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Weathering The Storm

10/12/2022 1:15:00 PM
How Dennis Eagle navigated the way through unprecedented change. First, there was Brexit, followed by the pandemic, then the microchip crisis and finally Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the global economic chaos it’s caused.

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Paul Marvin, Purchasing Manager and Stacey Irvine, Supply Chain Manager - Purchasing

 

Any one of these could present a career-defining challenge to a purchasing professional but incredibly, they came along one after another in the space of around five years.

For Paul Marvin and his team, getting through each of them was crucial. It kept our factories working and our customers operating. It required good judgement, sheer grit and determination and occasionally, a bit of luck.

 

 “I’ve never experienced anything remotely like it and I’m not sure if it’s changed me as a person,” says Paul, our Head of Purchasing and Supply Chain.

 “It really all started after the Brexit referendum. We had a lot to learn… new processes and laws … and there were obviously going to be supply chain issues, though it wasn’t clear what they’d be.

So, we set about buying stock we thought may be difficult to source – especially the high-value stuff, like engines. And we got a warehouse just around the corner from our headquarters in Warwick to keep it in.”

 

Of course, nobody could have realised how fortuitous that move would turn out to be. Thanks to the company’s foresight over Brexit, we were better placed than many to cope. The challenges, however, remained huge.

 

“We’d just about got on top of it all when Covid came along. France and Spain pretty much closed down overnight, so many materials were quickly running short,” explains Paul.

 

“There were some very long days and nights worked back then. People spent hours on the phone, finding supplies and sitting on them until we got them.

 

You had to be able to trust people – not just to do their normal job but to go above and beyond while coping with the complications of working from home. And they did.

We also had to source PPE. While others were struggling to get it, we somehow managed. In the end, we got production back up in five weeks.

It required a very flexible approach from our manufacturing colleagues. It’s a testament to just how good the teams in Blackpool and Warwick are, but Dennis Eagle seems to be a company where flexibility is normal.

Somehow, we kept manufacturing going throughout 2020 while the supply chains were still reeling – even though we recorded close to record output.

Then, just as we thought we would get back to some sort of normality, the microchip issue hit home. It was more difficult than ever but the Purchasing team negotiated brilliantly and again, we kept production going.”

 

He continues: “I suppose we should have known better but coming into 2022, we thought we could see a period of calm and stability ahead. Then Russia invaded Ukraine and turned the global economy on its head again. The impact has been profound: steel is up from £550 to £1,500 per tonne and energy costs have gone through the roof.

 

Throughout all this, we’ve been dealing with production for the new venture in the USA. We started on that four or five years ago, sending people over to set the supply chains up, establish accounts, and provide credit checks. It was a lot of work and a lot of the businesses we were dealing with took a lot of convincing.

We’re currently managing it all from Warwick with different working hours to cope with the time difference – and that’s all fine. But the volume of vehicles we’re producing has grown exponentially.

It actually feels great to be challenged for a positive reason once again!”

Our Supply Chain team had a few personnel changes to cope with following Covid. After 10 years with the company, Sally Warren retired six months into lockdown. Supply Chain Manager Helen Bricknell, who had been a tower of strength throughout, retired in May 2022 after 22 years – but not before training Stacey Irvine as her successor. The transition has been seamless.

 

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At the end of this rollercoaster ride, the Purchasing teams are finally returning to some sort of normality and mapping out precisely what that means so we can keep prices stable and reliable.

And although Paul is emerging from five years of chaos, he will be glad to take some of the lessons that have been learned with him.

“There are two invaluable things that I’ve taken from all this,” he says.

 “First, the value of the team – it is so important. It was the key to getting through those major challenges. And second, trust is vital – you get it back ten-fold.”

The Royal Warrant is the crown on 150 years of entrepreneurial spirit and hard work.