by Smail Hannachi
Within the assignment we will take the impact of COVID 19 outbreak and the crisis management for a customer services business unit for a worldwide company (Solar Turbines).
Solar Turbines is one of the Caterpillard Family Brands Caterpillar acquired Solar Turbines International in 1981. we will address an overview on the response to the pandemic of the customer services side of the company and describe the first response of the crisis and how the company react/adapt to the situation.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Most people infected with the virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. However, some will become seriously ill and require medical attention. Older people and those with underlying medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, or cancer are more likely to develop serious illness. Anyone can get sick with COVID-19 and become seriously ill or die at any age. (World Health Organization)
The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30th January 2020, and a pandemic on 11th March 2020.
Due to the reasons mentioned above, most countries worldwide have implemented strict measures to protect their citizens, such as travel restrictions, border closures, quarantines, and social distancing (Deloitte, 2020). Gallego and Font (2020) argue that within the first six months, COVID-19 has proven to be the most damaging pandemic in recent history, and it is the first virus that has caused a global recession. (Ozili and Arun, 2020)
When receiving the first notification from the WHO on March 2020 the head office of the company have started putting in place and reviewing BRA (Business Impact Analysis) related to the pandemic and also taking onto account the scale of the crisis that could impact all the chain due to the global interconnexion and the nature of the business, the organisation took advantage from being sensitive to the edge and have built an efficient network to get on time the evolution of the pandemic situation all over the word by using a security and travel assistance service (ANVIL Group) , and taking advantage from the implantation of the company all over the world with close relationship with the customer that were giving valuable information from the ground, those tools have given the organisation a valuable advantage of monitoring the evolution of the pandemic, at early stage,senior leadership have put in place high visible strategy to show and communicate clearly the expectation and evolution of the business by holding periodic townhall (using the IT infrastructure of the company), allowing open forum to discuss health and safety and any concern regarding to financial futures with transparency to maintain mental, and sending updates to all the employees about the aptitudes and how to react during the evolution of the crisis, the company has also displayed a COVID 19 newsletter and updated the organisation homepage with valuable information related to the evolution of the crisis.
In addition to the above the company being part of Caterpillard family takes advantage of getting on time information that helped to take the right and adequate informed decisions, on other hands interconnectivity between brand and company was not very efficient on some occasion and worked from top to bottom instead to be open dialog and making decisions ,actually the main rules was put in place globally by caterpillar and Solar turbines has to use and follow on that , the main issue was that being on the ground with customer Solar was able to identify opportunities for improvement and adapt Health, Safety & security protocols to meet customer expectation, but Caterpillard approach was very conservative and showed inertia to the change, on another hand even having its own EHSS dept and corporate security Caterpillar is overseeing the security side of the business and controlling the business travel for all the personnel belonging to company, and the interaction between both organisation shows signs of deficiency of coordination and cooperation at the early stage of the pandemic but when moving on this deficiency was dissipated with clear expectation and role and responsibility from all the on the ground players.
On April 2020 the company leadership have send a “work from home notification” to all employees as first response to protect the health and safety of the employees as the priority according to the EHSS policy and orientation from WHO followed up by countries. According to the company crisis management plan a BCP plans were displayed and followed up at each level to maintain critical activities, Bi weekly meeting were held at the district level (District: Groupe of countries managed by district manager like MENA,..) , (EMT) and all the information’s and updates (risk, initiatives, opportunities…) were gathered and discussed at the regional level and finally at the executive level.
The challenge regarding the EMT (operational level of the organisation), was to maintain the availability of the services to the customer during the travel ban put in place by the countries and the shortage of the flight availability all over the world, the first approach was to use the remote assistance (digital services) and in country personnel to deal with customer demand, the company had to put in place dynamic risk assessment and protocols taking onto account country, customer requirement without underestimating the rapid evolution of the situation on the ground (worst case scenario),the risk assessment approach was based on initiative and situation evolution during the pandemic (Pandemic was hitting countries by waves and the response was with different approach and reactivity from the governments ), the challenge was to deal with Travel Risk Assessment (country restriction, confinement, quarantine,..) and liaison with International Organisation as ISOS (International ISOS).
On June 2020 a framework was put in place and plans agreed with the customers and service providers to allow RTW (Return to Work), within the crisis concept organisation constantly adjust the existing assessment to adapt the day-to-day situation for the pandemic and must reinforce and constantly communicate and provide adequate training and orientations.
Within the context of the operation health , safety and security providers were a key players within the companies plan and have to bring innovative solution and adapt to the global change including regulatory requirement specific to each country to maintain reliable and essential support to allow BCP, EU countries shows strong solidarity regarding the vaccine but each country have adopted its own strategy to contain the crisis with the right balance between economy and health of the population, as example we noticed that Italy had the most sophisticated and timely changing protocols that challenged any travel plan, [Most European airlines have sought government aid through grants, loans at preferred conditions/state guarantees, or subsidies, Journal of Air Transport Management 87 (2020) 101863].
Within the Regional level all the information were gathered from the different EMT’s (district level) and discussed to compile and updates the company’s protocols, in the beginning of the crisis nobody would expect that it will last more than a year and the temporary measures (Additional Risk assessment were not embedded within the electronic Travel Approval for the company and create ambiguities and misunderstanding from some employees), the main challenge was to get the additional risk assessment embedded and checked out correctly through the approval process (on that context we observed resistance from customer to adopt the mobilisation protocol and faced multiple challenges sitting in example vaccine accepted within EU & US, testing and quarantine requirement for each country), we observed like one way travel from Europe to Africa giving advantage of European citizen to travel back and forward and restricted travel for African to visit Europe only in certain circumstance, regarding the organisation it took the advantage the adversity of the personnel and having in country personnel (US, Europe & Africa) to cover the customer demands.
On August 2020 after implementing the BCP and be able to run critical business within EU (countries with satisfying health care and having in place Integrated crisis management framework), the challenge was to extend the plan to the developing countries and guarantee ALARP requirement for risk assessment by bringing approval to executive level, the main challenge was to get the adequate support from the company partners (emergency response and MEDVAC) , and have them embedding all the protocols in place to be able to run the business within the multivariable crisis, innovative solution for supply chain was put in place for flexible and timely response for the critical supplies (PPE /decontamination / specialist equipment & clothing…), even though plans in place countries COVID 19 strategies/plans suppressed the company response plans/strategy and strong commitment and clear expectation was shown to each employee travelling overseas that he could face (quarantine within low standard health in certain countries), and the organisation would arrange and work with international health providers for MEDEVAC.
A strong solidarity partnership was in place to allow critical business travel with collaboration of the countries to allow BCP for vital industrial sectors (Power generation, O&G, Water treatment…), innovative solution was produced and successively allowed mobilisation and follow up by company offices over the (district/world).
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