The rapid spread of COVID-19 means that we’ve all seen new challenges in our companies. We at Ultra Consultants are largely a remote workforce, but that doesn’t mean that we didn’t also experience some difficulties.
As the CDC issued guidelines for social distancing, travel was canceled, and our clients came to us with questions on how to continue their operations while protecting the health and safety of their employees.
Immediately, four main challenges surfaced in our conversations with you as we all took our first steps in this new (and hopefully temporary) business climate.
The rapid transition to remote work and the elimination of non-essential travel, a need for the infrastructure to support remote work, a pending or current disruption in the supply chain, and unforecasted high or low demand response all are concerns that need to be addressed.
1. Rapidly transitioning to a remote workforce
The entire country is advised to stay home and avoid gatherings of six or more. In some cities and states, people are on lockdown and cannot leave their homes except for grocery shopping or medical care. Non-essential travel is restricted, which means visiting customer sites is out. This has understandably left us all scrambling to implement work from home policies and procedures, as well as find ways to communicate effectively during this crisis.
One of the ways we manage our remote workforce and arrange for meetings with our customers is through collaboration tools, including videoconferencing and screen sharing tools. While it’s not the same as face to face interactions, it allows us to update each other on our statuses, as well as stay connected and pick up on nuances in conversations.
2. Supporting remote work with infrastructure
However, for companies that previously didn’t have much of a remote workforce, this rapid transition can overload existing infrastructure. One of the ways to overcome this challenge is to use cloud-based collaboration tools, which will free up company resources to run the applications that have been set up in a private cloud model, like ERP systems. An added advantage of using these tools is that they scale up – or down – as needed. Once everything returns to normal and we can all go to work again, the number of active licenses can be reduced.
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3. Pending or current supply chain disruption
News outlets are predicting a massive reshuffling of supply chains due to COVID-19 shutdowns. Some companies are already experiencing a disruption in their supply chains. While sourcing from other locations is a possibility, another alternative is to leverage automation to manufacture products closer to home. As a bonus, robotic supply chains mean that the factory floor can keep running, with fewer people and the appropriate social distancing to protect employees, particularly when manufacturing critical equipment.
4. Unforecasted demand response
There is no way anyone or anything could have predicted how COVID-19 would adjust demand in different sectors, and responding to either unprecedented high or low demand remains a challenge. Quick response forecasting can be a great help during these times, leveraging not only predictive analytics but also social media information and other big data like POS information to update forecasts in line with real and rapid demand changes. For example, quick response forecasting could have helped when predicting the very quick and very high demand for hand sanitizer.
Navigating these four challenges can be difficult, which is why we at Ultra Consultants have launched a webinar series to help navigate the new world of remote work, demands on system architecture, supply chain disruptions, and forecasting demand.