An Update From Mike At Sternfenster

Published 16 April 2020 by Bart

Dear Customer,

I have taken the tough decision to start manufacturing on a small scale, starting from Monday 20th April.

I fully respect and appreciate that there will be those amongst you who may disagree with this. I’m a great believer in being open, honest and transparent, and therefore have no issues in being contacted for those conversations. Subsequently, I hope you notice that I have provided all my personal contact details within this statement.

However, I would like to take a moment to outline the rationale behind my decision, as well as further details regarding the specific working practices and procedures that have been put in place, to ensure a safe service.

Firstly, on a personal note, I’d like to thank everyone who has been in touch and offered their support over the last few weeks; there have been many of you and your words have helped immeasurably, apart from yours Pat! x. I’m fully aware that these are incredibly testing times for us all, and as business owners, we are all having to make tough decisions. Clearly, the longer the uncertainty goes on, the tougher these decisions are going to be.

I appreciate there is a fine balance between worrying about business, economics and jobs, whilst supporting the NHS and saving lives; it’s an extremely conflicting position. Onthe one hand, I want to simply lock the office doors, go home, be with my family and pickup whatever pieces are left when it’s all over.

On the other hand, I know that if I did do that, it would not only risk the well-being of my staff and their families, but also have the potential to immeasurably damage many of my customers businesses too, including their staff and families. We have built some fantastic long-term relationships over many years and are therefore fully committed to playing our part in what is a shared responsibility to ensure we protect jobs, save lives and help the economy. In short, it’s a crap position for us all to be in!

As we have previously communicated, we have received many requests for products to complete installations, secure properties, avoid construction related penalties and generally to keep trading so you can raise cash to pay staff, suppliers and yourselves. It is also important to point out that we must reopen in order to supply some of our own contracts, including ones for the Ministry of Justice as well as the NHS. If we are having to start a shift for these contracts then clearly it makes sense to produce products for you at the same time, albeit at a much-reduced capacity, and in a safe and secure environment.

We have worked with our production team to pull a schedule together which will see us starting to manufacture PVC/Ali and glass on Monday 20th April, with the first delivery to customers being on Wednesday 22nd April. Of course, we have spent a considerable amount of time stress testing our plans with thorough preparations, mainly around Health & Safety to ensure we are confident with the logistics of getting the teams safely back and everything functioning properly.

As I’m sure you can appreciate, we want to limit the number of people on site at any one time and have therefore hand-selected individuals specifically based on their skills and the work that we already have in the system. To reiterate, we are not opening the whole production facility / company, so there will still be no office staff answering phone calls (other than me!), however, we do still have some key people working from home who are ready to deal with any email queries, quotes or orders which need to be processed. Again, we are trying to do everything we can to support our customers, as best as possible.

Everyone who is coming back will have a full Health and Safety briefing on the 1st morning back, as we have implemented several new procedures, designed to ensure people remain safe. For clarity, I’ve detailed some of these below:

  • Procedures for essential visitors to site
  • Procedures for Goods in and Goods out
  • Procedures for customer deliveries and collections
  • Procedures for internal operations and general health surveillance
  • Social distancing and more welfare facilities (more wash stations / hand sanitizers)

This is not an exhaustive list, but outlines lots of things we have prepared in order to enable us to start manufacturing on a small scale, whilst ensuring that any interactions with you are done in a controlled and safe manner.

We will continue to monitor the situation regarding the number of quotes, orders in and deliveries on a daily basis. As previously explained, we will only stay open supporting you if:

  • You continue to send through quotes and orders.
  • Our suppliers can re-stock us, and we are working on plans with them to facilitate this.
  • The Government guidelines don’t change.
  • We can remain safe whilst achieving the above.

There is no precedent for what we are experiencing and closing the factory a few weeks ago was a truly emotional experience, as we employ a lot of hard-working people who have dedicated many years to build our business. I’m sure like you, I’ve had many messages from my team concerned about their jobs, families and futures, and whilst I suspect there may well be some people who perceive my actions in trying to get a shift going again to be wrong, I have tried to offer the context and explain the reasoning in as much detail as possible.

Ultimately, I have to try and do what is right for everyone and having thought long and hard all I can do is try and follow the Government guidance, implement and police safe systems of work, protect our supply chain and do our best to support our customers and staff, all within the context of “flattening the curve”, “delaying the peak” and of course protecting the NHS and “staying in to save lives”, that’ll explain all those sleepless nights!!

If you have any issues, disagree or simply want to chat, feel free to contact me directly, ideally on the phone (I’ve provided my mobile number below my signature), as honestly, I’m not a great user of Twitter! As ever, I am always willing to listen and learn. Thanks for your time, remain safe.

Mike Signature

Managing Director

Mobile: 07767 605492

Please note that everything we do will always be caveated with the fact that we will follow the Governments guidance, so if they change the message then our plans will change, where possible we will give you as much notice of these changes as we can, although you need to appreciate that the situation is dynamic and constantly evolving, feel free to log onto COVID-19 Government Response

Please see below some useful links which will hopefully give you some further information, understanding and context around our current position:

Updated Government information – see the letter from the Secretary of State for Business, issued 31st March to those working in construction, and the letter issued 8th April for those working in manufacturing.

Updated information from the GGF – following an exchange of emails they confirmed that the Government do not distinguish between essential and non-essential construction work, so installing domestic windows can carry on.

Confirmation from our local MP that manufacturing and installation is not affected by the announcement on the 23rd March – feel free to engage with your own local MP’s if it makes you and your customers feel more comfortable about the situation.

Some useful links/information:
Govt website detailing guidance for manufacturers
Govt website detailing guidance for the construction industry
GGF website detailing guidance for tradespeople working in peoples homes
Construction Leadership Council detailing guidance for construction workers on site

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