By Rosie Medina, Vice President, Sales and Marketing
Few things can snap your priorities into focus like the onset of a pandemic. Our industry is known for its cyclical nature, so adapting to change is not a new concept. But dealing with the challenges posed by COVID-19 has been like nothing any of us have experienced before.
QP Technologies has been fortunate to weather the pandemic well – less than 0.05% of our staff has tested positive, with the first case not emerging until December and, thankfully, none being serious. Due to the efforts of our entire team, we have actually grown the business by nearly 15% over the past year and added new hires to help meet the demand for our services. Some key actions have seen us through this challenging time.
Our first priority was staff and customer safety. As soon as the quarantine was imposed, employees able to work remotely (including our entire sales staff) shifted to work-from-home mode. We provided necessary equipment, such as upgraded laptops and peripherals, and updated training on web-sharing software as needed, to ensure they could do their jobs effectively.
Once we secured our designation as an essential business – gathering letters from customers stating we were vital to supporting their own essential businesses – we put in place measures to ensure our adherence to state and county guidelines for remaining operational. We retained a crew to clean high-touch points in our Escondido facility throughout the day and thoroughly clean each night; we propped open interior doors wherever possible to minimize contact and improve air circulation; and we installed hand-sanitizer dispensers throughout the building. Of course, we also mandated the use of face masks and temperature checks for employees and (limited) visitors.
Despite these measures, some team members in positions that require onsite presence were uncomfortable coming into the facility and ultimately decided not to return to work. We respected their concerns and allowed them to depart. To fill their positions safely, we held first-round interviews by phone and subsequent interviews virtually. Only serious candidates we planned to hire were brought into the office, with a minimal number of people allowed in the meeting room.
Remote but not removed
During the pandemic, we’ve found viable workarounds for a number of tasks that would have been accomplished in person before. For example, when we’re developing a prototype, we often find customers want to see their devices during manufacturing; to view how special components of their device are being processed; and to resolve any process-development issues.
To keep the quantity and length of customers’ onsite visits to a minimum, we’ve utilized a creative approach: our team has been using GoPro cameras to provide customers with remote visual access to critical process steps. This solution prevents the customer from having to physically visit the factory, and it’s allowed us to effectively troubleshoot and resolve issues in real time without having to wait for a site visit. We anticipate some customers continuing to use this approach, particularly international customers for whom onsite visits are challenging even without the pandemic travel hurdles.
Internally, we’ve streamlined and moved online as many processes as possible, such as getting purchase request forms signed and processing quality documents such as ECN’s electronically. We have also shifted our ISO audits to a virtual process, using internet web hosting sites and iPads on rollers to walk the floor and share documents for proof of evidence.
A key challenge throughout the pandemic has been maintaining customer relationships without holding face-to-face meetings, especially for those who prefer not to meet on-camera. Over the past year, without having live tradeshows as an opportunity to meet, we’ve placed more emphasis on picking up the phone to stay in touch, as well as reaching out via social media and attending virtual events. On a positive note, the quality of content at virtual shows has provided ample opportunity for continued learning and keeping up with industry developments.
Staying healthy, in all ways
It’s important to note that we’ve kept close tabs on how our team members have been coping mentally and emotionally. Burnout from the convergence of work and home environments is a very real concern, so we’ve increased our emphasis on maintaining balance, encouraging people to keep set hours and avoid working longer than necessary. Through our insurance plan, counseling resources are available to any employee who needs it, including free remote sessions.
As vaccines become more widely available, things are opening up, and people are starting to feel safer about going out in public or just seeing friends and colleagues in person. We look forward to being able to have all our team members together when we are “back to normal” post-pandemic, but we will not forget the lessons we’ve learned about our resourcefulness and resilience in the face of adversity.