“Manufacturing has been the least impacted industrial segment during the coronavirus crisis” said a PA government official.
“As business owners, we are challenged every day with obstacles to overcome. This time, we simply hit a whale sized obstacle. As it has always happened in the past, we know every challenge brings rise to opportunity.” Eric Wilhelm, co-owner of KMM Group, Ltd.
Our June Manufacturing Alliance survey reinforced both of these comments. The survey results said:
- 80+% of businesses successfully navigated the COVID-19 compliance requirements
- 78% successfully maintained adequate workforce levels
- 75% said future sales backlog levels are declining
- 42% felt they will need to re-define/re-align their business to adjust to the new paradigm
As promised, we talked with business leaders and asked how they have handled workflow and workforce issues. Also, we sought their feedback on how they were addressing the challenge of changes required by coronavirus recovery.
Regarding the workflow issues, John Shegda, co-owner of KMM Group, Ltd. stated:
“We have been impacted both positively and negatively. We are facing work stoppages and pushouts in one portion of our business and some of this has been offset by COVID-19 related growth in other areas. We are addressing potential cash flow and cash availability problems once PPP loan support has ended. We are building contingency plans and feel we will be able to navigate the storm in one piece”.
Bud Tyler of EF Group commented:
“Our COVID-19 compliance customers asked us to exponentially accelerate our product deliveries. We relied on our people and our supply chain to help us react and adapt quickly. After 9+ years of doing business, we had to prove ourselves once again. COVID-19 product demand continues to grow and new ways of responding are required daily.”
Regarding people issues, Karla Trotman, President of Electro Soft Inc., said:
“The virus caused a few working mothers to either step away or modify their schedules to cover childcare challenges. We looked at this as prime opportunity to cross-train.”
Eric Wilhelm added:
“We could not let this pandemic break our culture. We had open conversations, regular communications and projected the image that our business is essential to fighting the effects of COVID and for the infrastructure of the country itself. Providing a sense of meaning to the risks that we are all taking by stepping out of our doors to go to work.”
John Shegda talked about the importance of staying connected.
“Our first priority is keeping our people safe while being engaged in our company mission. We added cameras to every PC to enhance the social aspect of meetings and other business interaction.”
John also added his thoughts on adjusting to a new business paradigm,
“If we intend to support our growth into the future, we have to hold onto the workforce we have and then be innovative in our approach to adding a mix of people, robotics and AI.”
The challenge of meeting the new requirements of a pandemic driven marketplace were addressed on both a philosophical and a practical level. Karla commented:
“We have decided to go back to the beginning and really look at our core values, mission, branding, customer archetype, and other areas in an effort to see how to align Electro Soft with the clients of tomorrow.”
“The effects on business, post virus, will be ‘who’ can react to problems, can provide value-added solutions, be able to be flexible beyond the company’s ‘comfort zone’, manage supply chains and be proactive.” Eric said: “COVID has forced us to accelerate our marketing, sales and customer experience 3-5 years. By the end of 2020, our sales and marketing efforts will surpass where we had projected to be in 2023 or 2025.”
On a practical level, enhanced digital communications seems to be a core focus. Karla says:
“While doing business face to face has been the traditional way of interacting, I have found that a lot of the groundwork and research is done online. Since prospects stalk you online prior to approach, it makes sense to create an online presence that portrays your business and gives them all the information they would need to make an informed decision.”
Bud commented on the same topic:
“We are reinventing ourselves online. Our website had been upgraded just 2 years ago but is being redone right now. The new site will have a familiar feel but will be very automated, more user friendly and will allow prospects and customers to remotely meet our people and conduct virtual tours. We have automated LinkedIn, there will be self-built blogs and Twitter, Facebook interactions.”
Other options open to companies looking to re-define their business in the face of declining revenues include partnerships, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions. Kevin Busza, COO of Profound Technologies shared his thoughts on exploring new business relationships.
“We are facing a significant drop in our business from the COVID shutdown and its aftermath. While we are working very hard to finance our shortfall and rightsizing our existing business reality, we looking for new market opportunities. Whether it is a partnership or joint venture, it is the quickest way to open new revenue channels and enhance our existing product offerings.”
A final comment comes from Eric and John:
“There is an adage that especially applies to times like these, run your business every day like you are going out of business. The urgency and innovation that we have seen driven by COVID has been amazing. If you can avoid the complacency of status quo, you will succeed because you recognize that change drives success.”