The Strategic Mailing Partnership has confirmed the industry remains operational, providing essential communications for the NHS, the Government, banks and utilities.

SMP Chair Judith Donovan CBE said mailing houses had introduced a raft of safety procedures to enable them to continue to operate during the coronavirus crisis.

Judith said businesses remaining operational would be crucial to the economy’s recovery, with mail producers currently being asked to pick up additional work such as emergency local government mailings.

The 14-strong board of the SMP collectively employs around 20,000 people and has a total turnover of £2,322m. More than 150 mailing houses across the UK are currently members of the organisation, which is supported by Royal Mail.

A dipstick survey of board members confirmed that safeguarding measures had been introduced in printing and mail manufacturing sites in line with the latest guidelines from the Government, Public Health England and the World Health Organisation.

One reported that with the exception of the debt and travel sectors, other volumes were holding up well – with the addition of local government emergency mailings.

Another board member had reconfigured their premises to allow for social distancing measures to be introduced and had been carrying out on-site temperature testing at its plants for more than four weeks, with factories and all surfaces being cleaned every hour.

A third had introduced daily staff briefings, social distancing, one-way systems and increased cleaning regimes. A fourth reported a ‘very low level’ of confirmed coronavirus cases, having supplied PPE where needed and advising vulnerable staff members to stay at home. This resulted in the team feeling safe at work.

One board member added: “We have marked the factory out in a way similar to the supermarkets, to show gaps of two metres. We are allowing staff to take more wash breaks whenever they feel they should and have ensured we have adequate soap and sanitiser. With as many staff as possible working from home, the place does feel like a ghost town but we are still outputting at around 60% of our capacity at this time.”

Another commented: “We have separated the remaining workforce into two production shifts; once the first completes their work, they clean the machines and leave site. The next group are not allowed on site before the previous one has left.

“We have furloughed more than 50% of our workforce. This means that if for any reason, one or both of our teams in any area – production, data, planning and customer service – fall ill, we can recall a significant number of employees, business-wide, to provide cover.

“We have taken numerous and rigorous steps to ensure the safety of our critical operational teams while ensuring the support of our clients’ print and mail output. It is not easy when we are in the

midst of a global pandemic, but we are going to great lengths to ensure we are able to continue to provide essential services.”

Judith said members were working hard to ensure they remained strong, well-managed partners who could not only operate successfully in the current difficult climate but who would be there to support their customers in the future.

“As you would expect, our members are operational across their sites with all possible safety procedures in place. I am confident that by providing their essential services, they will be in a position to support all their customers’ requirements when things begin to get back to normal,” she said.

“Obviously, these are difficult times, but direct mail has an essential part to play in keeping the wheels turning.”