EMERGING FROM THE PANDEMIC – BOBST UK & IRELAND SHARES THE LESSONS LEARNED
For Bobst UK & Ireland Managing Director, Neil Jones, there are three fundamental lessons that the packaging industry can take away from the events of the past 12 months.
Not becoming complacent over the need for agile and efficient operations, is the first he cites; secondly, overcoming fears related to digitalisation and connectivity and, finally, a reminder that customer service excellence is crucial to success. Such learnings will provide for a more sustainable business and future-proof the wider industry.
"As with every business, in any industry or sector, the challenges that Covid-19 presents are simply extraordinary," said Neil. "There is no doubt that we have gone through some pain at BOBST in the UK over the past year, but we have always been completely determined to keep the shape of the organisation intact. As we begin to emerge from the depths of the pandemic, it is clear that we have achieved that and have been able to support our customers throughout."
Bobst UK & Ireland maintained all core employees, furloughing just 10 staff members at the peak of the pandemic. And, while there have been some delays, not a single order has been cancelled.
"The decision to retain the vast majority of the workforce during the past 12 months is what will see us emerge from this pandemic positively," added Neil. "The pressure on our customers to meet the needs of retailers and brands was phenomenal. Even today, there is still huge demand for fast turnarounds as the impact of a massive swing by consumers towards e-commerce continues to be felt.
"Machine sales were high as customers realised that speed and efficiency were key to meeting requirements, so we had teams supporting that side of the business and doing very well. On the other hand, our service side, machine maintenance and training, struggled. It simply wasn't a priority for customers. We made the decision not to furlough those employees affected and instead turned their focus to ensuring they were up to speed with the latest innovations and technologies from BOBST, so that once back in the field, they would be able to advise and support customers in the very best ways possible."
As companies begin to plan a route back to a new normality, now that a roadmap from Covid restrictions has been presented by the UK Government, it provides a real opportunity for converters to be part of the BOBST vision for the future of the packaging industry, according to Neil.
He said: "The pandemic served to highlight the importance and complexity of being agile and responsive to fast-changing market conditions, while maintaining quality and sustainable processes. Until spring 2020, the industry had never been challenged in the way that it was then. The drive for greater efficiency is not something new for our customers, but to be truly agile in these dynamic times requires a new level of efficiency.
"Agility ensures high quality products can be manufactured and delivered within short lead times. Efficiency is about streamlining, automating and optimising processes and investments, while removing waste, during manufacturing and delivery. One lesson from the past 12 months is that, as an industry, we should not become complacent about seeking out new and better ways to create efficiencies.
"At BOBST we are seeking ISO 14040 Life Cycle Assessment accreditation by implementing approved methodologies to assess the environmental aspects of our machines through their entire life cycle. This will enable us to analyse the carbon footprint of our manufacturing processes and deliver improvements, where required, to minimise our environmental impact and that of our customers.
"It is critical that as we move forward in 2021, customers will have to be more efficient by optimising machine and people performance. As a leading supplier to the industry, we have committed to supporting our customers to achieve this by delivering best-in-class machines that incorporate new levels of intelligence, software capabilities and cloud-based platforms, to make packaging production better and more sustainable than ever.
"Sometimes feared and resisted, by connecting, automating and digitising the whole production workflow, we are empowering machine operators to use data to make more fact-based and timely decisions that generate greater efficiency, agility and less waste; ultimately, a more sustainable operation for future success. Far from being fearful, digital transformation should be embraced as a route to improved business performance during challenging times."
BOBST can offer its customers a complete suite of training and service maintenance packages to enhance and optimise productivity and performance. "It doesn't simply stop at the end of a production line," said Neil. "We value an ethos of collaboration, partnership and service that extends beyond what a machine can do.
"We are manufacturing more energy-efficient machines to help customers offset rising electricity prices across Europe. In addition, we are developing new cutting-edge substrate processing technologies to improve sustainability across our web product lines.
"As we move forward in this new era of packaging production, we are focused on working with customers to understand and support their commercial milestones to help form their business plan for the next five to 10 years.
"We are moving from being a more reactive supplier to one that is proactive and adds value to our customers' business, ensuring concrete return on investment. That all starts with excellent customer service.
"It's not about selling new machines for the sake of a sale but ensuring the customer is getting the very best from existing assets before we even begin to look at potential for new investment. Through the provision of high-quality training programmes for operators, data analysis of machine performance and the implementation of preventive maintenance solutions, we know that we are laying the foundations for a long-term relationship built on first-class customer service.
"After the most disruptive yet positively challenging 12 months, there are many lessons to be learned, some of which may not yet be apparent. I am confident that BOBST and our customers will emerge stronger, more agile and efficient than ever ensuring a bright, sustainable future for the packaging industry."