From steel to plastic

12 May 2020

Engineering capacity news posted by Andy Sandford

London-based Steelo has moved from steel fabrication to the plastic market as a result of the impact of Covid-19.

“Since the end of March, we decided to furlough most of our staff, leaving a skeleton production force to continue fabricating ongoing orders” - says Michael Krajewski, CEO at the London-based steel fabricator.

“Many of our Clients have had to shut down their building sites, which has left us with a massive drop in regular enquiries.”

With sales dropping more than 50% compared to the previous year, the company realised a radical change of direction was necessary, not only to save their own business  from shrinking but also to help others that are struggling with the consequences of the pandemic. 

Over the last few weeks, the team at Steelo have been thinking about both protecting their own company and also about finding a way of helping other businesses get back on their feet. 

“I have been discussing the possible scenarios with other business owners in the UK whilst actively monitoring economic trends, and I have observed that in order to get businesses going, companies will have to eventually bring back their employees to work,” says Mr Krajewski.

Lifting lockdown restrictions will allow many non-essential workers to go back to work,  however, experts have been saying that the public will need to adopt social distancing practices for the foreseeable future. So how can companies get the best out of the employees without putting their safety at risk? 

“The idea is very simple: companies need clever solutions for their workplaces to ensure that employees feel protected and risk-free at work,”  says Michael Krajewski.

“ This is why we created WorkShield - an online shop allowing employers to source acrylic sneeze and cough screens that can be easily installed around their workplaces.” 

Steelo wanted to find a solution to protect its own employees and designed various screens for its own purposes. Very quickly it realised, that other businesses will face exactly the same problem hence it decided to make life easier by providing a range of screens.

Proposed solutions by WorkShield have been positively reviewed by a virology expert and have been already enthusiastically adopted by various companies that wanted to install acrylic screens at their workplaces in order to resume their operations. 

As of the end of April, the production floor at Steelo is divided. Operating from two warehouse units located near Heathrow Airport, one unit continues to fabricate steel whilst the team at the other unit prepares the acrylic screens to then be dispatched. 

Years of experience in the steel industry were not an obstacle, but actually an advantage while setting up the acrylic cough screen production line. 

“Since the company was founded in 2009, we have been constantly developing new technologies such as our bespoke ERP software and our planning & scheduling system,”  explains Mr Krajewski.

“Our manufacturing and operating techniques derive from lean-manufacturing and Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints (ToC), meaning that despite the material we work with, we can stick to strict deadlines and stay on track whilst also minimising the risk of any problems that can occur during the manufacturing process.”

Steelo Ltd currently employs almost 40 people. Setting up a new venture has had a good impact on the business and on its employees, who have enthusiastically adopted a new business strategy. The company has been already able to bring most furloughed staff back to work.

“We want to come out stronger than ever and employ more people than before the COVID-19 outbreak,” says the CEO.

Although the company's focus is now mostly on WorkShield, this does not mean that Steelo will move out of steel fabrication.

“Our position in the steel market is stable and without any doubt, steel fabrication will be in high demand once construction sites resume operating normally after lock-down. “However, we have to bear in mind that the world might never be the same again and this is what all employers have to be aware of.

“Adjusting to a new reality can sound scary at first, but in my opinion, it will eventually bring out the entrepreneurial spirit in other business owners. At the moment, bringing our employees back to work is really essential if we want to get our businesses going again.”