Companies cope with coronavirus pandemic, adopt changes for post-COVID era

Bettina Magsaysay, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 25 2020 09:35 PM

MANILA - The restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to make necessary changes to their daily operations to adapt to the new normal.

At the fourth installment of the webinar series of the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development on Tuesday, some firms shared how they have been coping with the pandemic.

Marvin Lim, Vice President for Sales and Marketing of Mega Global Corporation, said access to goods was a main priority for their company.

"Nagkaroon ng panic buying. Nagkaroon ng ubusan ng produkto sa shelf. Talagang this was where the operations of many company whose dealing with essential goods (was) tested. Ito yung time na talagang lahat ng tao, lahat ng mga government officials, yung mga city halls, tumawag sa amin personally at gustong bumili ng sardinas para mapamigay sa mga taong bayan dahil nga naka-lock down tayo at paano sila kakain," Lim said.

It was a daunting task for the team since many had to work double time to be able to cater to the needs of local government units.

He said the safety and health of their employees had to be a top priority for them as well, so they can continue working.

"We will give you care packages kung hindi makalabas. May pa-ayuda ang mga empleyado namin, sa mga merchandiser, at sa distributor sales personnel namin," Lim said.

"Sila naman, nawala yung takot nila. So binigay rin nila ang kanilang lahat, at yung buong puso nila sa pag-serve sa kumpanya and at the same time sa pag-serve sa Filipino people."

Mega Malasakit was an initiative made by the company to provide meals for those in need. "Mayroon kaming maliit na restaurant sa office naman na kinonvert namin to a Mega Malasakit Kitchen. Ginawa ito ng mga empleyado namin na magbigay naman sa mga hindi frontliners, tulad ng mga checkpoint officials, mga merchandisers sa supermarket, cashiers, people who are making sure that we have access to goods and products that we need." 

More or less 20,000 meals have been served so far. On one particular day, the company gave out 500 meals to jeepney drivers and the homeless.

Aside from food, they also donated PPEs to hospitals, and now, test kits.

Mega Global Corporation was able to sustain its production and supply operations because the crisis struck at the start of the fishing season of sardines.

Lim said, "Swerte po tayo, nag-hit yung crisis at the start of the fishing season ng sardinas. Yung fishing season po ng sardines is March to November lang. So, nung nag-lock down tayo (beginning) March, swak na swak."

"So, swerte po tayo in terms of timing kasi nakapag-fish pa tayo ng isda para malagay natin sa lata at mai-distribute natin sa mga kababayan natin. Kung wala tayo sa timing, mas delikado ang stocks ng sardinas."

All plants were fully operational, and at least two million cans were made.

With the company doing well, it was a priority for Lim to make sure that payments to suppliers and partners were made on time to ensure good relations, especially during this trying time.

They also took the opportunity to capitalize on their digital platform."We are now selling a lot in our e-commerce platforms. We have to be flexible with changes. We have to be flexible to the needs and wants of our employees and stakeholders." 

Meanwhile, John Lee, President of Applied Machining Corporation, an aerospace manufacturing company, said that among the changes that had to be implemented is to implement shifting of teams.

"It's important to split the worker so that if one shift gets infected, the other shift will be able to work," Lee said.

To make the workplace more conducive for employees, those at medium to high risk were required to wear red, so other employees would limit their contact with them. "If they have children at home, elderlies at home, make them wear red," he said.

Senior citizens, those with compromised immunity, as well as pregnant employees were removed from their work schedule for their safety. Lee explained, "It's not about being discriminatory to them. But it would be quite significant if they catch it since the virus, there are a lot of effects. But if they did want to work, we made them wear red."

Having stay-in employees was another solution that the company came up with to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Disinfection of the workplace was mandatory. "What we have seen, some of the other businesses have been infected in their factory, which made us quite surprised. So we wanted to make sure that we were secured at some point."

As a precautionary measure, food from the canteen or from delivery services had to be brought to the work spaces of the employees to avoid contact.

Those who were shuttled to and from work, meanwhile, also had strict rules to follow. 

Employees using the shuttles had to follow a set sitting arrangement, and wearing of masks and face shields were required. They are prohibited from talking, taking phone calls, eating, drinking, and smoking while aboard the shuttle with fellow employees. 

"The set sitting arrangement is... so that we can easily track who they were with. That way, we would know who you were sitting with for the last five days or so. That way, you limit the exposure of other people," Lee said.

Although employees are in the office, Lee said several of their conference rooms were installed with monitors for video conferencing to avoid their congregation in one area.

In purchasing tools and equipment needed for sanitizing, Lee emphasized the importance of supporting local products.

"Everybody is quite hurting, so we urge everyone buying abroad to localize. In the aerospace industry, if the places are not flying so much, it is quite a dilemma. We are hoping that we can get pass this," Lee said.

He added, "Buy local assembled motorcycles and locally assembled vehicles. That will be the only way the Philippines can get up faster, and that is to support local."

The Department of Trade and Industry has expressed its support for local manufacturers.

Corazon Halili-Dichosa, Executive Director of the Industry Development Services of the DTI-Board of Investments, said, "In the Bayanihan 2, which was recently passed by Congress, we actually have there a provision that says there will be a preference for the domestic goods done in the Philippines."

"And of course, they will just have get a certification from DTI because we would have to check if these are locally made in the Philippines," she said.