Due to the limitations that the Covid pandemic has presented, the UK Sheet Plant Association, recently hosted SPA’s first virtual conference via a live Zoom call, with speakers and attendees from around the world.
There were no technical issues and the conference went exceptionally well. The agenda for the conference covered a wide range of topics relating to SPA member benefits, safety and wellbeing, global trends for the corrugated industry, and Brexit.
Tim Gray, Chairman of the SPA and Managing Director of Dari-Pak Ltd., began the meeting by speaking of the value that the association offer’s its members, such as weekly supplier and converter Zoom calls, regularly scheduled Covid calls, and renewed support for BRCGS.
Luke Menzies, Barrister at Menzies Law, provided updates on Tribunal claims, the Job Retention Scheme tapering off and concerns about return to work. Menzies discussed the confusion thats been caused by the reversal of the “back to work” guidance and a worrying trend of the reversal of gender equality. He urged members to utilize the SPA hotline if they have any questions regarding redundancies or procedures regarding it.
Robert Herridge, Managing Director at Packology, was introduced as the association’s retained BRCGS specialist, offering different levels of assistance based on needs of the facility. Companies have the option of utilizing Herridge’s assistance in training, site assistance, audits, conference and more. Assistance offerings and special pricing for SPA members is available on the SPA website.
The health and safety update was provided by Andrew Ely, with TUV UK Ltd. Ely spoke of the need to focus on risk control of the factory, plant operations and the premises, with the possibility of spot checks by the Health and Safety Executive. He also touched on issues that home workers may face such as physical and mental stress. Ely discussed the need for work station assessments, perhaps more one-on-one contact and substitutes for normal contact that would occur in the office. Also stressed was the need to provide welfare facilities on site for drivers and obligations to make provisions for visiting personnel.
Carole Calland from Westfield Health provided guidance on how to assist employees, based on key findings from ‘Divided Together’, an in-depth research study into the rifts of Covid and the changing expectations of the employers and the workplace. Carole cited that 60% of HR professionals believe this is the end of office environments and 50% of those surveyed say their mental health has been negatively effected by the pandemic. Carole offered a solution to employers at a minimal cost – the EASE employee assistance programme provides 24 hour counseling and legal support as well as access to an online health hub and an employer support hotline.
Andy Barneston, Director of Packaging Affairs at Confederation of Paper Industries, spoke on the work that the CPI promotion committee has done over the past year, to promote the corrugated industry. Barneston discussed promoting awareness of recycling corrugated though various ways including the use of social media influencers, PaperBoyo corrugated art, and a national consumer research ‘Vox Pop’ video that reached more than 146 million people. The CPI promotion campaign is partially funded by the SPA.
The UK corrugated update was provided by Neil Osment, business development consultant. Osment discussed the global corrugated market being down -1.7%, but doing much better than other industries that have been hit by the Covid pandemic. He noted that the UK corrugated market has grown by .2% and out performs the GDP. He explained that the e-commerce and food and beverage sectors are doing well, while the industrial sector lags.
Industry veteran and regional director at Smurfit Kappa, Andrew Woollard, confirmed faith in the corrugated industry as he spoke of the resilience of the industry. Woollard supported Osment’s findings that the industry continues to do fairly well, despite the challenges presented by the pandemic. He cited innovation, flexibility and ecommerce as the driving forces of continued success. Also noting the push by the industry to promote the value of the box, rather than the cost of it and the strong work of the trade associations like SPA and AICC, as other drivers of the industry’s resiliency.
Andrew Large, Director General at CPI, gave an update on Brexit and the potential issues for trade and tariffs that will affect many if an agreement is not made in the coming days. Large offered the members to attend Brexit seminars, hosted by CPI, for more information.
The conference also included supplier spotlights from the following: David Little (Lenard Little Associates), Mike Introna (MI Associates), David Holt (Item Products), Neil Stephenson (ISRA Vision), Brunton Business Publications LTD. and Domino.