Local branding firm keeps the machinery turning during lockdown

CFO David King says Creative Graphics International is living proof that any business change is possible.

When COVID-19 lockdown was announced, Cape Town manufacturer Creative Graphics International (CGI) recognised that a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for front line health workers loomed large.   

At full throttle, CGI can now manufacture 350 000 ‘Survisor’ face shields a week. Since the company’s main business relates to car branding, it’s possible to produce durable customised face shields from a specific polymer, selected to ensure optimum vision, protection and comfort for those in contact with patients. They also produce a more cost-effective, disposable version available for retail and lower contact industries.

The spark behind the business pivot happened when CGI received the specification for high-quality face shields from a client which, in turn, had switched its business into manufacturing face shields. CGI also received invaluable input on the design from doctors at public hospital Groote Schuur, also in Cape Town.

“We were to change up our car badge and decal manufacturing plant to produce face shields to meet the highest standards. We ticked the boxes, because we have the machinery and the technical expertise to produce high volumes while following all quality processes. At the same time, we’ve been able to keep the business running – even if at reduced capacity,” says David King, CFO of the company.

There is no question that the company would have faced a crisis if not able to adapt to the current circumstances. With the cash cycle drawn out, like many businesses, CGI relies on a more typical economic cycle to keep going. 

“Naturally the new processes haven’t been without their own challenges. Accessing raw materials at a time when others have also spotted the opportunity is an example, but our supplier relationships stand us in good stead in this instance.”

“Our team has shown enormous pride in the company’s efforts to protect essential workers against this unseen disease. And they value our efforts in trying to keep their jobs secure. We all take the necessary safety precautions together and everyone recognises the risk they are taking but are still prepared to show up for work,” he adds.

David reflects that he has had to go back to basics when helping to get the new-look business up and running in an extremely short time. “I felt like I needed to have the same mindset as when I was a CA intern, learning new skills every day and finding a long untapped energy. I’ve drawn on every single aspect of my CA training with the added layers of experience which allowed me to implement the necessary processes. Of course, the risk management aspect of the training has been particularly valuable!” he said.

Even as lockdown eases, there will be sustained demand for PPE locally and further afield. “This virus isn’t going anywhere and the vaccine will only become available in a year to 18 months. We just don’t really know. It has quickly become quite normal to see people in protective gear going about their limited daily activities. It’s our management’s responsibility to plan for the future. We are living proof that any business change is possible,” says David.