A Positive Future for Rayflex, Michelle Ryall discusses recent challenges and opportunities
One of the biggest frustrations I found whilst working for big, international companies was how long it took to change anything that wasn’t working. They were just like the metaphor of the supertanker taking an age to turn, the results being lost business and customers as you are unable to react in time.
This last year must have had an impact on those businesses and I wonder just how they fared in the unprecedented times we have faced. I feel lucky to have worked for a company like Rayflex during the pandemic. They are the UK’s largest manufacturers of PVC strip curtains but being family-owned and run means the people that make the decisions are close by with open doors. If I have a customer with a bespoke design, I can easily walk into production to discuss the best way to manufacture or I can speak straight to the person responsible for helping me fix an issue – no going through several departments with things getting lost in translation.
As lockdown loomed, this ability to move quickly made all the difference. Rayflex primarily sell PVC Strip Curtains, PVC Sheet, Rubber Sheet/Strip & Rubber Site Safety products and like many businesses, worried about the effect of the pandemic as the phones grew quieter. Our customers primarily include those the lockdown would have the biggest impact on – hospitality, schools, colleges, manufacturing, the food industry. We were able to respond immediately – production stepped up and worked overtime to make and ship everything that had already been ordered.
As a supplier of PVC, we already have warehouses full of material perfect for turning into virus screens, but it was our Director’s quick thinking that really made a huge difference and made a worrying year into a successful one. Phillipa managed to very quickly secure stocks of acrylic which she turned into a range of freestanding and hanging virus screens – a product range which the country was going to be in desperate need of. Because Phillipa acted immediately, she was able to secure good stocks of the material ensuring we could provide a good supply of a great quality product at a fair price. These screens are now being used at locations as varied as private air terminals to local corner shops and everything in between.
We were also able to quickly redesign some of our original materials to make screens, something the country seemed extremely short of. Our Screenflex-640 material, traditionally used for vision panels in large warehouse curtains was put into exhibition pop up stands, replacing the graphics with a clear panel making a flexible, transportable pop-up virus screen. It was also cut into panels to fit into poster clamps making ideal hanging screens to separate workers facing each other, for shop counters, dentists, doctors, garden centres, etc. Our traditional PVC strip curtains, ‘butchers curtains’ became area dividers to ensure social distance and used to separate production lines keeping manufacturing going. PVC sheet from 0.5mm to 10mm in all lengths and widths were put into frames to keep people safe. Again, acting quickly ensured we had good stocks available.
It was also the flexibility of the core team that made all this happen. Some staff were furloughed, some worked from home, some from an office newly kitted out with ‘PVC Pods’ to keep us safe. We all mucked in and did what was needed to get things done, some new jobs, some jobs we hadn’t done for years, some jobs our colleagues usually did. But the important thing was we could move quickly and do what was needed to keep our customers old and new supplied with what they needed and keep Rayflex going from strength to strength.