How retailers are adapting to life after lockdown

The retail sector has faced mixed fortunes during the Coronavirus pandemic, with essential retailers able to stay open while many non-essential businesses were forced to close.

As lockdown conditions start to be lifted, it’s an opportunity for shops to open their doors again, albeit in a ‘COVID-secure’ way.

But what does that mean for retailers – including those who have been able to trade throughout lockdown?

Here are some of the main issues retailers have faced, and the lasting legacy COVID-19 is likely to have on the sector in the months and years to come.

Degrees of distancing

Social distancing is one of the biggest challenges across the entire sector. It places limits on many aspects of trading:

  • Queues at entrances and checkouts.
  • Maximum customers in a store at any one time.
  • Distance between customers and one-way systems.

Retailers have had to think fast, with makeshift social distancing markers just using brightly visible tape to designate two-metre boxes on the floor.

Over the coming months, the retail sector will need to continue to adapt to changing degrees of social distancing, such as the recently introduced ‘one metre plus’ rule, which allows customers to get closer together if mitigation measures like masks and physical barriers are used.

Online and on the road

Some retailers who were not able to open their physical stores during lockdown have continued trading as online-only businesses.

This has led to some novel collaborations – such as Argos, who have allowed customers to collect their orders from Sainsbury’s stores during lockdown, a partnership that looks set to continue for some time.

Others have unlocked previously untapped revenue streams, either by allowing customers to order directly online, or by providing home delivery options that were previously not available.

Back in business

The easing of lockdown creates a two-tier retail sector, with some businesses already trading for weeks with social distancing measures in place, while others are playing catch-up as they open their doors again for the first time.

However, the ever-changing path of the pandemic means conditions are unlikely to stay static for very long, which could quickly level the playing field across the entire bricks-and-mortar and ecommerce retail sector.

For retailers, the coming months are a time of shifting challenges, but also one of opportunities, to cut costs, serve customers in new and COVID-secure ways, while catering for emerging demands like hand soap, face masks and other personal protective equipment.

 

Call us on 0151 2360707 or email info@hebs-group.co.uk if you would like to know more about our retail services and a member of our team will be happy to help with your enquiry.

 

HVAC maintenance tips during summer

HVAC maintenance goes through several phases throughout the year. In winter, more of the pressure is on the heating, whereas in summer this shifts to the ventilation and air conditioning.

As we move into the warmest part of the year, here are some summer HVAC maintenance tips to keep your system in good working order.

  1. Clean the filters

Clogged filters can prevent air from circulating properly through the system, so make sure your filters are cleaned and clear of any dust or debris.

Over the course of the year – especially during the winter months when weather conditions are unsettled – all sorts of residue can get into your HVAC system.

Cleaning your filters should be one of the top summer HVAC maintenance tips on your to-do list, to get everything ready for the sunny season.

  1. Clean the vents

Filters affect air flow into the HVAC system, but clean vents are equally important for the air coming out.

Remove any dust from on and around your air vents, and you’ll not only benefit from better HVAC efficiency, but could also reduce the risk of seasonal allergies in your premises too.

  1. Clean the condenser

Don’t neglect your air conditioning condenser unit, which is usually located out of sight at the rear of your premises, on an exterior wall.

It’s important to exhaust hot air to the outside, but it’s easy to forget about the outdoor parts of your HVAC system.

If you’re not sure how to maintain these, or you’d just like to save yourself the trouble, call in the experts who can take care of it in a couple of hours, so your HVAC system is completely clean and running at maximum efficiency.

  1. Adjust the thermostat

Make sure your thermostat is set to the correct level, especially in workplaces where multiple people have easy access to adjust it.

In summer there can be a temptation to set the thermostat to an extreme, in order to keep the air conditioning running constantly.

However, it’s much more efficient to adjust the setting to a sensible value, and then use natural ventilation to get fresh air into the building without spending unnecessarily on electricity.

  1. Check the power supply

This is one that’s best left to the professionals, but it’s important to get your HVAC power supply and electrical wiring checked regularly.

Large commercial HVAC systems use a lot of power, and that flow of current can eventually lead to burnt out connections or loose wiring from electromagnetic movement.

Get your HVAC appliances examined regularly for electrical safety, and also make sure you get the mains wiring in your walls inspected for any degraded wires and connections, so you can rely on your air conditioning to get you through the summer without failing.

 

If you would like to find out more, contact hebs at info@hebs-group.co.uk or call 0151 236 0707 and we will be happy to discuss our full range of HVAC services.

How to reconfigure hospitality premises for social distancing

After weeks of total lockdown – with some exceptions for key workers and vulnerable residents – the hospitality sector is starting to open back up as the Coronavirus curve enters a steadier phase.

The COVID-19 pandemic creates a contradictory environment for the sector. Premises normally designed to bring people together must now do more to keep them apart. This requires some careful planning.

In and out

Entry and exit are a major challenge for all kinds of premises. Restaurants and bars can introduce staggered arrival times, but if possible, it’s even better to have a designated ‘in’ door and a separate exit door.

This extends to indoor areas too. Hotel reception desks should have a clear, socially distant queueing area, which guests do not need to walk past when leaving the front desk.

Floor markings can help to keep people apart, while recognising that those from the same household or ‘support bubble’ can be much closer to one another.

Fixed yet flexible

Another challenge is making sure one-way markings, social distancing measures and physical barriers are fixed enough that guests cannot easily ignore them, yet can be moved easily if guidelines change.

For example, the ‘one metre plus’ rule allows individuals to come closer together in areas where two metres of distance is not feasible.

Hospitality establishments must currently cater for both rules at once – two metres where possible, and one metre plus where appropriate.

Communal spaces

With the exception of hotel bedrooms, most customer spaces in hospitality establishments are communal – such as bars, pubs, restaurants, hotel dining rooms, reception areas and so on.

Careful reconfiguring and semi-permanent refurbishments can adjust these areas to become COVID-secure zones, for example by using booths to separate groups of diners, and solid barriers to remove the risk of infection in shared spaces.

Removing some tables from dining rooms, as well as some seating in reception and other communal areas, can also help to increase the minimum distance between guests as they move around your premises.

Trust and respect

It’s difficult to police all parts of your premises at all times, but you can take steps to protect your customers, while trusting them to take some of the responsibility upon themselves.

For example, you can provide safe queueing areas, request that customers wear masks if necessary, in communal spaces, and provide things like alcohol hand gel on arrival.

You could even put together a complimentary COVID-safety pack for new arrivals, with a disposable mask per person and a pocket-sized hand gel, which could prove extremely welcome to travellers.

The hospitality sector has always found ways to make customers feel welcome, and to provide added value during their visit – so with some simple adjustments, you can continue to do just that as we move through the rest of this year and beyond.

 

Call us on 0151 2360707 or email info@hebs-group.co.uk if you would like to know more about our hospitality services and ways in which you can improve your facilities for social distancing.

 

No more blocked drains in Morecambe

Flowtech continue to keep ambulance stations in the north-west free from the scourge of blocked drains, which can cause problems for car park drainage as well as backed-up pipes inside premises.

By clearing obstructions and flushing through the pipes, Flowtech make drains as good as new, with free-flowing wastewater and no residues left behind.

That means less standing water in car parks on rainy days, no clogged and overflowing sinks, and no bad smells due to food scraps and other waste caught in the pipes.

Often, it’s a relatively easy job to unblock a drain or pipe, or clear a gutter, yet it can have a huge impact on the use of your premises, as well as issues like hygiene, health and safety.

We have a variety of different tools to reach awkward locations and clear blockages wherever they occur in the drain, and we follow up by cleaning the pipe or gutter of any surface grime so you get the maximum possible flow rate through it.

Jetting off to Morecambe

In a recent call-out, we attended Morecambe Ambulance Station, where a blocked drain was causing problems with getting rid of wastewater.

We soon found the obstruction and diagnosed the best way to deal with it – we always assess the situation first, before using the best tool for the job.

In this case, we used a high-pressure jet to clear the sludge that was blocking the drain, leaving it completely clear of obstruction.

Once we were confident the blockage had been blasted away, the Flowtech team flushed a brightly coloured dye through the drain from above, which allows us to double check that everything is flowing freely again.

Only after we complete the final checks are we satisfied that there are no remaining obstructions elsewhere in the drain, and we can call it job done.

Flowtech drainage and pipeline services

If you have a blocked or broken drain, Flowtech can help. We have high-tech equipment to inspect pipelines for clogs and collapses, and we can clear and rehabilitate pipes back to good working condition.

We can check high-level gutters, ground-level drains and manholes, and buried pipelines, with trenchless rehabilitation methods if we find a breakage in need of repair.

To find out more, contact the Flowtech team today by calling us on 0151 2360707 and we will be happy to discuss what you need, including a quick callout if a blocked drain is causing standing water, overflowing pipes or other forms of flooding.

 

Signs that your guttering system needs repairs

Well-maintained guttering is essential to effective drainage from roofs, so it’s important to get any damage or wear and tear fixed as soon as you notice it.

Doing so will not only help to keep wastewater draining properly from your property, but will also reduce maintenance costs in the long run by tackling problems before they worsen.

At hebs Group we have years of experience dealing with all kinds of drainage problems, from leaky roofs to flooded car parks, and many of them stem from faulty guttering.

Here are five major signs that your guttering system needs repairs – any one of these deserves further investigation, but if you have several at once, it’s a good idea to get your gutters cleaned and repaired as soon as you can.

1. Overflowing gutters

Blocked gutters can lead to overflowing water when it rains heavily, as the rain cannot flow along the gutter to the drainpipe.

If you notice overflowing gutters when it rains, they might just need clearing out. It’s totally normal for debris like leaves, twigs and moss to accumulate over time.

2. Sagging gutters

Unless your gutters are very high up, it should be possible to spot from ground level if they are sagging, especially in a spot that overflows during rain.

There are a few reasons why gutters can sag, from broken supports to incorrect lengths of guttering used during initial installation.

3. No downpipe outflow

If the bottom end of your downpipe is visible, check if water flows out of it during rainfall. If it’s not visible, you might be able to hear the water flowing or lift a nearby drain cover and peek in.

No downpipe outflow can mean a blockage in the drainpipe, but often means – you guessed it – blocked or damaged gutters.

4. Roof leaks and damp walls

If your roof appears to be leaking or you notice damp walls, especially along an exterior wall with guttering, it could be that excess rainwater is overflowing the guttering and penetrating the wall or roof.

Get your guttering checked first, as it’s quick, easy and affordable to clear most ordinary blockages and can fix an apparent damp problem or ‘leak’ in a matter of minutes.

5. Standing water

Water flows down, so if you have a flooded car park or standing water at ground level, it’s worth looking up to diagnose the problem.

Drainage problems including damaged guttering and blocked drainpipes can all prevent rainwater from reaching the sewers – leading to flooding that appears to start from the ground up.

 

If in doubt, call hebs Group on 0151 236 0707. We’re always happy to diagnose a drainage problem, whether it’s a faulty guttering system, broken drainpipe or blocked sewer drain, and we have the tools and expertise to fix them all.

 

What to know about trenchless pipe bursting

A burst pipe is usually not a good thing – but when we carry out trenchless pipe bursting, it’s exactly what our clients are hoping for.

That’s because trenchless pipe bursting is a way to rehabilitate old pipelines, replace them with completely new pipe, and even increase the diameter of the pipeline without having to dig it up.

So how does it work? It’s quite simple, and we have the technology required to ensure a good, clean result every time.

Bursting the old pipe

First, the old pipe needs to be burst. For this, a bursting head essentially drills along the length of the pipeline.

The narrow leading end of the bursting head automatically stays on course, guided by the existing pipeline itself, while the trailing edge is broader and breaks apart the old pipe.

It’s important to stay on course and to ensure the old pipe is thoroughly broken up, which is why we make sure to invest in the latest bursting technology for the job.

Laying the new pipe

The new pipeline is laid as part of the same process. As the bursting head pulverises the old pipe, the new line is simply laid into the cavity left behind.

By using a bursting head wider than the diameter of the original pipe, this cavity can be opened up to allow a new, wider pipeline to be inserted with no excavation required from the surface.

This is why the process is referred to as ‘trenchless’ – because there is no need to dig a channel or trench in order to lay the new pipe.

Benefits of trenchless pipe bursting

Trenchless pipe bursting has several benefits and can be used on a variety of different pipelines, such as water mains, gas supplies, drains and sewers.

It can rehabilitate old pipelines that have become too uneconomical to continually patch up and repair; replace old pipes with new ones that meet modern standards; and widen the diameter of old pipelines in the way described above.

By avoiding the need for surface excavation, trenchless pipe bursting allows work to be carried out faster, with less disruption and reduced cost.

It’s just one of several technologies for repairing pipelines that we use at hebs Trenchless Solutions. Others include UV LED cured-in-place patches, LED-cured pipe liners, directional drilling and laser-guided boring.

 

If you would like to know more, contact hebs Group today on 0151 2360707 and we will be happy to discuss our trenchless pipe bursting technology and other trenchless solutions with you.

A busy time for hebs Flowtech in Manchester

The hebs Flowtech team have been busy in and around Greater Manchester, Cheshire and across the north-west in recent weeks.

We’ve had callouts to several of the region’s ambulance stations, as part of our ongoing work to ensure paramedics can respond to medical emergencies without delays.

Just some of the work we’ve done includes:

  • In Sale, the ambulance station had problems with their kitchen pipes. We attended, removed and cleaned the affected pipework of any food debris. We also rinsed and jetted the external lines to prevent the problem from recurring.

 

  • In Northwich, we jetted and cleaned a blocked outdoor drainage line to restore it to free-flowing again.

  • In Ladybridge, we cleared a completely blocked drain using hand tools and finished the job by jetting it through to remove any remaining obstruction.

  • In Chester we were called out to conduct a drain survey. We used our high-tech imaging equipment to inspect the drains and make sure everything was running smoothly. While we were there, we also installed some bird deterrents to prevent nesting in the wash bay.

Finally, one job we wouldn’t have been asked to do before 2020 – Parkway Manchester called us out to mark two-metre social distancing zones using high-visibility tape.

The bright yellow and black chevron tape makes clear how far apart two metres is in parts of the premises where social distancing might be difficult, such as hallways.

It’s just one part of Parkway’s response to the challenges posed by COVID-19, which also includes reminder notices posted around the premises and hygiene stations to help visitors keep their hands and surfaces clean.

A good job inside and out

Blocked drains and gutters are more likely to be a problem outdoors than inside – there’s more chance for fallen leaves and mud to block them, and it’s often more easily noticed when a car park floods, compared with a slow-draining kitchen sink.

So the case studies above are a useful reminder that we can respond to drainage surveys, blocked sinks and clogged gutters wherever they occur on your premises, including indoors.

We’re also happy to offer many more kinds of routine maintenance, whether that’s preventing birds from nesting in unsuitable locations, or helping you prepare for the medium-term future of social distancing regulations.

 

If you’d like to know more about any of our work, or you have a particular maintenance challenge and you want to check whether we can help, call hebs Flowtech today on 0151 2360707 and a member of our team will be happy to tell you your options.

 

Preparing your building for a spring clean

With more people spending more of their work and leisure time at home, investment in residential building maintenance can reap dividends in attracting tenants, especially if you’re in an area where home-moving activity has fallen.

The changing nature of how we all live, work and socialise has led many people to put more emphasis on finding a comfortable and well-maintained home, even if they have to pay more to get it.

Here are some suggestions of ways to raise rents by giving residential buildings a competitive edge in the current climate and for the long-term future too.

1. Landscaping

Never forget the importance of kerb appeal. Landscaped exteriors don’t need a huge amount of maintenance, but can help to make large residential buildings feel more homely.

This is especially true if you provide communal gardens, as more tenants are likely to be seeking properties with private outdoor areas, even if those areas are shared.

2. Car park drainage

Car park maintenance shouldn’t be neglected either, and a car park drainage problem is often easily fixed – one area in which hebs Group are proud to be experts.

We can clear out clogs and debris, clean surface dirt to restore drains to as-new condition, and rehabilitate pipes if they have cracked or collapsed, so there’s no more standing water in your car park when it rains.

3. Building fabric

Building exterior maintenance isn’t just about visual appeal. Our building fabric services make sure the exteriors of your residential premises are in good working order and structurally sound.

This covers the whole range from exterior surfaces like walls and windows, to roof maintenance and fixtures like gutters and drainpipes.

4. Communal interiors

Most residential buildings with multiple occupants have some communal interiors, ranging from hallways and stairwells to mail rooms, shared kitchens and laundry facilities.

Whatever you provide to your residents, make sure it is well appointed and well maintained, as it’s more important than ever to justify any monthly service charges you ask your tenants to pay.

5. Residential interior fitout

Finally, once your tenants are past the exteriors and communal spaces, it is the interior of their home that has the biggest impact on their day-to-day comfort.

Kerb appeal will win them over, but home comforts keep them in place once their initial tenancy expires.

So put the right focus on residential interior fitout, with the help of hebs Group’s team of experts to give your tenants every reason to renew for a further 12 months or transition to a rolling contract.

 

If you require any residential building maintenance services, contact hebs Flowtech at info@hebs-group.co.uk or call 0151 236 0707.

Electrical safety for care homes

Like any residential setting, it is important to keep a continually watchful eye on electrical safety for care homes, including planned maintenance and scheduled inspections, as well as responsive repairs and replacement of damaged wiring and equipment.

Of course, care homes are not like most residential buildings. They can include medical equipment for residents who require nursing care, and even in primarily residential homes there may be hoists and other powered mobility equipment to maintain.

Whatever electrical equipment your care home operates, hebs Group are here to ensure everything you use is safe for your staff and your residents.

We hold accreditation from NICEIC (the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting) for electrical installations, inspections and testing, which have been at the core of our business for over 30 years.

Our engineers are not only qualified, but highly skilled and talented individuals capable of working across PPM programmes, scheduled maintenance and reactive repairs as required.

We work to the latest published New Wiring Regulations (BS 7671) issued by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) so you know all of the electrical work we carry out on your behalf is up to standard.

Electrical inspections for care homes

We can carry out both types of electrical inspections for care homes:

  • Fixed Wire Testing to check the condition of your mains electricity and supply voltage.
  • PAT testing to certify appliances safe for use as part of mandatory compliance procedures.

Both kinds of testing are important. They reduce risks arising from mains electric shocks, which can expose staff and residents to potentially lethal electric currents.

They also reduce the risk of an avoidable shock from an appliance due to a short circuit, exposed wiring or contact with water.

We can carry out PAT testing on all sizes of appliance, from small portables like kettles and toasters through to larger equipment like industrial washing machines in your laundry room.

Equally our Fixed Wire Testing spans the 240V circuit in your residents’ rooms through to your plant rooms, which may operate on a much higher supply voltage.

Electrical safety for care homes is just one of many services we provide, along with HVAC, gas and mechanical inspections, building fabric and roof repairs, and drainage inspections.

We work with care homes and nursing homes nationwide so no matter where you are based, we can provide emergency maintenance services for care homes across the UK.

If you would like to find out more, contact hebs at info@hebs-group.co.uk or call 0151 236 0707 and we will be happy to discuss our full range of services.

Mobile Crawler Unit

How does a CCTV pipeline inspection work?

The problem with pipeline inspection used to be that pipelines, by their very nature, are usually buried below ground, making it difficult to inspect them to locate damage.

A CCTV pipeline inspection solves this problem by inserting a mobile CCTV camera unit into the pipe where it reaches the surface, and then exploring the length of the pipeline until the problem is discovered.

Depending on the problem, this could include damage to the pipe itself such as a crack, leak or collapse, or it might be something non-structural like a blockage that needs to be cleared.

Until you take a look up close it’s difficult – if not impossible – to know exactly what damage has occurred and whether the pipeline will need remedial work to restore it to a good state of repair for the future.

The added advantage is knowing what remedial action or maintenance is required also means you can better control costs and obtain quotes specific to the particular scheme of work involved.

At hebs Group we have sophisticated CCTV pipeline inspection cameras so we can view damage and blockages that occur far below ground, without excavating the pipeline.

These cameras are mounted on rugged remote-controlled units that can drive along the pipe to reach the damaged section, with a long tether back to ground level.

It’s a fast and effective way to get a first-hand view of pipeline conditions both above and below ground, from inside the pipe.

Why use CCTV pipeline inspection?

It’s crucial to visualise damage from inside the pipe for a true image of what work needs to be done.

CCTV pipeline inspection can be used on everything from small diameter pipes right up to large diameters like sewers.

It does not damage the pipe – no digging or cutting is required – and it allows us to recommend the best course of action to repair or unblock the pipe.

Depending on the desired outcome, we have a variety of trenchless pipe repair and rehabilitation techniques to choose from, including:

  • Pipe bursting to lay wider diameter pipes in place of older narrower pipes.
  • Cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) where a repair liner is applied to the damaged pipe then cured to form a permanent fix.
  • Primus Line, a flexible high-pressure lining used to rehabilitate industrial high-pressure pipelines.

Trenchless repair can be much faster and less costly, and avoids excavating land that may have structures of value on it at surface level.

But you need to know what repair work needs to be carried out, which is why CCTV pipeline inspections are such an important step in the process to a fixed and free-flowing pipeline.

If you require emergency maintenance repairs or services, contact hebs Flowtech at info@hebs-group.co.uk or call 0151 236 0707.