Cape Union Mart answers government's call to assist with producing face masks

CFO Landi van Staden's role is to ensure finance supports the challenges of the new environment.

Cape Union Mart 's K-Way factory in Ottery, Cape Town, has answered the government's call to assist with producing face masks instead of producing its regular technical outdoor apparel. 

The company's group financial executive Landi van Staden says, as a group, the decision to produce face masks was an easy one. “Not only did this allow us to utilize our local manufacturing capabilities during lockdown, but it also provided us with the opportunity to support small businesses who work with us and do our small part to help the country fight the Covid-19 pandemic.”

To combat the chronic mask shortage and to help “conquer a challenge unparalleled in our history”, the masks will be locally manufactured, complete with an insert specially designed to filter out virus-carrying saliva molecules in line with research and testing carried out at the Stellenbosch University. 

According to Landi, however, the logistics needed to action this decision required Cape Union Mart to work closely with its suppliers, staff and customers. "We also had to design and develop the masks, source raw materials and start the manufacturing process during the national lockdown, which proved challenging and provided many learning opportunities," she adds. “One of our biggest challenges right now is balancing all our customers' needs, from our retail stores to large corporate orders, while maintaining the safety of our staff.” 

With employee safety paramount, the K-Way factory has been carefully reorganized, with prescribed social distancing space between staff and between their machine placements, extensive sanitizing protocols and temperature check measures are in place. 

"As a CFO, I was incredibly fortunate that the strong manufacturing and merchandise teams were able to run with and manage this project with little direct input from myself," Landi says. 

Her key role in the broader business has been to provide dynamic financial information and models. These help the company make informed decisions across the group in a timely manner and support negotiations with external business partners. “As a CFO, you also need to ensure the finance department and processes are best placed to support the challenges which come with the new business environment,” she says. 

Cape Union Mart is currently in production of masks for essential service workers, but will begin offering masks to its customers online and in-store as soon as possible after lockdown ends.