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FB Roundup: Warburtons, JCB, Hays Travel

By James Beech

Warburtons focuses on core bread products to meet rising demand

British family baking business Warburtons has adapted to the demands of the coronavirus lockdown by narrowing its range of products, requiring fewer staff in factories who may fear for their health.

Jonathan Warburton (pictured), chairman of the fifth-generation company, said in a normal week Warburtons produced 100 different lines of fresh breads. However, since the national lockdown began a month ago, management reduced that variety to 60 bestsellers which allowed the company to bake for longer periods of time and increase efficiency.

The chairman said it was a key element in keeping the business operating properly and producing more products. Bread sales went up 25% before coronavirus restrictions were in place. Warburtons said it was working closely with retail partners to get as many baked goods as possible into stores via 19,000 daily deliveries.

“We’ve done our level best, as much as we possibly could do, to make sure that the social distancing protocols are followed where possible,” Warburton told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“We’ve not asked anybody to do anything that we wouldn’t do ourselves. I have to say the workforce within the whole of our business has faced into this in a fantastic way. We have had a much higher level of absenteeism, but at no stage have we had to stop the plants, or more importantly, the warehousing and distribution.”

In an open letter to customers, the chairman told customers that family was at the heart of the Warburtons business. They were working harder than ever to bake and deliver bread to all families.

“Supporting our communities is more important now than perhaps it has ever been,” he said.

“Throughout this difficult time we will continue to donate to foodbanks and local community groups as much as we can, and will be working with other partners to see what more can be done.”

Jonathan, with cousins Brett and Ross, assumed control of the family business in 1991, following the retirement of their fathers. Jonathan worked up to the chairmanship role in 2001. He has been the public face of the 144-year-old business as it evolved into the second biggest grocery brand in the UK based on value sales, after Coca Cola, with annual revenue of £574 million ($707 million).

JCB produces medical visors and housing for Dyson’s ventilator

The Bamford family-controlled manufacturer JCB is supporting a staff initiative to make protective visors for healthcare workers fighting Covid-19 in the UK’s National Health Service.

The UK headquartered maker of construction equipment and agricultural machinery also collaborated with fellow family business Dyson in producing a prototype ventilator machine in record time to support coronavirus patients.

JCB, chaired by the second-generation Lord Bamford (pictured), re-opened its Innovation Centre at its World HQ in Staffordshire. Colleagues and engineering partners were granted free use of the company’s 3D rapid prototype machines. The volunteers wanted to help produce medical grade visors for NHS staff.

The World HQ and JCB’s other UK manufacturing plants have been idle since March due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus and the majority of employees furloughed.

By mid-April, the volunteer production line set-up at JCB produced 50 visors for distribution to surgeries in the Rocester and Uttoxeter area with the help of material donated by the JCB Academy.

With the visor material exhausted, volunteers were now concentrating their efforts on producing hundreds of head bands required for the visors before despatching them to a Warwickshire company for final assembly.

JCB also worked at pace with Dyson to fabricate housing for the new CoVent ventilating machine. In a matter of days, JCB turned a drawing into laser-cut, cleaned and painted pieces of metal housing for Dyson components. Samples were assembled and tested and sent to Dyson’s factory 118 miles south in Wiltshire for more work and regulatory approval of the device.

However, Sir James Dyson reportedly informed his staff today only a quarter of the 10,000 ventilators the UK government ordered from his company, as part of a national appeal, were being used. Consequently, he said, the government did not need to acquire as many of them as first thought. The devices may help the pandemic response in other countries instead.

Dyson spent about £20 million on the project, which Sir James said he would fund himself, without asking for public funds, reported BBC News.

Hays Travel starts to bring back furloughed staff and offers travel guarantee

Hays Travel, the UK’s largest independent travel agency, has brought more than half its furloughed staff back into working at home as the Hays family apologised for the quality of customer service since the lockdown.

Joint owners John and Irene Hays (pictured) furloughed most of their 5,700-strong workforce to safeguard jobs after the government unveiled its financial support scheme in March.

The agency’s payroll swelled in late 2019 when it announced 1,500 new jobs and apprenticeships only weeks after it took on 2,330 staff and all 555 shops from the collapsed travel group Thomas Cook. Of their 5,700 staff, 2,500 worked in retail. The company has more than 650 branches nationwide and is headquartered in Sunderland.

Speaking in a Facebook video, John Hays said since the lockdown on 23 March the couple were “really conscious that we haven’t given the quality of service that you would associate with Hays Travel and we are really sorry for that.

“We’ve been steadily bringing our staff back to work from home. We’ve got over 2,500 staff back and we are increasing that every day.”

Irene Hays asked customers to email their usual Hays Travel branch.

“We will get you an acknowledgement straight away, but as you can imagine, we are looking after those who have most need first.”

In a glimmer of positivity for the global travel and tourism industry laid low by the coronavirus, the ATOL-covered family business devised its own “Peace of Mind” guarantee on holidays being booked for later this year and summer 2021. Customers can book now, with free cancellations or changes up to six weeks before departure on holidays with the Peace of Mind logo.

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