I believe that companies that have adapted best to the pandemic are also the ones who witnessed positive effects, and that REGO-FIX is among them.
A main reason that REGO-FIX adapted quickly to COVID is that the Swiss government allowed companies to decide for themselves whether to close or continue manufacturing. Switzerland’s high density of hospitals allowed the country to stay open while many European governments imposed shutdowns to prevent hospitals, especially intensive care units, from being overrun. REGO-FIX was fortunate because Swiss hospitals never neared their capacity limits even though our competitors, especially in Germany, endured closures. Even large automotive companies had to shut down for four weeks in 2020. And if you close for four or five weeks, getting production running again takes another three to four weeks. We have been manufacturing throughout the pandemic.
We stayed open by adopting precautionary measures including sanitizing, social distancing, and wearing masks inside our facilities. We limited the number of contacts in administration, IT, finance, and human resources, departments that can work from home. But obviously the machines won’t run without the labor force coming in to work. REGO-FIX realized that COVID wasn’t going away, so we made changes to allow production to continue. We installed very strict safety measures. For example, we require social distancing in the canteen where people come together for lunch. To limit the possible impact of COVID we administer a PCR test to every employee every Wednesday. They get the results on their cellphone within three hours.
I do believe our stock availability is part of the reason we didn’t lose any of our customers. Some new customers switched to REGO-FIX because of our ability to ship our product reliably. Purely just-in-time supply in the present environment leads to what society is seeing now: crazy inflation, problems with supply chains, delivery delays of weeks or even months.
It is very important for REGO-FIX to have its proprietary tooling systems including powRgrip® consistently available for our customers. On the other hand, ER collets, although pioneered by REGO-FIX, are highly standardized products. They are available from many suppliers. Nevertheless, it is critical to make sure the customer is buying is buying ER collets from REGO-FIX. Otherwise, they will just go to other, less reliable brands they can get on the same day. We have high product availability not only in Switzerland but also in our subsidiaries worldwide. And that is absolutely why we are managing this situation better than some of our competitors.
As for positive effects, a more organized approach has enabled us to enhance internal communications at our company. Communication with our end users has improved as well. Before the pandemic, nobody used a webinar as a marketing instrument. Zoom and Teams were there, but never used for marketing. We met with customers at trade shows, or they came to Switzerland directly. Now communication with our customers is nearly in real time. When we create a new tooling innovation, we make an official announcement for a 45-minute webinar with key points. One day later we email product information to the customers. Our people, especially our sales representatives, are open minded and happy with this new level of communication. A good thing for us is that our product is highly complex, and we can’t sell it without providing detailed information. It’s not like buying a bottle of milk; it is something we need to explain.
The digital world is not replacing the physical world. Even though we can do everything online, we still use paper, we still use catalogs, we still go to grocery stores. It is not a question of one technology against the other. I believe in addition to attending trade shows or physically going direct to the customer, digital communication is giving us more options for worthwhile conversation.
Living with the virus has become the new normal. We need to continually adapt to the situation. I do believe that there will not be a post-COVID world; there will be a world that is simply different, eventually better, and REGO-FIX will be well-positioned to continue its important role in global manufacturing.
Pascal Forrer, Global Sales and Marketing Director, REGO-FIX AG