We have learned to learn from everything. After this maxim, which Germans love so much, we should act now in times of COVID-19.

The coronavirus, what makes it so dangerous and what opportunities arise from these difficult times for all of us?

First and foremost, it is the infection and the mortality rate associated with it, but also the necessary and vital measures taken by governments, worldwide contact bans, curfews and quarantines, which restrict customary economic activities and paralyze many areas of private life.

Time of standstill

But what does this mean for us, what can we do in the time of standstill? People always needs something to do, a goal, a meaning of life. Now, we actually have the opportunity to rethink the actual state of our work, to break new ground and in some cases to realize that today’s procedures are not up to a mutated virus. We should also use our time to find an answer to the big question: How do we fill all the informal, financial and material gaps created by COVID-19?

The production according to COVID-19

Production will restart and the outstanding orders will be manufactured again, be it the latest mobile phone, the missing machine parts or the T-shirt for fall. The production losses will be made up for by the introduction of piecework working hours, the hiring of more auxiliary personnel or triple shifts. The same will probably happen in the shipping industry, companies are switching between air freight and sea freight accordingly to the need. Can they not sell their items due to closures of stores and entire branches? Then they are choosing the longest route possibly on sea freight to actually use the ships as floating storage. Do the goods need to find their destination fairly quickly, for example in the pharma or medical industry, air freight is the choice to be made.
The changes to logistics are coming so quick that the data is changing every week. There is no time to reset. Companies need to act fast and yet also have the delays of production, of delivery and of commerce in sight. COVID-19 will not go away as fast as many would like to. The same goes for all the changes. In the time of catching up, personnel service providers in every country will have to perform exorbitantly, but some will also experience an upswing that they have been missing for years.

Those who want to, but are not able to!

But what about those who actually could have worked now, but are currently unable to do so because, well, why not? Because they are not allowed to go to the office, because their children must be looked after and the schools and day-care centers are no longer available. Because they would have to speak personally with their clients or with the colleague who is based in Hong Kong or Munich. But partly it is also simply because of those who would like to see figures, orders and delivery delays on paper and have not yet arrived at the digitalization stage. For those, that do not want to implement home office in their companies. But the old school way of doing business, for which the handshake still counts and personal contact is more important than a succinct e-mail or a video conference call, still exists and this sector is now suffering particularly. Just as those companies who don’t trust their employees and think that home office is another way of gaining leisure time and therefore have not aligned the company accordingly, are now unfortunately at a disadvantage.

“Digitize or die!”…

…was a very provocative title of a lecture of one of my colleagues in the forum of DTB at the TEXPROCESS 2019. At that time, we already shared the opinion that companies who refuse to digitally position themselves, must change this as soon as possible in order not to lose touch with the market. We still share this opinion. In times of COVID-19 many manufacturing companies lose the overview because they simply lack important information. It already starts with the questions: Where is my product actually produced and under which conditions? This becomes especially important in the time after COVID-19, especially in view of the upcoming introduction of the supply chain law. Will the goods be produced within the specified time frame? And if not, what is the reason? Are the raw materials missing or is there no production capacity available? Do I have to relocate production and if so, where to? Can I load the goods by sea freight as planned or do I have to plan by rail, sea/air or even air freight instead to still be able to deliver reasonably on time? In the digital age, all this information can be seen and, above all, controlled much faster and more transparently in a Vendor Compliance and Supply Chain Management System. Instead of sending the Excel sheet still via e-mail – in which 10 people make their entries one after the other, by fax or even by telephone leased lines with the factories, agents and carriers – it is very time-consuming to manage. Time that one simply does not have today. And of course, the error rate increases dramatically. This usually results in costs that nobody has calculated and which few people can cope with. 

Trust and new thinking – COVID-19

Now is the time to trust the employees and to offer and enable the possibility of home office within the company. Even after the COVID-19 virus, there will still be situations where the single parent accountant will have to look after the sick child at the end of the month, but could do her  or his work from home and thus prevent the backlog. Or in which the IT manager simply has to finish the manual, for which he or she simply does not find the time in the office. Or in which the manager has to work out an agenda for new strategies or acquisitions at home. There are many important and business-optimizing reasons for home office, also according to COVID-19, and of course also for the digitalization of your business processes. Once you are digitally set up, you can now control everything in your home office with complete peace of mind, without the fear that your staff will infect each other and paralyze the business.

Now is the time to rethink and hope that all employees, bosses, colleagues, friends and family members stay healthy.