Mark Johnstone

Mark Johnstone

Mark Johnstone joined JSP Group in 1999 and became Chief Executive in 2006. JSP is Europe’s leading manufacturer of “above-neck” PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and TM (Traffic Management) products.

The implications of COVID-19 are, and will be, far reaching for this sector in the widest sense. What do you think will happen over the next 12 months? What major shifts/changes can we expect?

Companies have been analysing their supply chains vigorously and will work to make them more resilient, more agile, and stronger in future. JSP have seen massive demand for Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) as well as Eye/Face Protection products due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We manufacture out of four sites in Europe (three in the UK and one in Germany) and two sites in China, all under our Worldwide Quality Management System with Kitemark schemes in place. We experienced difficulties in China when the government took control of our facilities for nearly 8 weeks to supply Chinese government agencies.  

We are investing considerably in Europe and China, not only to substantially increase our manufacturing capacity from January 2021, but also to increase our resilience to crises. We shall be supporting our customers with JSP highest quality products in the marketplace and with continued excellent service and support.

COVID-19 is likely to test the ability of every CEO in every sector. What attributes do you think will be important in regard to your own ability to manage your organisation through COVID-19 in 2021/22?

To maintain strong financial control and funding of the business is essential. I qualified as a Chartered Accountant with PWC and gained a huge and varied amount of experience over 9 years carrying out assignments in many countries.

Ensuring that JSP staff are fully supported is an absolute priority for me. As a private company, it is like a second family. Communication is hugely important, especially as we have operations and offices in many countries. It is important the staff feel connected and aware of the whole picture. 

What do we need to do differently as sector to ensure we maximise the health of the sector over the course of 2021/2022?

We must maintain the integrity of the industry going forward and collectively stop sub-standard products entering the market. 

We have seen an upsurge of newcomers in the PPE market. Unfortunately, many of these companies are enabling sub-standard non-conforming PPE to enter the UK supply chain. Established companies in our industry have always ensured product performance, but it is clear some newer companies are using the pandemic as a “get rich quick” opportunity. It is true that more PPE is needed, and I will always believe in a free market, however, anyone participating in such a market must conform to our standards.

The BSIF have been working hard to stamp out this brazen cheating of the system, however, it is a hard mountain to climb. The UK Government and Trading Standards must start holding companies to account.

It is concerning that the UK Government have given some of the largest contracts at vastly over-inflated prices to newcomers who do not understand the product, and have no testing equipment to validate the quality and minimum performance thresholds required. In one case, this resulted in 50 million sub-standard masks, that do not meet any European Standard, being imported into the UK and consequently withdrawn from use.  

It is advisable that trusted brands are sought to ensure product performance standards are achieved.

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