The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the resilience of the most robust supply chains and has ushered in a new way of working. This has changed how companies operate in an unprecedented manner. Here’s how motor and drive manufacturer, WEG kept going during the first few months of the pandemic to maintain customer supply and help in the COVID-19 fight.
For WEG, who has customers in many sectors considered essential, it was particularly important to maintain reliable customer supply. For this reason, the workshop and dispatch departments carried on working throughout and the supply chain from factories across the world was maintained. WEG took pre-emptive action designed to protect its employees, customers and the business, which was key to a successful operational shift.
The company developed a strategy to prioritise the supply of power equipment to hospitals, health centres, pharmacies and supermarkets. This ensured sectors considered essential did not experience supply chain glitches. WEG was therefore able to deal with an increased demand from the food and beverage, energy and infrastructure sectors, while respecting social distancing requirements. In addition, wherever possible, employees worked from home.
In many European regions, governments have encouraged people to work from home where they possibly can, this put into motion remote working on a scale not previously conceivable. It tested many organisation’s remote working processes and IT infrastructure - ultimately contributing to their ability or inability to reliably service customers.
For WEG, a crucial part of maintaining customer supply was having the digital tools in place to allow for remote working. WEG responded quickly and within two days, all the necessary systems and protocols were in place to support home working and normal servicing.
WEG previously had a lot of the infrastructure necessary to support this. For example, the company was already using Cisco Jabber software for calls. While call forwarding had previously been installed, WEG extended its package to allow remote workers to also dial out using a recognisable WEG landline number. WEG also ensured that its existing router could cope with a significant increase in remote access.
“An initial problem was not knowing how the router would cope with an additional 20 people working from home,” explained Sue Harvey, IT Manager at WEG UK. “Within the first week and a half there were issues with the Citrix gateway not being able to cope with capacity.
“Testing with the team in Brazil allowed the capacity to be fixed extremely quickly. A VPN tunnel now allows users from our UK site to access the French VPN and split the traffic. Similarly, users in France can hop on to Portugal’s VPN to manage the demand in an effective manner. The strength of the WEG network worldwide has allowed us to manage efficiently from home and deliver the excellent customer service that we’re relied on for. Having systems that could deal with the current change but also can be adapted and be scaled up was essential.”
For internal communications, one shift that proved invaluable was replacing Skype with Microsoft Teams. This gave the team the flexibility to screen share, fix IT issues remotely and digitally collaborate. Employees also use the video conferencing and instant messaging functions to maintain regular contact.
It’s not just internal communications that have benefited from the introduction of Microsoft Teams. WEG also adapted its customer checks to use the platform when it wasn’t permitted to visit customer locations.
“Usually our team would conduct customer checks in person,” explained Russell Mccabe, UK Sales Manager at WEG. “We pride ourselves on being a human company and teamwork is one of our core values. The challenge was to try to replicate the nuances of face-to-face contact in a virtual environment. We hold weekly sales meetings, which take a few hours. These have proven vital in keeping the whole team in the loop, as we cover vast geographical regions. Our focus on nurturing relationships, prioritising responsiveness and the level of our technical support has allowed us to retain our existing customers and also grow the business during this challenging time.”
The availability of WEG’s products along with the speed at which WEG could service its customers, put the company on the front foot. For example, when Apex pumps called on WEG to provide an ATEX approved motor, Apex Pumps was able to manufacture and deliver the pump for hand sanitiser production in just seven days.
As a specialist manufacturer of pumps, Apex Pumps was able to use parts in its inventory to begin to develop the pump immediately. To adhere to the requirements of a chemical environment, WEG supplied the W21 Series 3.0kW 2 pole Exd 11b T4 motor - an ATEX approved hazardous area motor. The WEG team was able to deliver the motor in just five days. Without effective communication between the customer, sales team and engineers it would have been impossible to deliver this project so efficiently.
Many businesses have long hailed the agility afforded by investing in digital tools and COVID-19 has accelerated this trend. It’s clear that companies that made digital investments pre-pandemic have been better placed to adapt to change.
By planning ahead, developing meaningful relationships, creating swift protocols to protect staff and investing in the right tools, WEG has been a reliable and friendly partner to new and existing customers in essential industries throughout the pandemic.