With little doubt about a second wave of COVID-19 hitting us in the fall, there’s no time like the present to start preparing. Use this window to reflect on the needs of the business and its employees a take steps to mitigate against the potential consequences.
Having just worked through a plan for a manufacturing business, here’s a few things you could consider as you develop your own plan.
1. Protect the health & safety of your team
With physical distancing practices likely to remain and potentially become more stringent, revisit who in your team is an essential worker—and whether they need to be in the office or can work from home. Review across your essential workers what tasks could be undertaken remotely. Consider combining them to potentially enable one, or more, additional individual to work from home. It’s worth undertaking monthly testing of individuals working from home – check to see what elements of their role can’t be fulfilled remotely and adjust accordingly.
Given we’re in the midst of global pandemic, it’s important to consider the implications of a tragic event like losing an employee due to COVID-19, or the impact of a key employee requiring long-term sick leave. Think teamwork; it’s time to cross train employees.
As always, ensure you’re stocking and maintaining healthy supplies of personal protective equipment and consistently review and maintain COVID protocols.
2. Look after the welfare of company
Pivot. What can the company do beyond what it does now? Can you add resilience by adding an alternate product line? First, assess the core skills within the business. What product(s) does the business have the capability to produce and is there a potential market for it? Our client had the core skills of design, procurement, assembly, finding distribution channels and shipping. These attributes led to designing and building electric bikes, meeting a shift of demand in that market.
3. Build confidence with financial resilience
Remember business 101—cash flow! Manage your accounts receivable. Think about insuring your receivables. See if you can secure additional lines of credit or capital. Do this now, don’t wait until COVID-19 phase two hits or it may be too late. Continue to manage your costs. Review slow turning/obsolete inventory and discount it to turn it into cash. Review your distribution agreements; if you have Distributors who aren’t meeting expectations, set them reasonable targets or reduce their terms. Ensure that you are taking advantage of all grants/assistance that you are eligible for (such as SR&ED or CEWS).
4. Protect your supply chain
Review your SKUs and determine if you need to retain poor performing lines. Identify your most vulnerable suppliers and see if you can find alternative vendors as a backup. When doing so, look at dispersing your supply chain geographically to add a degree of risk spread. Different provinces/countries may, for instance, have differing views on which businesses are deemed essential. If you have no alternate supplier, build up inventory (our client is planning for a 5/6 month level). This may also be a good time to encourage your distribution channels to increase the level of your inventory that they are holding.
And don’t forget to set customer expectations with delivery timelines—suggest that they place orders well in advance of need.
5. Plan for assembly
If you’re in manufacturing, you know the importance of your assembly team and plant. It’s likely that you will be constrained as to where you can build/assemble your products. To obviate some of the production risks, you may wish to consider building up a robust supply of your most popular lines. That way, if the second wave causes any adverse impact on production, you’ll have some initial resilience.
6. Stimulate business development
With the virtual elimination of trade shows, face to face meetings, demonstrations etc., consider how your sales team can stay engaged with prospects, customers, and partners. Our client is embarking on the creation of more “How To” videos. By better use of social media, they can still maintain a virtual presence and remain in front of their customers. Look to develop and implementing a social media plan that focuses on your top selling products. To aid the ease of customer sales, and elimination of some manual work, they have created an ecommerce website.
As it is likely we are entering into a global recession, now is the time to look at the cost of your products. During times of economic constraint, purchases are frequently based more on price rather than quality. Ensure that you are not priced out of business and look to see if you can reduce the production costs of your bestselling products, possibly by reducing the specifications while retaining the functionality.
In summary, we are about to enter a period of huge uncertainty. There is likely a three or four month window to prepare a second wave. If you need any assistance in either undertaking an audit of your preparedness or to support the development of a COVID phase two plan, the team at Incrementa is here to assist you.