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The coronavirus diaries: Jason Webb

ETI’s primary customer base, the food & drink and hospitality sectors, have been hit hard since lockdown measures were introduced. This sudden change forced us as a business to think hard about what we could do to make it through this pandemic.

Located in Worthing, West. Sussex, across three sites we employ over 190 members staff and have witnessed significant growth in recent years helped by an increase in the sales of temperature measurement devices and other related products. However, COVID-19 has brought with it a set of challenges none of us anticipated. 

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Like everyone else, we have monitored government announcements and updates closely. Initially, the new social distancing measures concerned us. Whilst the situation is perhaps slowly moving in the right direction, we have had to adapt very quickly not least of all across our production areas. Our production managers have demonstrated a flexibility and ‘out of the box’ thinking to change the way our production teams operate, and I highly commend them for that.

The layout changes of our factories to comply with social distancing rules has seen us introduce one-way systems, remove all wide span shelving down our centre isles between the benches and we have also started the process of removing further work benches. New shelving is being installed to replace any removed benches, reinstating adequate local storage areas.

The more changes we make now will give us a better chance of keeping up with new Government advice in the short and long term.

We continue to operate as a critical supplier, providing supermarkets, NHS food services, and food processing and public sector catering with our range of thermometers. As a business, however, we have little experience of home working. As a result, we’ve also had to adapt to that quickly as well. 

In the first week of lockdown, we made a significant investment to ensure our employees, including a team of 10 R&D engineers, had the support and technology they need to work productively throughout the lockdown. We have made these investments with a long-term approach in mind in case the pandemic hits us again. We are prepared, and now so is our workforce.

If there is one thing for ETI to take away from this pandemic, it’s that we are more amenable when it comes to flexible working. We are finding, for example, enormous benefits from video conferencing tools such as Zoom. 

Make no mistake about it: we can’t wait to get back to the office and our production sites, to see our colleagues, to collaborate and to create. However, where we would usually spend time arranging and walking between physical meeting spaces on our site, we have found jumping on video conference meetings to be much more focused and concise. Catching up virtually then gives us more time to focus on other areas of the business when the meeting concludes.

When lockdown was announced, we also had to make sure that supply parts continued to come through the door. At ETI, we’ve got the stocks to build the products, but we also had to make sure our supply chain was intact. Now, our purchasing department is working harder than ever so that we can continue to produce the thermometers on-site. 

One of our clients supplies more than 50,000 baked goods per week to sports stadiums, entertainment venues and leading luxury brands nationwide. With no large gatherings or sports events expected for some time, the company had to adapt quickly after witnessing its entire sales revenue decimate overnight. Its solution was to create an online shop supplying direct to customers who would usually be looking for their pie-fix at sporting events. We have supported them by supplying wireless loggers to track the temperature of their products throughout the delivery process. Entering new territory, this has given our client confidence that it has found the right packaging solution to now send its products nationwide.

By Jason Webb, director at Electronic Temperature Instruments (ETI)

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