MD Matthew Aldridge explains why igus® has managed to stay open!

It may come as a surprise but igus® has never closed throughout this whole unsettling time. The doors at the Northampton factory have remained open, albeit with skeleton staff on site, ensuring that vital parts are still supplied to customers all over the country.

It has been well documented recently that Managing Director Matthew Aldridge and his team have been helping produce ventilators and have also set up an emergency production line to produce face masks – free of charge, simply to help during this crisis. Matthew explains why igus® have remained open throughout….

We employ over 100 people, a mixture of sales, engineering, administration and manufacturing.  Our customers are wide and varied. Our parts are used by almost every sector of industry – from cars and furniture, to white goods, packaging machines, robotics and nuclear power stations. 

At the start of the lockdown, the government put out a request for all manufacturers to produce ventilators, and the UK engineering industry leaped into action.  Many companies were building prototypes for testing, and we were inundated with requests for samples and engineering support.  We provided igus® parts for use in prototypes free of charge, and had dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of ‘virtual meetings’ to solve different engineering problems. 

From our Brackmills factory in Northampton we also started to assemble face shields for the NHS. Our involvement started when people wanted to use the igus® 3D print filament to manufacture headbands, we became aware of the project and it soon became clear that a facility was needed to assemble these essential pieces of PPE.  We repurposed part of our facility into an emergency production line and are now producing anywhere between 500 and 1,000 per day.  Let me be clear, we are doing this for free, and to help in this crisis, igus® is not usually in the PPE business.

The team simply love to be able to help, many of them have been giving up their own time to work on this project.  The key person is Laura Stavciuc, without her we could not have delivered the results.  At igus® we have the mantra ‘everyone is a manager’. In other words you have total autonomy coupled with total responsibility.  This gives a very flat company structure, and it means that you can get stuff done, very quickly. 

A week before the official lockdown, anyone who could work from home did so.  Over the last year months we had rolled out a digital transformation program at igus® UK, using Microsoft Teams, cloud based CRM and ERP systems etc, so the transition was very smooth, in fact I was surprised how easy it was to do this! 

As igus® parts are used extensively in medical machines, as well as in food production lines, we have kept the factory operational throughout.  Of course, we had to completely change the layout and work process to allow for social distancing and we had no real guidance on how to do this, so we held a number of internal brainstorming sessions, using Microsoft Teams of course!  When the official government guidance came out, it was fascinating to see that we totally complied, it was almost as if they had based the guidance on what we had done.

Our team is very close knit, and therefore it was initially very hard to have people working remotely.  During the first fortnight of lock-down, I made a small video to update the team on some of the urgent medical projects we were working on, this was very well received, so this is now a regular weekly item.  The different teams within igus® have twice daily team meetings, and there has been an igus® pub quiz night, all digital!  Last week I held an ‘open mic’ session, where anyone can ask me anything, this went on for over an hour, again it went down well so we will repeat this.  The i-people team (our equivalent to HR, I do not use this term as I believe it is degrading to call people a resource) have regular calls with everyone.

We remained open!  We were open, we are open, we will stay open.  The parts and systems from igus® are essential for the wheels of industry to turn.  The shape of both our and our customers business will be different, but the unique ‘flat and flexible’ structure of igus® UK means that we can adapt immediately.

They say that traffic levels have gone back to the year of my birth, 1974, my commuting time to igus® has halved.  I miss the buzz of the open and packed igus®facility, but when I look at how the team has adapted and helped in the fight against this virus, this gives me much hope for the future.”

The message is clear, igus® will remain open, will remain supporting customers and will continue providing essential parts for industry. The phone lines are still open, staff are answering emails and are offering virtual visits. The support has not and will not stop.

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