I would like to reassure you that we are doing everything we possibly can to safely supply the UK construction industry to ensure people can return to work, protecting their livelihoods and getting the nation building again.
I also want to share with you just some of the things we’ve been working hard on in order to maintain the supply of products in a time of unprecedented demand.
At the end of March, in line with UK Government guidance we, like many others temporarily shut down the majority of our UK mining, manufacturing and logistics operations. We all did this to help ensure not only our colleagues stayed safe but also to do our bit to help protect the NHS and Save Lives.
During April we maintained a small scale despatch operation to support critical projects such as the various NHS Nightingale hospital facilities. It was during this time that the Secretary of State clarified that Construction workers could continue to work if it was possible to adhere to the Chief Medical Officer’s advice on travelling to work, and in line with the new Site Operation Procedures (SOP) issued by the Construction Leadership Council, whilst at work. In addition to this many of our larger commercial construction industry customers advised us that they could safely adhere to that advice and asked for our support in providing essential construction materials.
During our shutdown, and in line with Public Health England guidance we successfully put in place rigorous hygiene and social distancing measures across our mining, manufacturing and logistics operations as part of our own revised Safe Operating Procedures and at the end of April we were able to begin safely returning colleagues to the workplace.
Since then we have successfully scaled up our operations, with the support of all our colleagues, so that today we are operating at +95% of our capability on Plasterboard and importantly at 100% on Plaster, which has now been at this level for over a month. This means we are operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with no down time other than for planned maintenance on our production lines.
The construction industry has returned to work at pace since May and demand has recovered much quicker than was forecast. This coupled with low stocks across the UK’s building materials distributors, merchants and DIY retailers means that demand for both plasterboard and plaster has been outstripping ours, and other manufacturers’ ability to supply.
The good news is that Plasterboard came off allocation (a process which ensures fair and equitable allocation of stock to distributors, merchants and DIY outlets) at the start of August and is now meeting demand.
Demand however, remains exceptional for Plaster. We are aware of instances of unscrupulous individuals purchasing plaster and selling this through various internet sites, like Ebay at high prices. Whilst this is frustrating for all of us it is something we are unable to control. The only way we can help resolve this is to focus on producing as much product as we can to meet the current unprecedented demand – which we’ve been doing for well over a month now, despatching more product into the market than this time last year. Stocks across the UK’s builder’s merchants, distributors and DIY stores are slowly improving.
I hope that this reassures you that all of the team at British Gypsum are doing everything possible to support the livelihoods of people working in construction.
Managing Director, British Gypsum