1 - What has been the single biggest impact on the way that you and your teams have adapted to working?
We’ve all had to very quickly get to grips with new technology and set up remote working – often not easy, but necessary so we could keep communication lines open. Lockdown has affected our engineers more than anyone as they’ve been unable to visit customer premises during this time. In fact, it’s still affecting us while hotels are closed as they’re not able to stay overnight, so some of the lengthier installations are having to wait.
2 - How has the morale and motivation of your teams been impacted by the crisis? And how are you keeping yourself motivated and positive?
We have a great team at Avantek, and have made sure we’ve kept up regular communication between us all. This has really helped to keep morale high, and we’ve enjoyed our Zoom chats, even when many of us were furloughed – they became a really useful way to keep in touch without actually working, and I think it’s actually brought us closer together as a team – I feel we have really supported each other. We’ve also received support via email and texts from our sister company Liniar, which has been really assuring for all of us.
3 - We often hear about ‘unprecedented times’ as a negative, but what have been the positives to come out of this for your business?
We’ve had more time to talk to customers, and get to know them better. Many of them have had the unusual benefit of extra downtime and have used it to move the machinery around in their factory to help make their operation more efficient. This means their workflow has now improved, and it’s been a pleasure to have been able to help and advise them in an informal way as they’ve progressed.
Now fabricators are starting to re-open, they’ve realised the benefits of further automating their production using machinery, too. For example, one person on a Supercut machining centre can replace two or three staff working closely together, so team members can not only socially distance more effectively, they can be redeployed to other roles in the window fabricating process.
We’ve seen an increase in demand over the last two weeks alone, and having machinery in stock means we can be responsive to customers’ needs, so sales are actually recovering more quickly than we anticipated. Avantek had the added benefit of a very healthy order book prior to lockdown, so we’re all extremely busy now the industry is returning.
4 - Do you believe that people and businesses will change in the long-term, after restrictions are fully lifted? And how?
Technology has proved to us all that communication can be just as effective without having to travel several hours to meetings. This not only helps with productivity, it means fewer cars on the road, so it’s a win/win for the planet too.
Of course, there’s no substitute for face to face contact sometimes, but if we can strike a balance, I think it could result in more remote working in the long term, and more efficient teams as a result.
5 - Are there any changes that you have implemented as a result of the pandemic that will remain in place after restrictions are lifted?
As already mentioned, I think we’ll definitely make more use of technology such as Zoom!
In addition, this pandemic has proved that supplying machinery with remote access makes fault finding and general adjustments faster. We’ve always built the Supercut with remote access, and many other machines supplied by Avantek have this feature too. All our engineers have the software on their mobile devices, so they can log in whenever there’s an issue and usually resolve it quickly.
We’ve always offered free advice and support over the phone, and as more customers have taken advantage of this during lockdown, we see this continuing.
6 - What is the single thing that you are most looking forward to when all restrictions are lifted?
Personally, I can’t wait to get my caravan out! Like so many others, we haven’t had a holiday this year, so we’re looking forward to getting away for a week when the sites are open, and being able to socialise generally!