, late February, early March we did a lot of lobbying the Government to ensure we got that recognition as an essential supply so if there was a lockdown that we would be wise to that and be able to continue.
“In the days before the main lockdown was announced we had that assurances that we’d fall into critical supply chain and essential services which was great news for us as we were able to stay going and it’s business as usual.”
Ashleigh also detailed how their Business Continuity Plan, which they had in place, was able to be acted on.
Having achieved the different ISO standards in recent years, they were well placed to manage the new working environment that was forced upon them.
“Our business continuity plan – or the bones of it – would be something we’d have in place for contingency planning. When this became apparent we needed to assure our customers that we could continue supplying. We did a lot of work in the early days on our BCP.
“We opened it all again … (and) ensured every measure was put in place to make sure we could stay going. It was a good document. We’ve had additions to it since.
“It was a very fluid situation and as things progessed we needed to amend it as we went but it was a good guide for us to be quick out of the blocks.
“We had to act fast and do everything we could to give assurances to our customers and protect our employees.
Our own suppliers that they too were part of the supply chain and they too were putting in the measures.
“Over the years we have designed a manual for every process and procedure here which definitely has been very beneficial for us.
“When Covid came knocking we opened up all of those procedures again to see where we could insert an extra practice or protocol. We were very much in preventive mode.”
Technology has allowed for most meetings, including the monthly financial reviews – where previously staff would have been travelling from across the country to their headquarters in Mountrath – have been able to be held on the likes of Zoom and Skype, something Ashleigh predicts can continue into the future.
“It has saved a lot of time on commuting (and) even the meetings themselves are quicker. More focussed.
“It’s definitely a method we can use for different meetings but it will be a mix going forward. Face to face interaction is important as well.
“It has been a big shift in our mindset as well. Has forced us across on to Zoom and Skype and there’s no reason we can’t continue with that. It’s much more efficient.”
And Ashleigh added that having put in place a lot of procedures and policies around Covid-19 and to ensure sanitization and social distancing, that challenge continues despite the easing of restrictions and the Government’s plan to re-open business and society.
“That is our main aim over next couple of months to ensure complaceny doesn’t set in. We have been doing this for past six or seven weeks at this stage and just need people to understand have to continue the importance of it.”