Keeping the wheels turning during Covid-19

Every company in the world has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in some way. Here Stefan Lager, CEO at Beijer Electronics, discusses how the company has had to find new ways of working to stabilize operations and ensure the safety and wellbeing of its workforce.

Just after Chinese New Year in 2020, the first rumours of a potentially devastating health emergency began to emerge from Wuhan, China. While much of the world waited and wondered how the situation would develop, Beijer Electronics, with operations located in China, was right in the middle of the crisis in those early days. 

“Our business in the APAC region never restarted after the new year,” says CEO, Stefan Lager. “Workers were unable to return to the factories and offices, and, in February, countries in the region began restricting travel and then locking down completely. From the outset, our priority has been to keep our people and their families safe. Luckily, a few months earlier, we implemented an online communication platform across the company, so we were already adapting well to more digital ways of working.”

As the pandemic spread around the world, peaking in Europe in early April and then North America, all parts of Beijer Electronics’ operations and global supply chains were affected. One big challenge was in achieving business continuity with different regions subject to vastly differing measures and restrictions.    

“The lockdown in Asia was very fast and efficient,” Stefan says. “Since May, our APAC business has recovered very well. We have restored service to the supply chain, and our freight is now back up to full capacity. There has been a more diverse approach to handling the crisis in Europe and the US, with different measures taken by authorities in different countries. In these regions, it will be a much slower process to get back to the way things were. In the US there are the additional complications of the election and an extremely low oil price, so recovering lost ground will be challenging.”

While business performance and logistics play a large part in any change process, the most important thing for Beijer Electronics has been ensuring the safety and wellbeing of staff. Managing the human impact of the crisis has been challenging, but Stefan says it has also been rewarding, as people pull together and look out for one another.

"While business performance and logistics have been key focus areas, the most important thing for Beijer Electronics has been ensuring the safety and wellbeing of staff." 

“This has affected everybody in different ways. We quickly realised we needed to be flexible, empathetic and most of all transparent. Uncertainty on this scale affects not only individuals, but their families, and society as a whole, so it has been extremely important to keep communicating and make ourselves available for our colleagues. The response from our leadership team and managers has been fantastic, but, more than that, every employee has taken on extra responsibility to be there for each other, which has been wonderful to see. I believe we have set a new standard in the way we have adapted and been more mindful to each other’s individual needs.

Stefan says one of the positive things to come out of the situation has been that it has meant staff have had to learn new skills and become more resilient.

“We have been careful to invest more in digital learning experiences,” he says. “We have created more content and made it available online, as well as running webinars and virtual training sessions. While business is slower, it has been important to focus on positive development, and building a new way of working that will serve us well in the long term. We have had to learn fast in order to ensure we focus on the right things. With an agile approach and clear goals, we will be able to accelerate when timing and opportunities are right. I’m proud of what we have achieved so far, and confident we will come back even stronger than we were before.”