Ellie Parkes, John Horsfall, with one of her two dogs in company.

What We’re Made Of is a Q&A series that looks at how companies in the aviation industry are tackling challenges brought on by the COVID–19 pandemic. We’ve had to adapt to changes in where, when and how we work, but we are resilient. If you would like to share your experience, e-mail editor@apex.aero.

Ellie Parkes
Business Development Manager, John Horsfall
Location: Huddersfield, England
Day 35 of working from home
Date of writing: April 17, 2020

Where are you writing from?
I’m at my kitchen table. My husband also works from home and has his office in the living room. I think I get the better deal though as this room gets the sun for most of the day… and the coffee is close to hand. We’ve also got our two trusty dogs for company and amusement.

How are you trying to maintain “business as usual” or communicating with your team?
With an international customer base, a lot of our normal communication is by e-mail, conference calls and video chats, so the day-to-day isn’t so different, but we’ve missed out on customer visits and WTCE trade show.

“Passengers will be seeking reassurance in terms of hygiene, but on a deeper level, a need for a calming, comforting in-flight experience.”

What’s your new office attire or go-to comforts at home during this time?
I’m still getting ready as if I were going to the office – I like to have that routine. But I’m opting for chunky knit socks and one of John Horsfall’s blankets around my shoulders if it’s a cold day. We just published a blog about how textiles can bring us comfort, and that’s definitely the case right now.

Have you or anyone you know been directly affected by COVID-19?
I have family and friends working in the NHS caring directly for COVID-19 patients. Thankfully none of them are showing signs of the disease, but it’s extremely worrying for them and their families.

What news outlets are you following?
BBC, Reuters, Al Jazeera, CNN and China Daily

How are you passing time?
With my background in textile design, making and crafting are still my favorite hobbies. TV-wise we’ve been watching a great new Danish Series called Ride Upon the Storm.

Can you share some specific challenges your business has faced as a result of the outbreak? How did you overcome them and how can the industry learn from your experiences?
New orders are unsurprisingly scarce right now. In addition, many of our close contacts have been laid off or furloughed, so it’s undoubtedly tough for the whole industry. However, John Horsfall have been strategic supply partners to many international airlines for over 40 years now. Together with a relatively lean model, and historical financial stability, we’re hopeful for the future. In terms of supply chain, we experienced some small delays when the outbreak of the virus hit China in January, but thankfully we and our clients had already forward ordered to cover the Chinese New Year shutdown, so we didn’t encounter much disruption. Our geographically wide supply base has also proved crucial, and is something we continue to develop.

Can you give an example of generosity or kindness displayed by your company or one of your colleagues during this crisis?
We’re really proud of our business support exec’ James who has been accepted as an NHS volunteer responder, helping with essential food and pharmacy deliveries in the local community. Our staff is also using our design skills to produce/knit/crochet headbands and ear protectors for local healthcare staff, making their PPE more comfortable.

Some companies may have been inspired to create new product lines, or redesign existing product or services as a result of the pandemic. How is it driving innovation?
This is certainly part of our product development strategy; we’re using this quiet time to focus on re-developing some key bedding and blanket products for post-COVID cabins. Passengers will be seeking reassurance in terms of hygiene, but on a deeper level, a need for a calming, comforting in-flight experience. This may include using technical textiles, specialist fabric treatments or using pure, natural fibers which can be laundered at higher temperatures. Our designers are also exploring the power of color to enhance mood and soothe anxieties.

Read more about the coronavirus impact on the air travel industry, including APEX’s position on the matter, and subscribe to the APEX Daily Experience newsletter to stay up to date.