How UK Manufacturing Businesses can work in the New Normal – Returning from Lock Down

Qi has collected some first-hand action points from SME customers in the UK across hardware, network, and software infrastructures.  How are many businesses planning to return to work in the new normal?   


Remote Working 

Hot desking is being actively discouraged, thus remote working for many businesses is going to be part of their operational infrastructure for the foreseeable future.  Workforces must be structured ensuring that those staff that must be on site because their role can not be fulfilled at home can work safely and within the confines of social distancing.  The less people in the building, the safer it is for those who must be. 

A financial advantage to remote working 

An interesting point was made my one of our longstanding customers.  He commented that just prior to lock down he was going to have to take on more office space to accommodate his growing workforce.  Setting up some of his teams to work remotely due to the Covid-19 outbreak has made him review his plan.  The more staff you have on site, the more space you need.  Space is expensive! 

Keeping remote and on-site staff as a single workforce 

Physical distance must not create a working relationship distance.  There can be no ‘them’ and ‘us’ with two loops of information that need to be manually linked to ensure that communication of information is seamless and painless.  

Make the most of Office 365 licensing 

Most businesses will be using Office 365 SaaS to some degree and many are now extending their use of the licensing they pay for already to deploy Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, providing a collaborative, real time hub.  Remote and onsite staff will stay connected with each other through the Chat and meetings facilities in addition to being able to access real time documents, track projects, allocate tasks and measure progress. 


Manufacturing and Operations 

Accessing central systems via RDS or VPN has served businesses over the last 7 weeks but both approaches to providing remote access to central systems is slow with connections dropping out frequently.  Many businesses are now reviewing the on-premises accounting and MRP solutions they run and are actively evaluating how best to move to a Cloud based solution which provides access to real time information and processing to all staff.  Any move must be deliverable in todays workplace, show a strong return in investment and must be delivered in an efficient timeframe 

Upgrade from legacy on premise MRP and Accounting solutions to a Cloud based solution 

Cloud SaaS software is inevitable, and this has been evident for some time.  The Covid-19 pandemic is merely polarising the need for businesses to evaluate which Cloud option returns the best performance and value to answer the now immediate need for efficient solutions to support productivity. 

Sales and Marketing 

Sales and marketing teams have often been described as working in their own silos. 

Now more than ever it is crucial for your sales and marketing teams to have access to and process data in the central system that runs the business.  They have a clear vision of customer activity and product availability for example and senior management have a clear view of sales activities, pipelines, and forecasts. 

A Cloud based ERP such as Dynamics 365 Business Central has contact relationship management (CRM) as a standard function which works on the same single database as accounts and MRP. 


Social Distancing in the Workplace 

Internal meetings 

Businesses are going to be asked to keep these to a minimum and only when necessary. 

As an example, daily production meetings that might have been held in a manager’s office are going to be hard to hold unless you have a school gymnasium to hold them in! 


Make the most of Office 365 licensing 

Microsoft Teams can be used from any internet capable device.  This does not have to be a laptop it can be a tablet or a mobile phone.  Staff working on site can attend internal team meetings hosted by key managers, using Teams without being in the same room.  (This also minimises the disruption of internal meetings as staff do not have to move around site to attend them). 

Changing work patterns 

Some of our customers have introduced split working patterns so that hand washing procedures and social distancing can be strictly followed.  Hand sanitiser stations are being installed at every entry and exit point and use has been made mandatory. 

The new ‘clean’ 

In addition to the provision of hand sanitising stations around the workplace, non-essential rooms and work areas being made ‘out of bounds’ such as storage and kitchen areas, lifts and private offices.  This focusses the required deep clean regime to general areas where staff will be most at risk.  

Can I borrow your pen? 

Businesses are increasingly supporting a ‘back to school’ approach.  Staff are being supplied with and subsequently being encouraged to keep the equipment they use for their job – theirs – wherever possible.  Pen pots, staplers, hole punches etc should be removed from desks and either kept in an individual’s box or storage container or out of view and reduce the absent-minded use of something previously considered as ‘shared’. 

Clearly large equipment and machinery can not be isolated in its use, but these areas will be part of the deep clean focus. 

Minimise the handling of paper 

Using SharePoint or a Cloud ERP like Dynamics 365 Business Central minimises the need to handle paper.  SharePoint allows documents to be shared and collaborated on real time and Dynamics 365 Business Central has a document approval function that allows managers to digitally approve sales and purchase orders for example.  The less we touch the same things in a short period of time, the better. 



We are all closely monitoring the recommendations for PPE in the workplace and how businesses make this available to their staff will very much depend on the proximity of their staff and the ready availability of PPE itself. 



What our customers are telling us

  • Remote working is going to be established permanently as part of their working models 
  • Returning to levels of productivity is of paramount importance 
  • Sales teams are going to have to work harder than ever to get the orders in 
  • Working via RDS and VPN is proving to be inefficient and frustrating 
  • They are relying on their technical support partner more than ever (that would be Qi, then.) 

What our customers are asking us: 

Q: How can we establish a secure and efficient SharePoint library quickly and what is the cost? 

A: Qi has a SharePoint model that can be adapted to suit most businesses and is quick and cost effective to set up.   


Q: What IS Microsoft Teams?  I’ve heard of it but what does it offer?  Can we have a demonstration? 

A: Yes – we can give you a full explanation of how this app will help you, a demonstration, and a fixed cost to set up and train your staff. 


Q: Can we put Sage 50 Manufacturing in the Cloud and if not, why not and what are my options? 

A: Sage 50 Manufacturing is not effective in the Cloud.  The cost to host it on Azure is huge and the performance is slow.  There are no upgrades available for Sage 50 Manufacturing.  

Spend 40 minutes with Qi and we will give you a tour of what we consider to be the best next step.  We will highlight the massive functional improvements over your current solution and confirm how your Sage 50 data will be migrated to Dynamics 365 Business Central. 

Q: How can we upgrade to a new system if you can’t come on site? 

A: Dynamics 365 Business Central can and is being implemented remotely.  See this case study. 



Thought for the Day 

The way we work has changed if not forever, then for the foreseeable future.  To sustain a hybrid model of remote and on site working to maximise productivity and profit, you need the right systems in place supported by the right partner who will give you honest advice. You need a partner who has been working with manufacturers, assemblers, and distributors in the UK for over 25 years. 

Call Qi for an initial discussion