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Sealord welcomes staff innovation during Covid-19

Credit: Stuff NZ

As more businesses move into new ways of operating during Alert Level 3, Sealord is show -casing some of the measures it has taken to keep its Nelson-based site safe.

Sealord’s chief operating officer Doug Paulin says the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up a number of challenges for Sealord, like it has for many business.

“As a food producer, we have been fortunate to continue operations from the start of Alert Level 4, however we had just two days to get our business ready. Keeping our factory workers and vessel crew safe has been our highest priority. I imagine other businesses in Nelson Tasman will be feeling similarly right now and I would be happy to chat through our experience if that would be helpful. I also urge companies to engage with their staff and encourage contributions to any specific challenges they may face,” he says.

The company has been running a ‘Share Your Innovation’ competition with staff to reward those that have been coming up with ingenious ideas during this challenging time.

Winning ideas included:

  • Setting up a ‘drive-through’ temperature check for all staff and essential visitors before they can enter Sealord’s site each day.
  • Installing clear PVC screens between factory workers in the processing facilities.
  • Using a farm drenching gun for decanting hand sanitisers from large industrial containers into smaller plastic bottles for individual staff use.

Paulin says innovation is one of the company’s strategic pillars.

“Staff are always encouraged to contribute ideas to improve operations. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken this to the next level. We have been incredibly impressed with the way our people embraced the safety measures in place, and put forward additional ideas for making it work.”

Sealord Capital and Engineering Manager Adrian McGillan came first place in the ‘Share Your Innovation’ competition for his suggestion to create a ‘drive through’ temperature checking station at the entry to Sealord’s site on Vickerman Street. This significantly reduced the time it was taking to transition staff from their home bubble to their work bubble, plus it helped reassure staff that they were safe on-site as everyone was checked inside their cars before entry.

Sealord Project Co-ordinator Row Forbes also won for her idea to protect staff by using clear PVC screens in the company’s two fish processing plants, recommending a local supplier who was able to install the screens in the weekend leading up to Alert Level 4.

Mr Paulin says maintaining strong engagement with staff has been critical, a number of whom are working from home.

“Running staff competitions is just one of the ways we’re continuing to connect. Increasing direct communication has also been a major focus. For instance, we have introduced daily and weekly video updates from myself and our CEO respectively, and are making the best use of online tools to ensure communication is seamless.

“The next staff competition off the ranks is Sealord’s ‘Best Home Office’. So far, we’ve had ironing boards as stand-up desks and tents in the garden as makeshift office spaces for people with kids at home.”

Photo:, Martin De Ruyter.

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