UK manufacturers urged to bring forward shutdown amid coronavirus fears

An annual maintenance shutdown of UK factories should take place now, while workers are under coronavirus lockdown, to minimise the impact of reduced outputs, according to a sector specialist.

Many companies in the manufacturing sector are struggling to implement the government-ordered social distancing guidance without severely impacting operations.

That has led industry experts to call for the sector’s annual shutdown to be brought forward so workers can stay safe at home like those in so many other industries.

This call to act is being led by AIS Vanguard, which offers specialist services to manufacturing facilities, with equipment relocations, installations and maintenance support.

Group Engineering Director Stephen Edge said: “Many manufacturers operate with annual shutdowns, which allows them to execute corrective and planned maintenance needing major outages in a controlled way. They do this as good management and to allow machinery to be out of service while not greatly impacting the supply chain.

“However, we’re in an unparalleled period of disruption and manufacturers are reacting to this to reduce the commercial impact of the pandemic.

“It makes sense to consider bringing outages forward where they can, and we would expect that this is already being scheduled to make use of any reduced production periods they may currently be facing.

“In this way, manufacturers will put major outages behind them when the Covid-19 outbreak has subsided and they need their machinery to run.”

Some manufacturing sectors, such as food production and medical equipment, are working harder than ever to maintain vital supplies, while others have seen operations pivot to help create ventilators and other equipment needed on the medical frontlines.

However, many more of the UK’s manufacturing facilities are struggling to remain open and compliant with Government safety advice.

Many of the major automotive companies have already halted production at their UK plants.

Early shutdown would potentially enable firms to ride out the period of enforced inactivity and then quickly get back up to full speed once the pandemic has passed.

The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce is supporting the initiative.

Chris Fletcher, Policy, Campaigns & Communications Director, said: “At a time of huge upheaval in this unprecedented crisis many businesses will be looking for and having to adopt brand new ways of working and the idea of expediting the shutdown to allow this work to be done now so that once we are out of it we can literally hit the ground running makes absolute sense.

“There are obviously still health issues to consider but the idea, if it can be delivered, is exactly the right type of response looking forward to when the crisis has passed. It is vital that once we can we all get behind the economy to get the country going again.

“Rather than struggling to keep production going, it makes sense to bring annual maintenance shutdowns forward or reduce production levels so that they be carried out on a phased basis during these challenging times. In this way, companies will be able to manufacture efficiently at full capacity when the Covid-19 outbreak has subsided.”