Lancashire-based furniture manufacturer Sofas by Saxon has started to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS workers – and is encouraging other businesses to step up and do the same.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the company has been unable to make or deliver any furniture for the last few weeks. So, they made the difficult decision to close their workshop and furlough their production staff until things stabilise.
However, when managing director Matt Deighton saw that the UK’s healthcare professionals were in desperate need of PPE, he wondered whether the company could help. Some manufacturers, such as Burberry and Barbour, were already helping other areas of the UK, and he wanted to support the NHS workers in Lancashire and Greater Manchester.
Over the Easter bank holiday weekend, he reached out to local ‘scrubs hubs’ on Facebook. These are communities of people already trying to fill the gap caused by the PPE shortage, and they were able to give him all the information he needed, from what kinds of fabric were required to where scrub sewing patterns can be found.
There were still other challenges to overcome, though. For example, the fabric used to make scrubs is in very high demand at the moment, so they had to reach out to a lot of different contacts before they were able to source the fabric they required.
They also had to make sure their sewing machines could handle such a thin fabric, as they’re used to dealing with more robust materials like leather and velvet. Fortunately, all of their tests were successful.
The company spoke to their furloughed employees and asked if they would be willing to help make PPE for the NHS on a voluntary basis, in line with the social-distancing guidelines. They received a fantastic response and were able to reopen their workshop to start production. All of their scrubs will be donated, free of charge.
On top of this, Sofas by Saxon has been cutting fabric for local sewers and even turned their premises into a pick-up and drop-off point. So, independent makers can drop off the likes of scrubs, gowns, and visors, and healthcare professionals can stop by to collect supplies for their teams.
They’re also urging people to support their local ‘scrub hubs’, which are made up of people who are often spending their own money on supplies to make PPE that they can donate. If anyone would like to learn more or help support the fantastic volunteers at the Manchester, East Lancashire, and Cheshire Scrub Hub, they have a Go Fund Me page, where donations go towards buying essential raw materials for the PPE equipment.
Based in Bolton, Sofas by Saxon is predominantly helping the east Lancashire area. The team is well aware that many other regions need this kind of assistance, though, and so are encouraging other companies to do what they can to support their communities.
They recommend that your first step should be to contact local ‘scrub hubs’ on Facebook to find out how to help, but the company is also more than happy to support other organisations in getting their PPE production off the ground. Any manufacturing businesses looking for advice can contact the Sofas by Saxon team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Deighton, managing director of Sofas by Saxon, said: “With so much bad news circulating at the moment, we’ve all felt quite down and helpless for the last few weeks. But, being able to contribute and support those on the frontline has helped to put a spring back in all of our steps.
“Our staff, who otherwise would have been sitting at home with nothing to do, have told us they love that they’re able to come in and volunteer for a great cause. It really helps to have a sense of purpose, and I’m so glad we’re able to support our local health workers at this difficult time.
“Like us, there’ll be a lot of companies out there who have had to shut down their operations, leaving their factories empty. So, I really want to encourage other businesses to use their time and resources to help, if they’re able to. Not only can you be proud of doing your bit, but it will also be great for staff morale, and is sure to give you a lot of satisfaction.”