Dunkirk spirit: “Stoicism and determination in a difficult or dangerous situation, especially as displayed by a group of people.”

Many companies have experienced this for the first time in their lifetime throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, difficult circumstances have brought out the best in many teams and have made many managers and leaders appreciate the strength of their team.


An East Anglia company has had this exact experience,


A company boss has praised the “magnificent” response of his workforces across East Anglia as the company strove to continue its critical supply chain work through the coronavirus lockdown.


Fencor Packaging Group designs and makes corrugated display units and packaging used across a number of sectors – including supermarkets, hospitals and e-commerce. Group boss David Orr said when they imposed strict hygiene and distancing measures back in March and introduced segregated shifts and rotas, staff rose to the occasion.


“It became clear to us at the onset of the pandemic that we are part of a critical supply chain,” he explained.


“We engaged with our staff in March and declared that we aim to emerge from this crisis intact as a team, with no job losses and no financial distress to any of our employees, however long it takes.”


The £19m turnover business employs 140 full-time staff at plants in Mildenhall, Wisbech and Whittlesey, near Peterborough. While Mildenhall and Wisbech – which employ 46 and 21 workers respectively – specialises in structural display units, the Whittlesey business, Manor Packaging, employing 73, produces consumer and industrial packaging.


With some customers becoming very busy, managers mucked in to run machines, and teams worked through bank holidays, he said.


“Their response has been magnificent – they know that our customers are relying on them and they have shown exceptional adaptability and resilience throughout the lockdown in order to ensure that we continue to deliver,” he said. “We have stuck together and this Dunkirk spirit has made all the difference.


Recent investments helped the firm stay on top of demand, including £10m spent over the last seven years on improving capabilities. It has also taken on an additional 51,000sq ft in warehousing space, with a further 40,000sq ft coming on line next year.


In February, Manor Packaging installed a new Bobst casemaker packaging production line, which proved critical in coping with peak demand, and has just installed a digital die-cutting machine in Mildenhall. Last year it invested in a specialist gluing line which has become key to its returnable e-commerce packaging.


Fencor has a shareholding in its principal supplier of corrugated sheet, Corrboard UK, based in Scunthorpe, which has helped to ensure its supply of raw materials.


“In many ways COVID-19 has helped us to define our identity as an organisation. Our greatest asset is our people and this experience has underlined what a great asset they are,” said Mr Orr.


The business wants to continue to invest in its capabilities and its teams, he said, as the workforce continues to grow. It has also committed to drive sustainability at the company to become carbon neutral by 2030.