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Adapting to New Ways of Working During COVID-19

Mold material suppliers are in the fight against COVID-19 just like their mold-building customers, and learning similar lessons too such as the benefits of going paperless and working remotely.

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CNC Operator Hai Luc in EDRO’s Walnut, California, custom mold base facility. 

Mold material suppliers are in the fight against COVID-19 just like their mold-building customers. For example, EDRO Engineering and Specialty Steels is delivering tool steel, copper alloys, and custom mold bases quickly for plastics tooling making components for testing kits, PPE, and respiratory equipment.

All of Edro’s facilities have remained fully-operational and continue to manufacture and deliver products and services in support of their customers’ needs as part of the US essential infrastructure.  Although it has required many adjustments in the work environment, the Edro team is proud to continue servicing their customers and where possible contribute to the fight against COVID-19.   

On the operational side, many adjustments to the work environment have been made, including team members respecting social distancing rules, wearing masks, regular sanitizing, and switching meetings to online platforms or conference calls where possible. 

“We have many customers that are involved with COVID-related tooling projects, and we prioritize those projects wherever possible to meet the urgent lead-time demands,” Edro Sales Director Kilian Wagner says. “We are in the same boat as our customers, and it’s important to support their efforts.” 

Standout revelations include going paperless and figuring out how the office team can work remotely in an effective way. 

That boat also includes the lessons learned during this crisis, especially about creative and streamlined work solutions.  The standout revelations according to Wagner have been many new areas that we have been able to go paperless and figuring out how our office team could work remotely in an effective way. 

“In the office, we were able to implement additional paperless and remote solutions in a very short time frame,” Wagner notes. “The key was engaging with our team members who handle the day to day processes and letting them drive the development, instead of getting managers in a workshop to figure out the process.  In many cases, things have worked so well that we are planning to keep many of these improvements in place even after COVID.”

Remote working has triggered the realization that different ways of getting things done are possible, but Edro still believes strongly in the hands-on lean culture that it has been actively developing.  “We miss the weekly lean meetings with cross-functional teams to discuss various projects and other issues.  We have been actively working to create a hands-on lean culture, and COVID has to some extent disrupted us a bit, but we’ll find the right mix and relaunch the lean approach with our new normal,” Wagner says.

Technical Sales Representative Nick Carroll explains, “On the market side the communication with our customers and colleagues from remote locations is based on conference and web technology.  We have also been using the conference platforms to push internal market segment trainings and strategy reviews with our sales and technical teams each week to review specific topics.”

“We’ve definitely had more time to work on refining strategies and participating in on-going training sessions, since no one is on the road right now,” Carroll says.

“In addition, the crisis has forced us to look at alternatives to customer face-to-face meetings, and be creative in our methods of communication to find ways we can still support our customers.  Now there is this realization that we can hop on an online meeting and still be productive with our customers addressing their problem areas and helping them to find solutions.”

However, Wagner notes that preparation is the key with these online meetings. “Data gathering for meetings is essential.  In the past, we often would simply tell our customers that we’ll see them next month, but now we’ve learned to discuss the basics first, and then identify key targets for each call including using the platform to conduct additional training or informational sessions for our customers in their unique areas of interest. All of this means that when we do meet again in person, it will be even more efficient and more productive.” Wagner says.

In general, as tool engineering and design groups have been open to using these online conferences, Edro’s sales and technical teams have noticed more interest in new technologies and exploring special materials and processes. One particular area of interest for many has been on additive manufacturing, where Edro offers products and services in partnership with its’ sister company voestalpine Additive Manufacturing Center.  

These meetings offer customers the chance to explore the latest technology developments and trends in additive manufacturing as it relates to plastics tooling.  “Our market strategy is to offer the full package in 3D printing, from powder to finished part, and a lot of customers are showing a keen interest in the latest developments in this technology,” Carroll says.