Meeting the challenge of COVID-19.
Three months on since the release of REMA TIP TOP Australia’s COVID-19 Business Continuity Plan (BCP), we sit down with Asia Pacific CEO, Benedikt Schneider to discuss how the business is meeting the challenge of operating in this changed global landscape.
RTT: Benedikt, firstly talk us through the inception of the BCP and what drove you to implement such a broad plan.
CEO: First and foremost, we recognised our role in the community as a large employer with people and operations distributed across the country.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to intensify in early February and March, we knew we needed a clear plan to communicate with our people, our customers and suppliers outlining how we would act to ensure the safety of our people and the communities in which we operate.
We took immediate action and developed an aggressive stance aimed at ensuring we could provide continuity of operations.
RTT: There seems to be specific focus areas in the BCP including supply chain, service levels and keeping people connected and engaged. How did you establish the scope and focus of the plan?
CEO: Our products and services, from our Automotive business through to our Industry operations, literally keep Australia moving.
We take seriously our role in providing the products and services that keep vital commodities like coal and iron ore moving through the value chain, as well as providing the tiniest tyre valves that keep Australia’s trucks on the road, driving the logistics networks which sustain our economy.
With this in mind, one of our first focuses was to ensure our global manufacturing was ramped up, ensuring supply of critical products for each industry.
Secondly, our team established new processes to monitor global supply chain routes for bottlenecks. With the pandemic throttling shipping and vehicle movements around the world, we knew we needed a system to monitor and adapt to potential delays. I have to say our team performed exceptionally well in this space and have ensured we’ve had stock of key components to keep our customers moving.
RTT: Talk to us about the focus on service levels and how you’ve adapted operations to be safe during the pandemic.
CEO: We’ve worked very hard with key customers across the country to both align and develop safety protocols which protect people from unnecessary exposure during the pandemic.
As I mentioned, particularly in primary industry, the wheels must keep moving and our expert teams provide the critical services which enable operations to continue.
As well as implementing all the basic hygiene protocols – from increased hand washing and observing social distancing particularly on site – we’ve had to increase our focus on people movements and increasing communications with our customers. We fielded so many requests for information on how we were managing our response to COVID-19, and the BCP was a key instrument to communicate with our people, our customers and suppliers giving them confidence to maintain operations.
RTT: You mentioned communication has been a key component of the BCP. Can you explain why it’s so important and what you’ve been doing to keep people connected?
CEO: Well before the arrival of COVID-19, we ramped up our focus on communication across the business.
We recognised that we had a need to communicate our strategy to our people. We focused on our vision and our people’s role in delivering it as a way of galvanising our teams and ensuring we were all moving in the right direction, together.
With the onset of the pandemic, we were well placed to continue this focus using regular internal communications, from weekly newsletters and a new SMS service to keep our people in the field connected with our strategy for managing the pandemic and reducing the risk to our business and the community.
We also developed a weekly video series called KEEPING CONNECTED, which provided insights from our people across the country on how they were managing a new approach to balancing work and home, each providing tips on maintaining efficiency and keeping good mental fitness during such a time of change. The series has been a regular highlight, with people tuning in each week to see familiar faces and meet people that they otherwise may not have access to. I’m really proud of the way our people have jumped on board to be a part of this sharing.
With COVID-19 impacting our first quarter and the expectation it will be with us for some time, we’ve also used our Town Hall sessions to give our people full insight into our performance against plan. In our most recent Town Hall, the business heard directly from our Strategic Leadership Team (SLT), which provided an update across all facets of the business; from Industry to Automotive and key functional areas including Marketing & Communications and HR, Training & Development.
RTT: Keeping people connected, engaged and utilised is also another theme that comes through the BCP quite strongly. Talk us through this focus on HR, Training & Development.
CEO: Our people are our lifeblood and we recognised very early that we needed to focus on supporting them not only to get through the pandemic, but to adapt to a new way of working together.
We were particularly aggressive in redeploying our office-based staff to work remotely, with many still working from home today. With that in mind, we focused on several ways to keep people connected.
One of the most significant advances was the release of our CONNECT platform. From a HR perspective, we had been working on a way to centralise all information related to people development; from more efficient access to employee benefits and a consolidated approach to performance management through to providing better access to training and development opportunities, CONNECT has become a central place for our people to focus on how they can continue to develop themselves and their careers at REMA TIP TOP.
Through CONNECT, we’ve provided access to all staff to new vocational, product and service training opportunities to help build skills and awareness of our full customer offering, all delivered through online, cloud-based platforms.
While we had been working towards this for some time, COVID-19 really provided an impetus for us to deliver a solution which engaged our people, no matter where there are around the country.
RTT: You mentioned that COVID-19 will be an impactor for some time. What’s your view on the horizon.
CEO: Yes, it’s unfortunate, but I feel we will be operating in a changed landscape for some time. While Australia has performed well in managing the curve to date, the global economic implications will be with us for the foreseeable future.
Sadly, many countries are still dealing with significant health issues related to the pandemic, which means we will see volatility in markets around the world.
Our focus needs to be on listening to our customers more and more during this period and adapting our offering to meet their needs.
We had already begun to shift this focus well before the arrival of COVID-19, building our product and service offering to be more aligned the strategic goals of our customers, but now, more than ever, we need to be exceptional listeners.
The new horizon is very much a changed one, with the way we do business and the way we interact with each-other operating very much to a new framework which focuses on safety, communication and efficiency.
Enabling our customers to do more with less and providing solutions that enable them to be competitive in a constantly changing global economy is exactly what we’re ready to do.
Take another look at our COVID-19 Business Continuity Plan today.