AFE Group, the parent company of Williams, Falcon, Mono Equipment, Millers Vanguard and Serviceline, has revealed how severely the pandemic impacted the business in only a few months.
The firm has released its 2019-2020 annual report on Companies House for the 12 month period to 31 August 2020.
This reported that the overall group saw its operating profit slide by 46%, from £12.6m to £8.8m, while revenue was also cut by 18% from £120.2m to £98.6m.
CEO Tim Smith detailed: “Profit levels have fallen dramatically in the face of the continued trading disruption. We have taken mitigating actions in anticipation of the continued tougher trading conditions. This includes a recruitment freeze in all but exceptional circumstances, cost reduction initiatives, and reductions to capital expenditure unless vital for health and safety or continuity of operations.
Smith analysed: “Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the continuing Brexit uncertainties seen since the start of the fiscal year had continued to limit some customer confidence and business investment.
“The continuing course of the coronavirus pandemic has brought about significant volatility within our market environment since March 2020 and materially impacted our turnover. Many of our customers have, and continue to suffer severe trading issues as a result of the emergency measures that particularly impact the foodservice, leisure and hospitality industries.
“As a consequence of the unprecedented period of uncertainty and business disruption, we have seen significant changes in customer demand. We have realigned our operations to reflect the reduced activity levels that we anticipate will remain with us until we see a substantial reduction in infection rates, and vaccine programmes are extended to allow our customers to reopen their businesses.”
However, the group did launch new products during that year, including a range of new healthcare cooking, servery and meal delivery systems.
Of the latest company developments, Smith emphasised: “We continue to develop IoT platforms to provide connectivity solutions for each of our bakery, cooking and refrigeration product groups, whilst our service operations have extended their capabilities for appliance refurbishment and remanufacture to support the greater customer interest in circular economy and sustainable business models.
“At the same time we are continuing to invest in new production technology, innovation and digital marketing opportunities that put customer service and fulfilment at the centre of our product development and business improvement actions.
“We have committed substantial resources and capital investment to seize market opportunities and improve our operational performance as well as enhancing our competitiveness. We continue to develop new products that meet the changing culinary, operational and regulatory needs of our customers. We have also invested heavily to modernise our IT infrastructure.”
The investments included moving Serviceline to a new call centre facility, which reportedly delivered benefits including a more comfortable working environment for employees. Plus the group expanded Millers Vanguard’s warehousing facilities to support expansion and enhance the health and safety of employees.
A range of initiatives were also implemented to minimise the environmental impact, include reducing the use of plastic and wood, the greater use of IT to manage internal processes and limit paper consumption and purchasing consumable items that are manufactured using eco-friendly materials in support of its ‘zero to landfill’ credentials.
Furthermore, the AFE Group supports charitable work, including Falcon’s recent donation of cooking equipment to Empty Kitchens, a volunteer organisation in Edinburgh which turns surplus food into healthy meals for those who need them.