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Staff pull together to keep country moving

Coronavirus has affected everyone and that’s why – whether they are working from home, on the factory floor or out on the road – every single member of the Morris Lubricants family is doing their bit to keep the country moving safely and reliably.

“As each day unfolds, we face new challenges, but our priority is to protect people; our staff, their families and our customers,” says Chris Slezakowski, managing director of Morris Lubricants in Shrewsbury.

“We have ongoing obligations to provide oil and lubricants to those that rely us. In the last week we have shipped to three ambulance services and two police forces, so that they can carry on doing what they need to do."

As part of a complex supply chain that services a variety sectors – including medical supply vehicles, agricultural vehicles, freight and food distribution companies – Chris emphasises how important it is that the company continues to operate at full capacity to “keep everything from air ambulances to tractors and trucks transporting food, fully mobilised” during the pandemic.

To make this happen, whilst doing everything in his power to reduce the risk that coronavirus poses to the Morris Lubricants workforce, Chris has overseen the rapid implication of new company protocol. 

“From day one, we took great care to listen to what the government instructed, and followed it precisely,’ says Chris. “With the support of our IT department, we had the foresight to purchase some equipment just as COVID-19 became an issue, so when we were first alerted to the need for our team to work from home we accelerated our roll out of VOIP phones.

“This means that every phone in the building is now capable of being physically elsewhere, but digitally ‘present’ on our system. A customer can call the usual telephone number and still be answered in the same way, by the same team, despite the phone being relocated to a member of staff’s home.”

During the workday, teams keep in touch with regular video meetings and are able to access in-house systems through a secure VPN on a computer that has been provided, and set up, by Morris Lubricants. 

“While many of these facilities are not new, the speed of take up by our business was dramatic. We went from an office-based business to full remote working in less than a week without any interruption in service.”

Elsewhere in the business, where remote working is not possible, person-to-person contact is being limited and the frequency and intensity of cleaning at all sites has been significantly increased.

“Most of our manufacturing process is computer controlled, and because many of our machines are forty or fifty feet long, people don’t have to work side by side on the production line.”

Morris Lubricants drivers have also been issued personal protective equipment (PPE) to safeguard against infection, and the specific delivery requirements of each customer are being observed whilst implementing social distancing measures. The 48 hour period from order to delivery continues to be met. 

As part of the national effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Morris Lubricants has pledged to manufacture, bottle and distribute tens of thousands of litres of hand sanitiser using a World Health Organisation approved formula. 

The Production department responded to this urgent call – without compromising their usual 750,000 litre output of product per week – and the new hand sanitiser, which is available as part of the Workshop Pro Range, is already being freighted in bottles as small as 200ml to key workers and clients on the front line up and down the country. 

“We gave a litre of our first batch to every member of staff,” says Chris. “We want to meet our obligations, legally and morally, so the company, the family, also decided we’d have our own furlough scheme which is more generous than the Government scheme.”

Recognising that these are also difficult times for the UK’s Heritage and Steam Railway Fraternity, Morris Lubricants has launched the Heritage Railway Support Scheme.

“The family has a huge empathy with the steam fraternity so we are inviting all of the heritage railways to write in and tell us what they need. We will help them out where we can, that can be anything from discount on oil, to financial support.”

Chris admits that these have been some of the most challenging and dramatic few weeks of his working life to date, but it’s the early retirement of a colleague, days before lockdown, that stands out as one of the most symbolic and poignant moments.

“After 47 years of service, his colleagues – standing two metres apart – gave him a corridor of applause as he left the building. As he walked up to the gate, all I wanted to do was shake his hand, but I couldn’t, so just a couple of elbow bumps had to do.” 

Pictured: Chris Slezakowski, managing director of Morris Lubricants


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