During Hawk Group's busiest period, the Liberty16 protected the business and its people

Based in the Hawkes Bay, Hawk Group are a moulded fibre packaging company that produces environmentally friendly packaging solutions for enhanced packing, storage and transport from pack house to end customer. They're an essential supplier to the apple industry, with a staff of approximately 60 that work around the clock in shifts.

The challenge: keeping up production during the critical apple-packing season in the face of Covid-19

From the beginning of March until mid-June, New Zealand's apple orchards kick into high gear. The harvest is on, and packhouses often operate day and night shifts to get the fruit packed and ready for export. The apples are packed in trays, the manufacture of which are at the heart of Hawk's business. When the apple season is in full swing, so are they, with high expectations and production targets from the packhouses they supply.

Coinciding with the beginning of the season was the outbreak of Covid-19 across New Zealand's communities. Hawk could not allow the virus to affect their workforce and production at such a critical time. "It was the most important time of the year for us as a business," says Technical Manager Anthony Tattersall. "The apple packhouses were about to kick off, and we couldn't afford to be shut for any period of time for deep cleaning and losing a shift."

With that in mind, the team at Hawk brainstormed on the best ways to keep their workforce safe and their production going. "We started looking for some method of really testing that our workforce was Covid-free," Anthony recalls. "Hopefully any person who became ill wouldn't bring it into the workplace. We needed to protect our business and our team."

Combining his knowledge of laboratory analytical techniques, due diligence and the recommendation of colleagues, Anthony discovered the Ubiquitome Liberty16 mobile PCR unit. "We asked questions in the community, and talked to a former employee who was using this system at their new workplace," he says. "We contacted Ubiquitome and decided to give the unit a trial."

The solution: an easy-to-use PCR tool providing rapid results

The Liberty16 unit is a handheld PCR tool that in partnership with SalivaDirectTM is a non-invasive yet accurate method of screening for Covid-19. Similar to Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT), the Liberty16 unit delivers test results swiftly, which was key for Hawk as they needed to identify any positive tests as soon as possible in order to keep the virus away from their business. The Liberty16's PCR functionality means that the test results are more accurate than RATs, more akin to those performed in a lab.

After a two week trial, Hawk made the decision to purchase the equipment and continue testing. "The training period was very straightforward, it only took a day," says Anthony. "Ubiquitome gave us great support. My skills in laboratory analytical techniques obviously helps. Since the training, we've been testing on our own with regular contact with Ubiquitome and all has gone well. No hiccups at all."

Anthony goes on to note that because of its simplicity, Hawk's employees not only find the Liberty16 easy to use, but are grateful to Hawk for actively looking out for their welfare.

The result: a protected workforce ensured business continuity at their peak

Because Hawk operates 24/7, they work in shifts, and each shift has bubbles as part of their Covid-19 response. With regular testing in place, Hawk didn't need to alter their work patterns of the way their shifts operate. Testing is carried out by Anthony himself, who is now familiar with the technique and able to get good results swiftly every day.

"We're continuing with the shift system, which is our regular way of working in the business," Anthony explains. "Although we do socially distance the team when they're on site - it's just the sensible thing to do."

Keeping up with production targets during the busy apple season is a challenge every year, but even more so with the complication of Covid-19. However, with regular testing, Hawk maintained business continuity, kept up with demand and protected their team.

"The Liberty16 has given us peace of mind that we're doing as much as we can to protect the business and our people," Anthony says. "And that, from our point of view, is exactly what we needed to do. So if you want to be able to test, you want some answers, then the Liberty16 certainly a nice simple way of doing it."


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