Personal lives and businesses have been subject to unprecedented change in 2020. The pandemic has spread relentlessly, exposing businesses to unknown challenges and unexpected changes. “Over these last few months, we have learned more than ever before that being able to quickly respond to new situations, being aware of our corporate and individual responsibilities, and developing a shared understanding of the rapidly evolving situation are all key factors in overcoming the pandemic in the most effective and secure way possible,” explains Tom Eng, SVP Head of TOMRA Recycling.
Corporate action is paramount
Tackling coronavirus effectively relies heavily on corporations taking action to mitigate the spread of the virus from every angle. TOMRA took this responsibility very seriously right from the start. Protecting its core asset, its employees, was and will always be at the center of all corporate actions, followed by business continuity plans to ensure smooth operations and services. It all started in China, where the virus kicked off. Ted Park, Regional Sales Director Asia at TOMRA Sorting Recycling, explains: “With China being the first country to be severely affected by the virus, I took the first steps within the company and introduced multiple measures to keep my team safe. Moreover, since South Korea already controlled the export of masks or their shipment outside its territory and limited the amount of masks available for purchase per person, some Korean colleagues sent masks in packages of 20-30 pieces to some colleagues in China to provide them with the necessary, increasingly scarce equipment. In doing so, we felt more solidarity and a feeling of togetherness during the very initial outbreak of the pandemic.”
Soon after, the virus crossed the Chinese border and forced more countries and TOMRA subsidiaries to act. “In mid-March, the spread of the virus increased steadily and hit the US very hard. As I’m responsible for my US team, I immediately closed our office in Charlotte, North Carolina, even before I was officially asked to do so, thus limiting possible contact with the virus,” expresses Carlos Manchado Atienza, Regional Sales Director Americas at TOMRA Sorting Recycling. A feeling of caring for and mutually supporting each other constantly grew: when masks became scarce at TOMRA's production facilities in Europe, the Chinese team sent some of their masks along with other equipment to ensure the safety of their colleagues.
Over time, the scale of the crisis became increasingly apparent and the introduction of extensive precautionary measures became vital. TOMRA reviewed and strengthened its local regulations and implemented regulations that are broadly in line with the recommendations of local health authorities and government and now apply to all of our global offices and facilities.
First and foremost, social contact had to be reduced to a minimum. For this reason, TOMRA imposed a corporate travel ban and committed to all meetings taking place virtually, with no further face-to-face meetings. Being in the fortunate position that all employees have the required equipment to work from home right from their first working day, the necessary prerequisites were already in place and the transition to working from home was conducted smoothly. But not every working task can be transferred home. For those working on site, social distancing became mandatory and production staff was asked to wear masks. Increasing the frequency of cleaning and providing disinfectants, which are available in offices and facilities, complement the existing on-site safety measures. Employees are kept up to date almost daily and learn from a steady flow of information on the current situation and any changes that occur.
Production and service continuity
In this type of situation, it is inevitable that factors impacting on operations will come in fast and unannounced. Negative effects on production, such as slowdowns or fewer workers, cannot be avoided, but can be circumvented by taking fast and smart action. “Since we operate on a global level, production capacity can be split across our global production facilities to run at full capacity and generate the expected output,” reassures Melanie Knödgen, VP, Head of Operations Recycling and Mining at TOMRA. “Increased stock enables us to ship TOMRA machines and spare parts on time and to meet our customers’ requirements as usual. Despite all the limitations and external influences linked to COVID-19, our production and deliveries have not been impaired,” adds Knödgen.
In preparation for any potential local lockdowns, TOMRA equipped its service engineers and sales force with the necessary equipment to work remotely where possible and support customers as comprehensively and professionally as they are used to. Customers who had previously purchased the TOMRA Care package benefit from having spare parts already on site and are trained by service engineers to carry out repairs independently. “Having a service concept like this in place reassures us and our customers that their machines will deliver the best possible performance while keeping employees safe,” states Peter Geisler, VP, Head of Global Service Recycling.
Whereas TOMRA keeps business upright and can further support plant operators in keeping their facilities running, business continuity in waste management services is not always guaranteed and differs from country to country. Michigan and South Carolina facilities have halted the collection of recycle materials placed curbside and the UK reduced bin collection services or closed recycling entirely. Europe on the contrary is making sustained efforts to ensure the continuity of waste management service to protect both human health and the environment. Christoph Bach, Sales Director Europe at TOMRA Sorting Recycling, explains: "In Europe, where an average household generates about 500 kg of municipal solid waste per year, it is essential to ensure proper waste management, sorting and recycling. We are on hand and further contribute to the furtherance of these services by our extensive, although currently remote support".
Innovative on the way forward
Recycling is not simply a trend or a buzzword, but a long-term, future-oriented industry and a prerequisite for maintaining the planet for future generations. As such, TOMRA has stepped up its commitment and will further consolidate its presence in the recycling industry and provide solutions across various applications. TOMRA’s sales force, situated around the globe, continues to support customers in the planning and installation of new plants by providing both knowledge and advanced sorting equipment. “The working environment has changed, but our work and our commitment to developing groundbreaking sorting technologies haven’t. We regret that some major events and trade fairs the industry was due to attend have reasonably and for the safety of all of us been postponed. To this end we will soon enter the digital stage to unveil new products our team put a lot of effort in,” announces Fabrizio Radice, TOMRA’s Head of Global Sales and Marketing Recycling.
TOMRA Sorting Recycling encourages customers and potential customers to test their own material in one of its Test Centers together with experienced engineers and sales consultants. Although the current situation is challenging, TOMRA continues to serve its customers’ needs and keeps its Test Centers fully operational. Materials sent in by customers can unlimitedly be tested. But TOMRA’s service goes beyond this: as customers can no longer accompany the tests live on site, they have the option to join in video conferences and receive real-time information on the tests. Within a very short space of time, customers are sent a detailed test report supporting their purchasing decision. “Finding the ideal sorting solution for our customers was, is and always will be the task to which we untiringly dedicate our competence and passion. Even in dynamic and challenging times such as those we are currently experiencing, we do our best to support our customers to make future decisions and thus ensure long-term success and profitability for our customers,” explains Stefanie Mayer, Test Center Manager.
Reshaping the future
A pandemic like the current one can only be related to in history books, which show that crises have continually set the stage for change, and often for the better. Although both the long-term and short-term effects are difficult to predict at this stage, it is clear that the current upheaval will certainly bring new sophistication and flexibility in the use of technology, bringing people and communities closer together and back to an appreciation of values that have always been taken for granted. Businesses will increasingly dive into new digital approaches, live streaming and develop a new culture of work. “We don’t know where the path we are walking on is leading to, but we will monitor the evolution of the virus and continue to respond to any new developments in the best way possible and in the interest of all concerned. We are well prepared for the future and are ready to embrace it, together with and for our employees, partners and customers.” concludes Tom Eng.