Coronavirus may have stopped everyday life in its tracks, but the boss of one of London’s manufacturing success stories says employers must adopt long-term strategies now for when the wheels start turning again.
Will Butler-Adams, the boss of Brompton Bikes, says this applies to macro: the future of transport, as well as the micro: the best interests of staff.
The firm, based in Greenford, West London, is famous for its folding bicycles which can be commonly seen on public transport.
“I’m challenging my team to find ways in which we can contribute,” he said of the unprecedented lockdown.
“What can we do to support that transition?” he said.
Not surprisingly, Butler-Adams along with many transport academics believes “bike is better” during this crisis.
Social media has been flooded with images of crowded tube trains in the capital, in contrast to the near-constant messaging from government on social distancing.
Butler-Adams has asked what can be done to “take the pressure of the NHS.”
Two weeks ago, Brompton made 50 bikes available for staff at Barts Hospital Trust in London.
The offer was taken up in within three days.
Butler-Adams predicted the 200 now on offer will be scooped up by tomorrow.
As an ‘urban transport tool’, the Brompton is marketed as being well-suited to the confines of the capital.
Butler-Adams stressed that once the crisis is over, there will have to be long-term consideration as to the future of public transport.
“I think that when we are unlocked from the lockdown, we have got to be careful that we don’t have a second surge of the coronavirus and we want to find ways to help people change how they get about their lives,” he said.
Wheels keep turning
Local demand for the practical bike has risen in the past weeks and must keep doing so if it is to offset the slump in overseas orders.
Fortunately for Brompton, the government classes cycling as a core industry due to its importance moving people around cities.
The firm has not been immune however as production has had to be cut by 35-40 per cent and one line dedicated solely to maintenance.
“We need to be preparing for post-crisis,” Butler-Adams said.
The private business, which has no debt, for now has not made any employees redundant.
Of its 450 staff, 325 are within London and 125 are currently working from home.
They form part of an operation which exports bikes to 47 countries.
It offers an entry level Brompton 75, a customisable Brompton in addition to the Brompton Electric.
The latter uses a smart battery, developed with the Williams Formula 1 team, to offer a boost when needed.
Although for now, the capital’s essential workers will be happy just to get from A to B safely, once normal programming resumes Butler-Adams hopes more than a few will switch to a cycling commute for good.