Manufacturing and the ‘New Normal.’

Manufacturing and the ‘New normal’

On the 23rd of March 2020 at 6.34pm we closed the gates for the last time at 36 Bear Lane, in London’s Southbank area. Bear Lane has been the manufacturing home for Grant Macdonald Silversmiths for over 42 years and whilst it was an emotional moment closing those gates, we were also looking forward to a fresh new start at our new offices and workshop at 64 Great Suffolk Street, a mere 200 yards down the road.

The old workshop, 36 Bear Lane in the 1970’s.

Little did we know, this would also be the day before the Government announced a strict ‘Lockdown’ due to the spread of the ‘Coronavirus’. Whilst the office could work from home, Manufacturing unfortunately could not. So, after a 2 month absence and the peak of the Covid-19 Pandemic over, the Government advised that we could restart the business and begin manufacturing again.

It’s been a really tough few months for us, as it has been for the whole of the UK and the rest of the world, but for Grant Macdonald the real challenge was about to begin – how to create a new, safe, social-distanced workshop.

In many ways we were fortunate that the needs of safe, social-distance manufacturing came at the time when we were setting up our new workspace, because we were already adapting and organising the space. However, the new building is smaller than our previous building and spread over 5 floors which has not made this process any easier. The first thing we did was split our craftsmen into two shifts, working Monday – Wednesday and Thursday – Saturday, with longer working hours, meaning we could keep the workshop half-empty, space-wise, to increase the distance between the silversmiths.

Social-distancing in the new workshop.

Next, we added perspex shielding around each workbench. This was essential to the safeguarding of our craftsmen whilst enabling all aspects of goldsmithing and silversmithing to continue as usual. We supplied all the workshops with PPE, including hand sanitiser, masks, gloves and visors. Masks and gloves aren’t exactly new to us as we work with extremes of heat, chemicals, fine particulate metal dust and all the normal health and safety controls for a metal-working facility.

Health and safety in the workplace

So now we have our new normal, on arrival at the new building, everyone is temperature checked with an infrared thermometer (like airports and hospitals use) to ensure they aren’t showing symptoms. Hand sanitiser awaits at the front door, where everyone is supplied with gloves and masks to begin the working day. All surfaces are wiped down with anti bacterial cleaning products twice a day and everyone keeps a 2 meter distance at all times.

Whilst we don’t know what the future holds, all of this effort means we can proudly declare that Grant Macdonald London is open for business, and safer than ever.