Bizarre. Challenging. Painful. Scary. These are some words we’ve heard that describe the past year. The unique set of challenges this year has brought us has also opened the door for industry innovators to solve future problems in their own businesses. As I talk to people about how their businesses are changing, three process changes stick out to me as ways we all can turn problems from the pandemic into benefits.
Like many other suppliers in the industry who form great relationships with their clients, there were a number of facilities I was able to walk into almost freely. I’d visit with whom I needed to visit, conduct my business, and walk around as I pleased. As much as I appreciate their trust in allowing me to do that, I don’t see that level of freedom with outsiders after the pandemic. One of the fundamental aspects of owning a business is to provide a safe work environment for all employees. It sounds so simple. Emergency preparedness plans, workplace violence training, harassment training, evacuations—the list goes on. In talking to a number of box plant owners over the past few months, the safety measures we all now have in place are more than likely to turn permanent. Limiting visitors, limiting visitors’ exposure to plant employees, and conducting essential checks of visitors before entering facilities will all become commonplace, to be integrated into the normal lineup of preparedness plans.
Perhaps one of the more interesting byproducts of the pandemic in our plant was the improvement in efficiency. At Huston Patterson, early in the pandemic, we made a strong effort to adjust our processes in order to minimize the amount of human touches on specific materials in the plant to help reduce any chance of cross-contamination. We reorganized our inventory in a manner that made more sense for our employees and readjusted some of our layout to keep things more organized to help our team make the most of their time. These steps were made to help minimize the amount of people who touched the product, but the post-analysis proved that the changes we made were more profitable and efficient than what we were doing before.
Many of us have had supply chain contingencies built into our daily processes for years. If one supplier goes down, we all have backup plans that would minimize delays in processes. What I have found particularly interesting during the pandemic is the attention to detail when discussing emergency supply chain protocols. Not only are companies diversifying their supplier base, they are going into great detail with their current suppliers to understand what their protocols are, if there are disruptions in their supply chain, and what their reliance on foreign products is. It is something that will without a doubt become a part of their normal supply chain management, creating an all-encompassing protection plan for their businesses.
Challenges in life can obviously be problematic, but they can create a time for great opportunity. The pandemic has created all kinds of challenges for us all, but the way companies are adapting has provided a chance for us all to improve our day-to-day business. As we transition out of COVID-19, are there opportunities for growth in your business?
Joe Morelliis vice president of sales and marketing for Huston Patterson Printers and is vice Chair of AICC’s Associate board.