Successful Offaly company continuing to expand workforce despite Covid
An Offaly company has managed to increase employment numbers and production in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Simpli Baked, the food manufacturing business based at Cloncollig in Tullamore which produces tortilla and pizza bases, recently employed 12 extra full-time team members to help them meet production demands.
This brings the workforce to a total of 62 full-time team members at the plant.
The staff increase is particularly significant in the time of Covid-19 restrictions. In addition to the challenges posed by the pandemic, the company has also overcome Brexit challenges.
Despite all these challenges, the company is working at full tilt at present.
Managing director Kieran Walsh explained the situation. “We are currently running a 24 hour, seven days per week production schedule. We are seeing a bit of a Brexit bounce at the moment, which we didn’t expect, so we needed to take on extra staff,” he said.
Normally, the company works on a five shift per week basis, but with a surge in orders, they have stepped up to a seven-day shift cycle.
In 2008, Simpli Baked gave a commitment to Enterprise Ireland to employ sixteen. The steady growth of the company has now seen an almost four-fold increase of staff in just over a decade.
The Tullamore company is the only one in Ireland which produces flour tortillas. It also produces thin crust pizza bases.
“Luckily for us, pizza demand increases in bad weather, especially when it is lashing rain. And in the good weather people are more likely to eat outside and go more for wraps and sandwiches,” Mr Walsh said.
Hiring new staff during a pandemic, and level 5 lockdown restrictions, presented a new set of challenges which the company hadn’t previously faced.
“We were very cautious about bringing in new people. Every person we hired was given a Covid-19 test first. Throughout the pandemic we have kept each shift isolated so if you were working a specific shift last March, then that is the one you are working on this March,” Mr Walsh explained.
“In a change from normal procedure, all job interviews were done remotely over video software Google Meets which was a new experience for us at Simpli Baked,” Mr Walsh said.
Management was also impressed by the level of interest and quality of candidates who applied for the jobs. Many applications came through job specific websites, but also from local word of mouth.
The latter is particularly important for a local company like Simpli Baked. “It might sound like nepotism, but people need to know the type of work and shifts involved, before they start,” Mr Walsh said.
An enjoyable work environment is something which Simpli Baked places particular value on. Mr Walsh said if people spend almost half of their conscious day at work, it is somewhere they want people to be happy in. “We do want it to be an environment where people can have a bit of craic, while maintaining the highest standards for a modern food producer,” he said.
With many business premises shuttered at present, being able to work in a safe environment is not an option for many who have embraced the new working from home environment, which can lead to a not always successful blurring of work and home life.
“We are lucky that in these difficult times, at least our team get to go to work and get that bit of headspace and engage in social interaction,” Mr Walsh said.