Nova Scotia

Royal Chinet maker anticipates COVID-19 safety measures through 2021

Physical distancing and enhanced hygiene measures are part of the "new normal" for CKF Inc., which has now manufactured 400,000 face shields at its B.C. plant. Its flagship location is in Hantsport, N.S.

Physical distancing, hygiene measures part of 'new normal' for Nova Scotia-based CKF Inc.

CKF Inc.'s flagship operation is in Hantsport, N.S. (CBC)

Safety and distancing protocols implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to remain in place throughout 2021 at CKF Inc., the Nova Scotia food packaging manufacturer best known for producing Royal Chinet paper plates.

The company implemented the measures at its five production facilities across Canada including at the flagship operation in Hantsport, N.S.

Brad Dennis, vice-president of sales and marketing, says the changes are the new normal and likely to stay.

"[Personal protective equipment] in particular over the medium term," Dennis said.

"Separation for our employees, ensuring that we have appropriate distance — not only as they enter the building, not only as they work in their workplace but also for breaks. 

"We really had to make some changes. Hygiene is another one that is absolutely critical. All this of course is pending … discovery of a vaccine."

Brad Dennis is the vice-president of sales and marketing at CKF Inc. (CBC)

Dennis said the measures will likely be in place for the remainder of 2020 and 2021.

The company was founded 87 years ago by Nova Scotia industrialist Roy Jodrey. The Scotia Investments Limited subsidiary also makes meat trays, egg cartons and other food packaging.

It has been designated an essential service during the public health crisis. The pandemic has altered the business with sales dropping for products associated with gatherings — like paper plates.

"All of the food consumption has moved from all channels to essentially the grocery channel, which suggests that we've been quite busy," Dennis said.

CKF was one of five companies from across Canada featured in a virtual media conference by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters on Wednesday.

Company looking to tap into demand for face shields

The lobby group called on the federal government to maintain and extend subsidies to support businesses given an overall drop in demand and higher costs associated with social distancing and upgrading facilities.

Upgrading for CKF has also included hiring 30 new employees and retooling production lines at its Delta, B.C., plant to produce 400,000 face shields.

In April, the company received the medical device establishment licence from the federal government in just two weeks, but CKF Inc. has not yet landed a contract with the federal government or a province.

"They're in distribution in Canada right now servicing the other types of front-line workers," Dennis said.

It's too early to say if face shield sales will contribute to the viability of the company. The company has a couple of COVID-19 cases at its Rexdale, Ont., facility. There have been no cases in Nova Scotia.

Dennis praised the courage of the company's 800-strong workforce across the country.

"I think we should be, in the rest of Canada, looking at essential manufacturing companies and applauding them for keeping the production going and —  in our particular case — providing platforms for food that they're eating," Dennis said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.

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