The Welding Institute has been keeping in contact with our Members across the globe to see how the Coronavirus outbreak is impacting different corners of the world. This Insight looks at Paul Staines’ perception of how COVID-19 has affected the manufacturing industry in the UK as well as his personal experience of strategising for his return to work.
Paul is a Senior Controller of Production Engineering at Unipres UK Limited, where he oversees the assembly shop, which comprises of ‘resistance spot welding, projection welding and arc welding technologies.’ He is a new Member of The Welding Institute, only joining earlier this year, but has worked in the industry over the past 10 years.
Paul reflected on the change that the UK experienced during late March, describing how he ‘began to see the true effects with our main customer ceasing production.’ He explained that he ‘was worried about the effects this would have on our industry and the global economy,’ adding that the ‘UK was not ready for such a pandemic.’ On a more positive note, Paul highlighted how he has ‘learned a great deal about how important the manufacturing industry is, as so many manufacturers with various capabilities have pulled together to manufacture visors and other PPE for the NHS.’ He continued on to say that ‘this has been an incredible effort which I personally pay tribute to, it shows how dynamic manufacturers across the nations can be, and I feel very proud to be a part of it.’
Acknowledging the vast numbers of people within his company and across the UK being placed on furlough within the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), Paul explained that he ‘was one of the few members of staff that worked through the pandemic, making the necessary changes to the way we operate due to the outbreak of the virus.’ He continued by saying that ‘it has been a busy period to say the least, as we are currently installing RSW robots and assembly processes in preparation for new model production.’ Paul highlighted the important role that engineers are playing during this pandemic explaining that, ‘engineers are the very few people who are able to work. The disruption has had me carrying out various risk assessments around the plant in order to mitigate the risk of spreading infection.’
Paul also addressed the impact of Covid-19 on the industry as a whole, vocalising that ‘health and safety is the primary focus of every organisation and our secondary objective is to ensure we can keep the wheels of the economy turning. However, unfortunately, according to car registration data published by the SMMT, the sector is down somewhat 97% from this time last year.’ He added that, ‘we can only hope sales will pick up when the lockdown is lifted and some normality is restored. In the meantime we prepare to ramp up production and for everyone things will be very different returning to work.’
Continuing to highlight how his work-life has been impacted, Paul added that, ‘working start times have been staggered to prevent large gatherings on entering the plant and at break times, temperatures of staff and visitors are taken on entering the building, and meeting rooms and rest areas are spaced out with maximum occupancy limits in place to improve social distancing measures. Cleaning standards have been established for every piece of machinery and facility in the plant, while surface cleaners and sanitisers have been made available everywhere. These measures seem extreme but I believe they are here to stay for the foreseeable future. The impact on the sector has been unprecedented, but when normality starts to make a return we must continue to do everything we can to keep each other safe.’
Paul began by explaining that he has learnt ‘a great deal from this situation and I think the first thing that springs to mind is how many people can do their job from home.’ He explained that, in his view, people working from home has not only helped reduce the spread of infection but also has had an impact on reducing emmissions and the amount of traffic on the roads due to fewer people commuting. He added that, although this could arguably have ‘an adverse effect on my industry’ due to a lower number of people purchasing cars or bus passes, he questioned if working from home was the future, adding that ‘with more automation than ever and the worry that industry 4.0 is making jobs redundant does it mean that remote working from anywhere becomes the norm? As technology continues to evolve, the way the world’s economics operate will have to change at some point.’
Concluding his Member case study, Paul articulated that ‘although this has been a time of immense misery and tragedy, I think it has also been an opportunity to learn and grow as a nation, as a country, as a business, as a family and as an individual.’ He added that he has ‘personally been using the extra time over lockdown to read and learn. I would advise anyone who can’t work over this period of disruption to use this precious time to your advantage. The technology around us at this time allows us to progress our CPD. The Welding Institute has great sources of information and has kept me occupied for hours and, while we can’t do the things we used to like going out and dining with friends, it is important to keep the mind active and healthy as much as it is vital we don’t spread the virus.’
The Welding Institute
Granta Park, Great Abington, Cambridge CB21 6AL, UK
+44 (0)1223 899000
Member Portal Login
Copyright © 2023 TWI Ltd. All rights reserved.