Telford-based machine building systems experts AFTSL have, like so many other businesses across manufacturing, been having a tough time as orders for new build machines began to dry up back in March. Although the company has (by design) always sought to offer a broad portfolio of products and serve many different industries to assure its ongoing success, the grip of COVID-19 also brought an unexpected new opportunity.
When AFTSL MD Barry Bowen learned that transmission of the virus often took place through droplets expelled during face to face contact, he had the idea of mounting a plexiglass type screen between the aluminium profiles that his company uses for building all sorts of machines. Coincidentally he also had to visit a local pharmacy and happened to mention to the pharmacist (bear in mind that this was back in February of this year) that he could measure up, design and make them a screen to protect staff and customers as word began to emerge more widely about "˜transmission of the virus'.
Cutting a long story short, from that chance encounter, (and thanks to the ability of social media to "˜spread the word' in this case), AFTSL now has a significant part of its resources allocated to designing and manufacturing bespoke public protection screens that are finding their way into a variety of shops, pharmacies and other retail and commercial outlets.
"I think we were lucky in being ahead of the pack in this cas" says Barry Bowen. "Having designed so many industrial installations using our aluminium framework systems it just seemed obvious when I visited the pharmacy in February that a screen could be swiftly made to just about any size and shape once we'd sourced the necessary clear plastic material".
Recent months have seen many such examples of successful machine builders diversifying into new areas to help assure the future of their businesses, and the AFTSL experience is just one of them. As things begin to pick up again across manufacturing for machine builders, history might show that the ability to respond to new opportunities was just what the doctor - or pharmacist in this case - ordered.
Learn more about AFTSL at www.aftsl.co.uk.
Editors note: I read somewhere, years ago, that the Supermarine aircraft factory near Southampton may have owed its survival during the 1920s and 1930s to the popularity of its top-quality wooden toilet seats which were apparently in high demand. The manufacturer was (at the time) well respected for the standard of its woodwork in flying boat hull construction, and as with the AFTSL example here, recognised and benefited from a new market opportunity for its skills
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