Kevin Tolson, Commercial Director Wienerberger UK is BMBI’s Expert for Bricks & Roof Tiles.
The Wienerberger Group closed the first quarter of 2020 with excellent results, continuing the successful course of the previous year despite the first negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our results in the UK were positive, being broadly in line with expectations across brick and tile, and the quarter closed with a slowing at the end of March.
During the national lockdown, we continued to take orders and ship products from existing stocks for essential projects, however, like many in our sector, we suspended most of our production and chose to furlough some of our colleagues.
Our order profile reflected the national construction picture, where most commercial building sites and housebuilders pressed pause and many merchants closed their doors. However, a number of architects and specifiers continued to work from their home offices, and our technical and architectural design division was also highly active.
As we moved midway into Q2, there has been a phased reopening of merchants, many operating with new collections protocols in place. Housebuilders have gradually restarted their operations and implemented new safety procedures on their sites to enable compliance with government guidance on social distancing. Factories are reopening, and our own production lines are re-starting.
Digital has been one of the clear winners in this lockdown, as companies at all levels in the supply chain switched quickly to online communication with colleagues, customers, and suppliers. We have taken this opportunity to accelerate the digitization of our business and have switched to new means of communicating and collaborating with customers and suppliers. We no longer see these as temporary measures but rather embrace these as opportunities to embed new and improved ways of working for the long term.
As the focus must inevitably be on ‘Getting Britain Building’ again, we must not lose sight of the inroads we’ve made in increasing our sustainable offering and in continuing to develop new products and services: flexibility, agility and innovation will be critical. As an industry we need to adopt new ways of working which safeguard the health and safety of our workers while playing a key role in wider economic resurgence.