Scottish print industry plays crucial role in Covid-19 battle

DTP has used its laser cutter to produce PPE face shields for the NHS, care homes and the police

SCOTLAND’S print industry has played a key role in the nation’s fight against Covid-19.

The sector, which before the outbreak employed between 4,000 and 6,000 people, has helped create literature, posters and stickers for the NHS and other public sector organisations, as well as helping supply vital PPE equipment.

The industry has also helped other sectors, such as food and drink, cope with changing requirements such as promoting online or home delivery services.

Leading figures within the sector feel the printing industry has been significantly underappreciated since the lockdown began and deserving of greater recognition as an essential service.

Garry Richmond, director of trade body Print Scotland said, “Not enough credit has been given to printers over the course of this outbreak, because the stark fact is that nothing would be functioning without print. There would have been no food in the shops because everything sold in the supermarkets needs packaging, branding and labelling provided by printers. The NHS has needed forms, documents and notices about safe working practices. The list could go on.

“Print helps companies promote their goods and services and keep their customers updated, especially in critical times like this when the importance of verified and trusted information is paramount.”

Garry Richmond

Mr Richmond added that the sector had been operating at around 25% to 35% of capacity, with some firms shutting down completely in response to government advice, while others have been operating with reduced staffing levels.

Some print companies have directed their efforts towards helping the NHS. Edinburgh-based trade finisher Taskforce (Finishing & Handling) Ltd produced 2,500 face visors using plastic it had in stock then another 2,500 using donated plastic. These have been deployed in care homes.

Alex Porteous, MD of Taskforce said: “We have been delighted by the letters of thanks we have received from nursing homes, care homes and hospices. We are appealing now for more donations of plastic. We need sheets of 250-500 micron PVC and, with enough material, we could produce 10,000 visors a day.”

Another Edinburgh firm, Digital Typeline Publications (DTP), has maintained a limited production schedule and has used its laser cutter to produce PPE face shields for the NHS, care homes and the police. MD Alun Joseph said, “As well as being able to help the essential services, we are also finding that customers are looking at new products or new ways of promoting their products. We are glad to have been able to support them.”

Mr Richmond is optimistic about the print sector’s ability to bounce back once the crisis is over. He explained, “It might take until the end of the year before we are back to running at a more normal 85% to 95% capacity but, as the easing progresses, more and more firms are readying themselves for a resumption of business. They are reconfiguring desk spaces, installing sanitiser stations, working on social distancing and introducing elements such as staggered breaks. There is also consideration of South Korean working models such as separate Monday-to-Wednesday and Thursday-to-Saturday teams, which would also ease the strain on public transport.

“It is probably inevitable that there will be some job losses, but the industry is determined to do everything possible to keep them to a minimum. There will have to be changes across the board to make it work.

“This is a time when hard-working printers need all the help they can get and Print Scotland has the infrastructure in place to support them as they try to get back on their feet at this unprecedented time.”