As an essential business that supplies tooling to various critical industries, we have been operating with minimal interruption to our services during the pandemic. What’s more, we’ve been incorporating video conferencing and simply using that good old telephone to call and interact with customers, and the results have been mutually beneficial.
Several customers have been exposed to supply chain disruptions, so we’re helping them fill in the gaps through quick turnaround CNC cutting tool resharpening as well as doing some PVD OEM coating services as companies have either had to shutter their operations, reduce their workforces, or help their associates power through their personal situations. Some customers have only skeletal crews in their internal regrind operations and have found it more cost-effective to use us rather than maintain full staffs or power up their own equipment at this time.
This video provides an overview of our company and explains how we can benefit customers now and in “normal” times.
In reflecting on how coronavirus has affected our business, there are three things that have allowed us to push ahead during these unprecedented times. Integrating these practices within your operations could strengthen your ability to remain competitive in the short-term and after the pandemic subsides.
#1 – Do whatever is necessary to help customers. Instead of having our regular delivery people make runs to customers’ locations, our sales team has been fulfilling that function. That’s because our delivery team consists largely of retired seniors who want to limit their potential exposure to the virus and don’t mind taking the time off.
When making deliveries, our sales team does more than leave shipments at the front door. Instead, they are taking the time to meet with customers – maintaining social distancing requirements, of course – and ask in-depth questions about what’s going on in their respective businesses and how Tru-Edge can help them meet their immediate and longer-term goals.
What’s more, we’ve begun to use technology to mutual advantage. If we can’t meet with a customer face-to-face, we’re holding Zoom meetings, which have been especially useful with engineering teams who may be working at home or in remote offices. We’ve found that we can continue with concurrent engineering work through the virtual meetings. It’s just as easy to look at prints in a video conference as it is in-person. Although we prefer face-to-face meetings, video conferencing will have to suffice until the pandemic is over. Our Director of Engineering now has our CNC simulation software integrated into our video conference platform adding sophistication that we were not using before the pandemic.
With complicated machining processes there’s nothing better than having an experienced technical person onsite to assist the customer with productivity maximization. In those instances, we’re continuing to visit customers and taking precautions while in their facilities by wearing masks, gloves and maintaining social distancing as well as abiding by each facility’s safety requirements. So far, taking those safety measures has not inhibited our ability to get the job done.
Clearly, coronavirus is changing the way people are doing business, and some of those changes will be permanent. As with other changes that have had significant effects on our business … we’ll adjust!
#2 – Look for new opportunities. The common tendency nowadays is to suspend business development activities because the overwhelming sentiment is that people aren’t interested in looking toward the future. As time goes on, we’re finding that people are getting tired of “waiting around” and are eager to get back to some sense of normalcy.
By investing in and expanding our LEAN manufacturing capabilities before coronavirus became a factor, we were prepared for the scenarios that recent circumstances have presented and expect to retain that agility going forward. Our flat management structure allows us to be more proactive to capitalize on new opportunities and provides us with a competitive advantage over companies whose management structures are layered and bureaucratic.
Over the last 8 weeks we’ve done a lot of financial modeling to obtain and retain a sense of where we are, and where we need to go if we are to meet our goals. We use fully integrated enterprise software to track nearly all aspects of our business. This has helped us to quickly prepare financial models and modify them as needed. As a result, every associate knows where we need to be financially if we are to avoid layoffs or furloughs. We find sharing this information provides associates with insight that they can use to better understand “where we are” and “where we are going.”
Modeling tools have helped us. The key is having the discipline to use them regularly and adjust course based on what the numbers tell you.
#3 – Finish what you started before things began to change. Before coronavirus upended everyone’s routine, we had just begun working on some new automotive parts manufacturing lines and we’re seeing those customers eager to pick up where they left off. Even though general automotive manufacturing has taken a real hit when compared to pre-Covid levels, these projects are helping to reduce the overall shutdown impact. In addition, some new customers in other manufacturing verticals are helping us maintain a revenue stream that we are thankful to have.
As the old saying goes, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” By having the foresight to diversify our customer base, we helped spread the risk over a larger customer pool. Our sales team and tool engineering associates were integral to helping us pull this off.
As our world becomes more fluid, it’s important to take the time to read content available through a variety of sources, including trade associations such as the National Tooling and Machining Association, an organization in which we’re involved, and the Aerospace Industries Associations.
We’ve also found IndustryWeek to be an excellent source for learning about market trends and have gained valuable insights by watching TED Talks.
As a relatively new supplier into the aerospace sector including airframe manufacturers and aircraft engine manufacturers, the actions we have taken over the past several years to expand our reach have put us in a strong position to design and manufacture cutting tools for use in Nomex/Kevlar, Aluminum Honeycomb, CMC and MMC machining applications.
As a company that continues to invest in our associates and our manufacturing technology, we welcome the opportunity to share our knowledge and experiences with you. In doing so, we hope that we can help you, your colleagues and your company prepare for a dynamic future that puts a premium on doing whatever is necessary to achieve goals, continually looking for new opportunities and following through on initiatives regardless of what the coronavirus may have interrupted.
What are some of your technical or business challenges that we can help you meet?