Sticking together

31 March 2020

Last week was a whirlwind for all companies operating in the building supplies chain, with adjustments due to the government’s announcement of restrictions on certain business operations to slow the spread of coronavirus, writes TTJ editor Stephen Powney.

It took about 24 hours for merchants, distributors, timber product manufacturers and construction companies to work out what they were allowed to do following the PM’s announcement on March 23.

In the confusion many companies already made their own calls on the situation and closed their doors, while some like Travis Perkins and Buildbase have readjusted to do essential deliveries only from certain branches. And with many building sites also shutting, reduced demand has created its own knock-on effect.

The government subsequently made clear that building sites can operate and building supplies providers can open as “essential” goods suppliers while needing to adhere to the health guidelines on safe working.

The Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor) received confirmation that the entire timber supply chain has key worker status and can continue to work if safe to do so.

A BMF clarification gives guidance on merchant operations and the TTF has issued information to its members and a survey which can be accessed at Covid-19. The Construction Leadership Council has published a safe working document - Construction Site Operating Guidelines - for construction sites.

Many large UK timber sector companies are now on reduced operations – Britain’s largest sawmiller BSW Timber has suspended primary production on its sites and is focusing on supplying pallet manufacturers which have very high demand.

Timber engineering giant Donaldson Timber Engineering is among many companies to also suspend production and operate skeleton management and design staff to support customers. So all in all, the UK timber industry has moved into a responsible operations mode at vastly reduced operational capacity levels.

With so much uncertainty for businesses on the timescale of the current situation, connecting with each other is more important than ever.

Encouraging stories and tips on how companies can temporarily adapt their operations are good to share. We interviewed Germany’s Moralt AG, a large door blank supplier to the UK, about how the company has reorganised its operations to ensure continued operation. They have some very clever ideas about workforce organisation – read here.

I’m sure there are other such stories out there – and we’d love to hear them. Sharing ideas and supporting each other at this time is very important, no matter how seemingly trivial. Competition goes out the window really and as an industry we need to stick together to come through this.

You can share you stories and news with my colleague Simon Hastelow at

The timber industry is an incredibly resilient sector and has some great people working in It. I’m reminded of companies like Price & Pierce, which celebrated its 150th anniversary last year – it like several others have seen off two world wars in their history.

For us at TTJ, the Dartford office has had to temporarily close and the team is now working from home with remote access to our data servers and we can publish the magazine as normal. Our lines are on divert so feel free to give us a ring!

There may be some delays with the printed version as the printers adjust to new working arrangements, but digital copies will be emailed on time. We are going to make the digital issues more widely and freely available during this period, so more companies can benefit from TTJ news, market updates, opinions and features. It's important to stay connected.

There is no denying it is a challenging time for the timber industry but as the Prime Minister has said – we will get through it!