News | Published April 18 2020

Sleeman and Hawken Director: "Very few companies are willing to commit to large projects"

In an exclusive interview with The Parliamentary Review, Sleeman & Hawken Director Ryan Mason explains how the Teignmouth-based engine distributor has struggled through these difficult, unprecedented times.

Covid-19 is affecting us in various ways, as of course it affects the whole country.

We have two strands to our business. The first is Lister Petter -- an engine manufacturing business that assembles small diesel engines up to 50 horsepower. This employs 22 staff.

We then have a separate distribution business that sells the associated spare parts of the engines we assemble, and the spare parts of other engine manufacturers as well. This employs 12 staff -- Sleeman & Hawken.

In the first instance, we have suffered some delays from our supply chain. Our high value and high volume suppliers are based in China, where the pandemic started. This seems to have been worked through now, but there are still delays, and we are still behind with our stock. 

Our next biggest supply base after China is India, which is currently under a serious lockdown and experiencing a lot of difficulties with that, so currently we are unable to get product out of the country. We have a lot of money tied up there in terms of deposit payments.

Secondly, we have had a number of customers delay or cancel orders based on the uncertainty that Covid-19 brings. Very few companies are willing to commit to large projects.  

There are also numerous markets that are on lockdown where our usual customers are simply not operating. This has led to our order book drying up somewhat, and we have had to furlough all of our production staff and close the production line as a result of the lack of orders and business activity. 

We have in the meantime maintained our management and sales staff, who are all working from home, to try and drum up some sales in those countries that are still open for business -- easier said than done, as one would imagine.

Finally, our spare parts distribution business continues to see activity, which is reassuring, though this activity is noticeably reduced. We are operating with 50 per cent staff, based on our business activity being at around 50 per cent. We are unsure whether this will increase or decrease in the weeks to come under lockdown -- that remains to be seen.

On a more positive note, we have seen some new business come our way, simply by way of still being open and operating in contrast to some competitors. 

I’m sure these are challenges being seen across the country in various industries -- we completely recognise that we are not alone. We only hope that we can be rid of this pandemic sooner rather than later, and that Sleeman & Hawken, Lister Petter and the many other UK manufacturing and distribution companies can return to business as usual.

For more information on Sleeman & Hawken and Lister Petter, you can read their best practice article here.

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Authored by

Ryan Mason
Director of Sleeman & Hawken and Lister Petter
April 18 2020

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