How manufacturers can survive the COVID-19 pandemic now and beyond

The world is hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, not only personally but also professionally. You also probably need no explanation of the extraordinary times we are living in. This is something the world has not seen before. So, as a manufacture, you probably have a plan for things that go wrong, but that plan will not work in this situation. What you need to do is not only focus on today and the now but also look at the long run of things, because the worst of this situation is that nobody knows how long it will take. This blog will help you with creating a strategy for now, in a few weeks time and after that.

In this blog, you will find a three-phase plan to survive the COVID-19 pandemic especially for manufactures but useful for all companies. Forbes created a three phases COVID-19 recovery plan for manufacturers and we fully agree with the plan. Also, we added some advice of our own and spoke to some of our clients who are manufactures themselves.

What to do now?

The now phase is about the most immediate and pressing challenges. Those challenges can be:

  1. First things first, you have to protect the health and safety of your employees and customers.
  2. Change your work processes. When you are working from home you have to change certain things in the work process. This also means that as a company you must have a good infrastructure in which everyone has safe access from home to all the necessary information and software to do their work. It is also good to increase the number of contact moments you have. At Youwe we changed this from one to two daily standups (daily team meeting in which projects are discussed) which now take place virtually. Think about working more structured and applying an Agile method for example. 
  3. Also, think about mitigating any urgent liquidity risks among business partners and suppliers.
     

Try to move on from the first phase as soon as possible. Lots of companies focus too much on this phase and are spending too much time in this phase, but what you want to do is to move on as soon as possible to really keep your business running again. 

How about in a few weeks’ time?

This second phase is extremely important and is all about understanding the economic and operational impacts of the crisis. Only then you can try to resolve them as best as possible. One thing is clear your business cannot run as it would normally would, so what to do now? 

  1. Forbes explains this as: “You have to invest in temporarily adjusting your operating model to keep your workforce productive and ensure a transparent flow of information with supply chain partners and customers.” At Youwe we have noticed a huge shift to online. And that is exactly what our advice would be. Go digital. This not only applies to daily work in many professions but also to trade. Stores of major chains such as IKEA, Auping and many others are already closed. So, the customer is now served online. Some sectors even notice a huge boost in online sales: sports shops, food supplements, hardware stores: As long as consumers do not yet experience financial consequences, they move their purchases to online channels. “We have noticed that the shift to online has an impact in many areas. Companies that have the budget are now fully committed to their online development and digital transformation. Customers of us who have a good online shop and use smart tooling such as product configurators, see their turnover increase. Providing information via online channels is more important than ever,” explains Erwin Idelenburg, CCO at Youwe. Of course, the pressure for customer service can also increase considerably with this shift. “A chatbot can provide a solution here. Tools like conversational marketing will give the customer the feeling of being heard quickly and gives customer service a bit of room to breathe.”
  2. Also, think about your partners and find a way to work together. We are all in this together so think about a ‘we’ approach instead of a ‘me’ approach. With this, you and your partners throughout the value chain respond to customer needs and develop ways to meet those needs together. 

And what about beyond? 

The first phases are to keep your business running now, but how about the future? The goal here is to all get through this in the long run, right? How to achieve that? Our motto is Stay Ahead. Go Beyond. And this exactly what you need to do now, how hard it may be. Of course, we now live in a world where every day is a challenge and every day new questions will arise, but still, it is good to focus on the future. The goal is to survive this pandemic and keep your business running for years to come. 

  1. The first thing you need to make is a plan for when your operation can get back to normal. How are you going to handle that? How will you deal with a phased return of the workforce, many of whom may have to operate remotely? Are you set up to deal with customers reappearing in different waves in different locations? Make a strategy to take control of the situation. 
  2. Be creative. Of course, some of our customers are also affected immensely by the pandemic. We also see clearly negative consequences. Companies such as catering wholesalers and suppliers of the travel industry already saw orders drop by up to 30 percent before the measures were tightened, and now the catering industry is closed and in "survival mode". We do see entrepreneurs deal proactively with the situation: Restaurant Wholesalers such as Zegro are now also accessible to consumers and are also using social media to get attention for take-away options offered by many restaurants,” explains CMO at Youwe Rogier Hosman. Local entrepreneurs also conspire to endure turbulent times with creative solutions. What is particularly striking here is the increasing sense of togetherness. Notable reports, such as the fact that employees of McDonald's in Germany now spend their hours in Aldi warehouses to absorb the 'hamster crowds', are circulating on social media. But non-profit heartwarming initiatives, such as Van der Valk and Fletcher Hotels opening up their hotel rooms to hospital patients, are no exception. 

     

Above all, the goal of not only us but probably everyone worldwide is to protect the well-being of not only ourselves but for everyone around us. But secondly, we need to try to let our business survive and return to full strength when this pandemic is over and get the world economy back on track.