Many have been shut down or in a reduced operating mode for 45 days now. You have forgotten what "normal" was like. If you were a procrastinator before, you are relishing these times.
The old saying is still true--"If you are not advancing, you are retreating." In other words, if you are not advancing, you are sinking.
Mostly management reads this column. You are in the new normal now. From whatever point your business is here and now, resolve to advance. Stop procrastinating, stop putting off decisions. We are where we are and your job is to lead your team forward from here.
Some of you are facing very tough decisions. You just may be in a paper grade that has been on the bubble and the bubble has burst. It is time to pick up the pieces, sweep up the mess and determine what is appropriate--reduced operations forever or possibly even closing.
Others have different opportunities--the tissue and packaging people fit these categories.
For all of us, we are going to do business in different ways than we did before. If you have been avoiding electronic connections with people, you have been forced to learn electronic connections are not so bad.
Now that we find that electronic connections actually work (something I have been saying for twenty years), your travel budget is going to go down and your response time is going to go up. Just be thankful you are not in the airline or lodging businesses. I will predict you will be installing even more cameras so that you can show conditions to technicians far away. I predict you will be using drones for eyes throughout your facility, indoors and out (actually, I predicted this over five years ago).
True story. In 1977, I was working on a confidential project at a P & G converting plant. Long before the Internet. We had a piece of equipment we could not make work. We were in the eastern US and the supplier was in California. We built a black plastic tunnel, floor to ceiling, from the office doors to the piece of equipment (actually this tunnel surrounded this piece of equipment). This was the backup plan.
The technician was flown in and seated in a conference room. We took a Sony Betamax Camera System to the piece of equipment and recorded how it was acting. We took that to the conference room and played it for the supplier. He told us what adjustments to make and we did that. Solved the problem, never had to take him to the piece of equipment--never used the plastic tunnel. The only difference today is that he would not have had to spend the time and money flying from his home base to our plant. It all could have been done over the Internet.
You will build policies and procedures to do this for your company. Physical travel will become the exception, not the rule. You must move forward from here, not look back to the good old days of February 2020.
Jim Thompson is CEO of Paperitalo Publications.