COVID-19- Was this in your risk analysis?

Every astute business owner has a risk analysis with plans to mitigate those risks. Within the Frame and Truss industry elements such as housing downturn, hacking of systems, machine failings and staff safety concerns would generally make up the topics. I’d put money on the fact that NO plans had world wide pandemic at the top of the list. But COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has demonstrated you can plan and mitigate risks but at times it is futile. We have all been caught off-guard!

Who could have foreseen the mass hysteria, fear and anxiety that not just Australia but the world is now experiencing. Toilet paper gate, supermarket shelves empty, sanitizer selling for $35 for small bottles, possibility of schools closing and a medical system in panic. Let’s put aside political feelings and thoughts on closing borders, imposed isolation and state of emergencies being called. Instead, let’s focus on the actions that need to be taken now.

A few weeks ago (pre-pandemic) Vekta undertook a strategic planning session. One important topic we covered was our values- What do we as a company value? What do we want to be known for in the industry? It has been these values that we have used to guide and inform our decisions regarding actions during this pandemic.

Make it safe

Soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels, disinfectant, masks- whatever is needed we have gone through all avenues to ensure that our team has access to what will keep them safe. Vekta’s engineering and administration staff have been asked to work from home and have been provided with the necessary tools to do so- laptops, teamviewer, video conference meetings and headsets. Team members are required to complete a ‘Working from Home’ checklist to ensure that their new working environment is safe and adheres to the occupational health and safety levels that are required- an important point for workers compensation insurance. Everyone has also completed an online course about mental and physical health and tips for working from home.

If we can take actions to help people feel safe and they know we are doing everything we can then hopefully some of the fear and anxiety will decrease.

Help each other

This has been a clear message through all communication. If someone is sick- they must stay home- period. As a team we then need to cover for them and help each other out. The concept of ‘that is not my job’ has completely disappeared- right now there is no ‘my job’. There is simply a job to be done and as a team we work to get it done. When given the opportunity it has been amazing to see how people have stepped up to the plate.

In this crazy time, the concept of ‘helping’ has been extended to include the family and the broader community. As a team we’ve discussed who needs or is running out of supplies (toilet paper), medications (Ventolin) and hand sanitizer. We’ve emphasised that as a group we can all pull together and help those that need it. When we received the FTMA hand sanitizer each family took home a few bottles for their own families to use. Vekta also believes that this is a time for the whole community to step up and help. Offer to help the older person at the shops, give away the mince in your trolley, check on your neighbours, smile and remember- we are all in this together!

Vekta has also ensured that the whole team and their families are aware of our EAP- Employee Assistance Program. Each Vekta family has access to psychological services that they are able to use  to provide support and help them learn coping strategies. Vekta’s EAP program has been in place for the past 5 years and is another way we help each other out.

Look for a better way

This value was based around Vekta productivity, the continuous improvement of Vekta products and partnering with customers to find a better way in their factories. The focus- ask ourselves, ‘Is there a better way this could be done?’ However, in this new world the meaning has slightly adapted. First and foremost, look for a way you can do something that limits your contact with others. Email, call, video conference even if you are in the office and would normally just go and talk to the person. Manufacturing staff have been asked to reduce contact and proximity to each other and forklifts, tools and machines are being wiped down with sanitizer before and after use. We’ve also decided to outsource aspects of production to support our suppliers, specifically smaller businesses that were already under pressure. If they can provide a better way for things to be done- then it is a win-win for all involved!

Speak openly with respect

Communication is the key here. At Vekta we are having daily meetings with our production staff to keep them abreast of any changes and developments and answering questions. Some questions we just cannot answer, saying so is showing respect to the team. We have also put posters and information sheets around the offices and in the manufacturing facility. We’re encouraging social distancing including ensuring there is a 1.5 meter spread between employees when meeting and limiting contact.

Family first

In all conversations the value and importance of family kept coming up as a high priority for Vekta. So, how does this translate into actions today? Schools have not closed, however, many parents feel uncomfortable sending their children to school or daycare. We’ve ensured our team that if they choose to withdraw their children they will be supported. Be it working from home or creating different shifts to suit people all options and possibilities are on the table. If you call Ed or myself it is highly likely that a 3 year old will answer the phone. The background noise will most likely be guitar or piano practice with the odd squabble over the lego/food/TV remote/chocolate. Apologies in advance! At Vekta we are putting the health and safety of our team and their families first- no apologies for that!

What if you were the customer?

When it comes down to it, Vekta exists for the customer. Even in a pandemic equipment needs to be manufactured, supplies sent to sites and services provided. Without the customer we do not exist. So, to our customers, if you need help please reach out. Please know that we are doing all that we can to continue to provide the amazing service and support that Vekta has become renowned for over the past 10 years.

A few years ago, Vekta started developing an on-line help system- ‘Vekta Rescue’. In light of recent events- this system will now provide even greater relevance and support for Vekta customers. Vekta Rescue includes-

  • Training manuals
  • Resources
  • Daily, weekly and monthly maintenance procedures
  • Troubleshooting guides
  • Support ticket log-in and
  • Contact Phone numbers

We encourage our customers to use this resource first for any issues they may be having. It is simple to use and when accessed at the equipment, is configured for your exact setup. If you or your operators would like some training on Vekta Rescue, please contact support and an Engineer can remote in and run through the system with you and your team.

In the uncertainty, it is imperative that business keeps going. The government is more than aware of this and the tax write off incentive is an important step to protecting the future health of our economy. If you’re going to buy it- consider Australian made, consider the Australian people that small enterprises such as Vekta provide jobs for.

We have no idea where the next few weeks or more likely months will take us. When we reach the other side I feel that the business world will be different. Working from home will be more accepted, meetings for meetings sake will be abandoned and hopefully we might have more consideration for the person whose hand we will shake. At a time like this I feel comforted that as a business, Vekta can step-up and allow our values and not profit to guide our decisions.

If you are sick- stay home. Wherever you are, wash your hands (sing Happy Birthday twice) and please, stay safe, stay healthy!