Confidently navigating through the coronavirus crisis

Confidently navigating through the coronavirus crisis

ARTICLE · By Timber Trade Federation · 20 March 2020

Covid-19 is a humanitarian crisis with very real consequences. It’s important as a business you are prepared to weather the storm. Crises for businesses are as old as businesses themselves and while they may seem daunting, with the right steps, you can help make them manageable for yourselves, your employees, and your customers.

Stage one: What you should be doing now

Ensuring the safety of your workforce

People are paramount. Making sure your employees are safe, secure and healthy should always come first. Consider what steps you should take to make sure they are safe. Depending on your business, this may include having some of your team working from home.

Where people cannot work from home, closely follow the advice of authorities including practicing social distancing, taking all hygiene measures, such as regularly washing hands for at least 20 seconds, and, when an employee shows any symptoms, practicing self-isolation.

Get the information you need

Identify what you need to know as a business, and what the most important sources of information will be for you. At the Timber Trade Federation, we have created a Covid-19 hub where we’ve brought together a range of useful resources for the timber industry.

Some of the key resources you should track as a business include the Government’s advice for businesses. We advise you to keep strong records of any the effects your business is facing from Covid-19, as this will help you access business relief measures down the road.

Make sure you have the tools to the job done

For some businesses, this may be the first time you have been working from home. Rest assured however, there are many tools you can use to keep business moving. Whether you make use of Microsoft Teams, Skype or other alternatives, make sure your employees have the tools they need.

While are many blogs which will advise how best to maintain productivity when working from home, it may take some time finding what works best for you. Some of the key tips are to keep a routine, create a defined workspace, take breaks, and communicate regularly.


Stage two: Specific advice for the timber industry

The timber supply chain runs between countries and thousands upon thousands of worksites, with disruption on one end inevitably felt by the other. However, with diversity comes flexibility, and news from TTF members indicates that supply chains for wood and wood products are facing no current or anticipated supply shortages.

To ensure business keeps moving, during a crisis, it is paramount you are regularly communicating with your supply chain, both with your customers and suppliers as these situations can shift quickly. It is best to avoid assumptions, and continue to draw frequently on the information sources you have identified for your business.

Talk to your suppliers and customers

For importers and shippers, it is important to check with suppliers that goods can be shipped and unloaded without problems in the logistics chain. The most recent advice we have received is that ports have taken active measures and remain open for business.

For distributors, check that the goods can be received on site before delivering. But, do not rely on assumptions and automatic systems. Talking to people, identifying areas of your operation which may be at risk, and preparing accordingly is critical.

Construction sites also remain open for business, and industry leaders are calling for it to be kept this way. We are actively lobbying the government for more sector specific assurance, and for greater sector support during the crisis to keep goods moving.


Stage three: Looking beyond the pandemic

Predicting the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are of course difficult. However, information is improving all the time and there are certain models which businesses can turn to for medium to long term planning. Our advice is to look at each in your contingency planning.

Remember there will be an end to the outbreak

The first thing to remind yourself is that there will be an end. McKinsey has identified that there are five stages to an outbreak. These are:

  1. Small number of cases identified and no sustained local transmission
  2. Disease spread and sustained local transmission
  3. Government action/ shift in public behavior.
  4. Case growth/ stretched health systems
  5. New-case drop, activity resumption.

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In the UK, we are clearly at the third stage. What we do not currently know is how long this stage will last, and how the economy will behave.

Prepare for the long term

How quickly the UK will enter stage five depends on a number of factors, including the strength of the response by Government and businesses, measures to taken to support business continuity, and the nature of the virus, for example, whether it proves to be seasonal.

We are still at an early stage in understanding each of these areas. However, as a business it might be best to consider how an impact, whether lowered demand or constricted supply, will affect you, and your fiscal position over the coming quarter and beyond

Construct a business continuity plan

There are many different resources you can refer to when conducting business continuity planning, but essentially it comes down to mapping the impact on your business of an event and planning how you will recover.

This means conducting an up to date analysis of your business, assessing the risks you face, developing your strategy, and planning accordingly. See the UK Government’s guidance for further guidance.

The Timber Trade Federation will seek to continue to ensure our members get the most up to date advice and information, and where possible develop guidance and templates to assist you.