SLAC back to full capacity as coronavirus wanes in China

Canmaking equipment manufacturer SLAC is fully operational again in China after the coronavirus forced partial closure of the country’s industry.

An enforced extension to the Lunar New Year break in February had caused “some backlogs”, but the machinery supplier is now at full capacity.

“We, in our facility in Suzhou have all returned to work now for some time, we are at 100 per cent manufacturing capacity with some orders delayed slightly through issues outside of our control,” chief operating officer, international, Chris McKenzie said.

To cope with the disruption, McKenzie explained that SLAC had added extra shifts to make up lost time and changed arrangements with virus-hit US and European suppliers. He also warned that closed borders in parts of the world, including Australia, “may be in the next few months problematic” for deliveries but the flow of cargo continued.

“Having gone through these tribulations in the first quarter of the year we have on our books a backlog that equates to over 70 per cent of last year’s total sales, healthy, strong and ready for the next three quarters with high expectancies for another year of growth even through adversity,” McKenzie added.

China is slowly getting back to work after the virus emerged in the central city of Wuhan at the end of December. The sudden spread prompted the government to lock down the city and surrounding areas and extend the one-week Lunar New Year shutdown in a bid to limit transmissions. Premier Li Keqiang said yesterday the epidemic had been “basically blocked” and restrictions on travel and quarantines began to be lifted today. 

SLAC’s example shows the impact that the coronavirus pandemic is having on the canmaking industry. While many manufacturers and suppliers had made contingency plans and stocked up on materials and supplies ahead of the virus’ arrival in their countries, they nevertheless expect to feel some pain. Benepack Belgium, for instance, said that its new beverage can plant, Europe’s newest, is preparing to have to close, just months after it started up.

McKenzie said the disruptions had convinced SLAC to accelerate development of its Hive digital automation initiative.

“We have been helping the industry to move towards using Artificial Intelligence to make what we do in the future when we can’t get personnel in the plants less of a burden – we are moving this up now because unfortunately the future is here, we are adding new tools to monitor and support our customers daily to enact this.”