Pivoting to a New Reality, MRO

June 23, 2020 Bren de LeeuwFood & Beverage 201 Views

Taken from Machinery & Equipment MRO, Summer 2020

It has been a spring like no other, and undoubtedly 2020 will be a year of unforeseen challenge and great change, as a result of COVID-19’s impact. However, it also paints a picture of a country coming together, pivoting to a new reality, proving our abilities to be adaptable and flexible in a time of crisis, and persistent at finding results. In the end, the events of 2020 have opened the door for creative growth and opportunity in markets never previously explored. First, as the battle against COVID-19 continues, we cannot help but have a considerable amount of gratitude for our front line and emergency workers across the board; from healthcare, to retail, to manufacturing, and all points in between. Thank you for all you have done to keep our families, our colleagues, and our leaders, as safe as possible. This has been an incredibly surreal year and the support of Canadians to flatten the curve, by isolating themselves, by donning personal protective equipment (PPE) when required, and by the practicing of necessary and effective protocols, has been incredibly admirable. Food and beverage processors and select food service industries make up an important part of essential companies, identified by the government as most necessary during the pandemic to keep product on our grocery shelves and readily available through takeout services. Processors have engaged their teams, provided and implemented necessary PPE protocols, and drove ongoing communication with employees, to ensure questions are answered, resources provided, and everyone is coping. It’s a time when solid leadership is paramount to guide the organization as deftly as possible.

COVID-19 caught some off guard and businesses had to go into a reactionary state. Second and possibly third waves are likely, they are yet to come and the severity is unknown. We can approach these situations with more enhanced business and emergency preparedness plans, that are built on the experiences the first wave provided, allowing us to be better equipped, trained, and prepared. I do not believe that either our team at Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium (EMC) or I, could communicate how proud of Canadian manufacturers we are, it’s beyond words. To aid in their navigation of current legislation, or how they can assist others, and to witness all layers of government, community partners, colleges and universities, and associations, all coming together ensuring manufacturers across the country have the information they need to produce the necessary products; is fabulous. We are extremely fortunate to live in a country where we have the capacity to help each other and have the willingness to share our expertise and knowledge to aid during the pandemic. EMC has witnessed many changes in industry over the past three decades, but this by far has been the biggest challenge that businesses have has faced. EMC, like many of our community partners, has worked tirelessly to ensure resources are available: from the most current government regulation and legislation requirements, to basic development of policies and procedures, to providing helpful resources and web links, to answering of specific COVID19 related queries.

EMC established a COVID-19 Member Needs Help forum for all manufacturers, and distributed questions from plants across Canada three times a week. Thousands accessed this resource and made use of the current and key information and business support, assessments, communication tools, policies and procedures, and available documentation, provided. Through our B2B opportunities and representatives across the country, we have connected companies with industry peers who wanted to lend their assistance, experience, or to partner on COVID-19 projects. We have facilitated introductions with manufacturers and entrepreneurs looking for additional start-up and production space, or in search of materials, sanitation, trucking, and supplies. Our Field Service Team has fielded EMC member questions and answers, and continues timely and engaging dialogue through webinar formats, instead of our regional consortium in-house plant Strategic Interest Group (SIG) events. Legal updates have been held across the country, and topics on leadership, mental stress, and exploring the next stages of business as 2020 unfolds. Currently, we are working on gaining insight from companies on current challenges and labour force requirements, to help with next steps as we prepare for the “new normal,” through a weekly industry pulse survey. EMC has been busy, but so have our community partners, who have been supplying as much information as possible to keep companies abreast of where we are, and where we are heading.

Adaptability, flexibility, and perseverance are attributes I want to remember this year, and for our resolve as manufacturers and as a country to meet this challenge head on, together. These things should open the door of opportunities. From the beginning of this pandemic, we adapted to the changing landscape. A baseball was thrown at us, and we chose to hit it as far as we could. We might have had a couple of strikes early, but we adjusted. As a result, we learned to work from home, utilized new resources, and ways of communicating. We looked at our equipment from a different lens and plotted how to make it least contaminated for those working on or near it, while looking at how to maintain production with less personnel. We all reviewed our methods for staying healthy by instituting the best protocols possible. We looked for an opportunity to hit a home run with our goals, whether retooling to produce a new piece of PPE, essential equipment, or product, to working with other companies on projects or process improvements, or through ongoing production in a manner that kept our employees as safe as possible. We hope that we keep hitting those home runs. Through this, we can be sure our methods of approach regarding food safety, traceability, logistics, and warehousing, have become more heightened. We come to appreciate the rigid programming the food and beverage sector has had in place. It has enabled production to continue relatively uninterrupted and for food safety representatives to build upon and enhance existing programs from a continuous improvement standpoint.

Industries and partners took on what needed to be done; changing work environments by implementing physical distancing procedures while maintaining production and day-to-day activities, implementing PPE, sanitation protocols, and overall cleanliness processes, keeping the lines of communication open, and formulating next step plans to keep employees safe, product on the shelf, and business productive. Industry tackled opportunities with a positive attitude, with some transitioning from one product to something entirely different, with a “what do we need to do to make this feasible?” attitude versus a stoic “it can’t be done.” Finally, is the commitment to develop and manufacture essential products at home, recognizing the need for ongoing production to ensure Canadian companies can meet the essential equipment and PPE needs of Canadians in any subsequent waves of COVID-19. Despite current product lines, companies engaged their people to come together to create and formulate designs using equipment on hand to meet the needs of front line workers, organizations, peers, colleagues, and family and friends across the country. Things will never be the same, as a new normal is developing. One we hope is full of opportunities to help companies grow, be safer, be more cognizant of business continuity and risk assessment plans, and strategies to build upon for the future. Our organizations are more adaptable, flexible, and perseverant as a result of our experience with this pandemic. Looking ahead, there is a world of opportunity ready to meet us, Canada is a strong nation with incredible companies, fabulous people, and untold support from government, community partners, educational institutions, and from all of us at EMC. We are in this together. If you are interested in learning more about involvement in EMC’s SIG or our special Food and Beverage Sector networking sessions, feel free to reach out and we would be happy to share information on what is coming up in your region.

How do you get involved? If you are interested in learning more about EMC and the Food Sector Initiative, feel free to touch base with:

Bren de Leeuw
Vice President, Community Partnerships and Stakeholder Relations  bdeleeuw@emccanada. org