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James Cropper vows to protect staff, customers and its business during Coronavirus pandemic

The James Cropper PLC mill and offices at Burneside

One of South Lakeland’s biggest employers says it is doing everything it can to protect staff, the local community, the business and its customers during the Coronavirus pandemic.

James Cropper PLC is a 175-year-old family firm based at Burneside Mills at Burneside, Kendal, which employs more than 600 people. It manufactures high-quality paper and highly advanced non-woven material products for a wide range of customers, including many in the packaging, medical, renewable energy and defence industries.

In the light of the Coronavirus pandemic it has moved swiftly to protect its staff and the wider community.

Phil Wild, Chief Executive Officer of James Cropper PLC

“Anyone who can work at home is now working from home,” said Chief Executive Phil Wild. “Nearly all of our office staff are now working from home, including the sales and marketing, technical, finance and human resources teams. Most of those still on site are directly involved in manufacturing and distributing our products, along with our engineering team, which looks after the machines.

“Others on site include our cleaners, who are even more important at this time. They only work in areas once other people have vacated them. Additionally we have our canteen staff, who are wearing PPE. The canteen itself is now operating a cashless, takeaway service to reduce the risk of infection through the handling of money or people congregating.”

He said the company had 633 direct employees, of which 603 were based at Burneside. “We work a shift system, so not everybody is on site at once. Normally we have approximately 350 staff on site at any one time. This is down to about 150 at present, spread across the three different manufacturing units.

“Those who are working at the mill are observing social distancing by keeping at least two metres apart from each other and we are limiting the number of people who can be in the same room at any one time.”

He added that all staff were encouraged to regularly wash their hands for at least 20 seconds. There were 42 additional hand sanitising stations, disposable gloves, alcohol wipes, disinfectant sprays and other cleaning materials located throughout the mill, with clear guidelines about when people should use them. If people did occasionally need to work closer than two metres apart, they were provided with FFP3 masks with respirators.

The procedure for trucks making deliveries had been changed so interaction between drivers and staff was minimised, said Mr Wild.

“We are following the advice from the Government and Public Health England so that if any member of staff or their family shows symptoms of Coronavirus they go into self-isolation.

“There is a daily meeting for directors and key managers to discuss measures to be taken in response to Coronavirus. We are also monitoring the situation hour by hour and all staff are updated every day.”

Mr Wild said the Government had ordered certain businesses and venues to close to reduce social contact and help stop the spread of the virus. “With the exception of these organisations, the Government has not required any other businesses to close – indeed it has said it is important for business to carry on.”

He stressed the importance of the products created by James Cropper to a range of industries. Many relied on the paper it supplied for their packaging. “We are a central component of their supply chain,” said Mr Wild.

Some of the firm’s technical fibre products were used in the automotive and defence industries while some had medical applications, for example in the manufacture of defibrillators.

Mr Wild said: “We are confident we shall be able to meet all our customer orders. It is important that James Cropper PLC is able to continue and come through fit and strong at the end of this. It is also important to support our very loyal customers, who are also having a tough time at the moment.”

James Cropper’s role in the local community was of huge importance, he said. “Of the 600 people who work here, the vast majority live in the surrounding area and we have had generation after generation of the same families working for us. A lot of our contractors are also local businesses.”

He said the atmosphere at the mill was good. “James Cropper has always been a community-based company,” he said. “People are proud to work for James Cropper and we are seeing a real determination to keep going and support each other and our customers. Everyone is just getting on with it and being very positive.”

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