Jul 14, 2020
When 2020 began, Signal-Tech was optimistic about growing sales and bringing in new equipment to increase efficiencies; it was at the heart of our strategic plan. We were all looking forward to not just a good year, but a great year! There was the looming threat of the coronavirus but we thought it would pass in short order like the H1N1 (swine flu) or the Zika virus. We never imagined how much our daily lives would change after March of this year.
Weeks before our governor shutdown businesses across Pennsylvania, we revised our infectious disease policy to plan for the worst - a business shutdown. We redefined ways to deal with communications, product inventory and social distancing should the virus impact our lives in the US. We chose to focus on what we could control and to stay true to our company values: customers, employees and their families first.
On March 19, 2020, Pennsylvania's governor ordered all non-essential businesses to close their physical locations. Fortunately, with the help of State Senator Dan Laughlin (R) and several key customers, we were able to demonstrate that Signal-Tech was an essential business for Pennsylvania and the rest of North America. As an essential business, we were able to continue manufacturing products during COVID times and because our customers consider us essential to their businesses, our sales and quoting activity has remained strong to date.
We immediately implemented our new infectious disease policy starting with social distancing. Half of our production staff started a second shift and half the sales, marketing and office staff shifted to working from home. Managing onsite and offsite staff, multiple production shifts, and staying in close communication with vendors was essential. Our strong, well trained management team has done an outstanding job during these changing times.
Communications continue to be critical to the success and safety of our business. We were able to physically pick up our voice over internet phones (VOIP) and connect them to the internet in our homes without any interruption in business communications. The changeover was seamless to our customers because there were no long waits while redirecting calls to folks working from home. Our weekly internal standup meeting took on the form of a weekly bulletin shared with all employees and Slack meetings replaced our physical group meetings for sales, safety, new product development and custom sign reviews. We also used GoToMeeting video conferencing to continue meeting with our customers "face-to-face", virtually speaking.
Having sufficient inventory to meet customer needs was essential for us, especially since a few of the electronic components are sourced outside the US. We began building up our inventory of stock products and our robust business operating system (DMS) made it possible to source and maintain component inventories, even for parts procured from outside the US.
Despite the changes brought on by this new normal, we've been able to stay true to our 2020 strategic plan. We have added a new robotic welding station that elevates the quality of the products we can produce, a state of the art pick and place machine that is twice as fast as our previous one and introduced our new STR product line to the Department of Transportation (DOT) industry.
What have we learned so far from our Coronavirus experience? We must continually change and adapt to thrive and succeed. Life is an evolutionary process; the new normal is a state of flux.