Living with the coronavirus at Krones: Part 2

April 2020: up to 7,000 Krones staff are working from home, for the “rest” (after all, a roughly 4,000-strong workforce in production, logistics and quality assurance), who are keeping the flag flying in the German facilities, a sophisticated shift and zone system has been put in place. Why go to all this trouble? The answer is simple: to reduce the risk of infection – and in this way be able to keep our business up and running. The first part of our blog series “Living with the coronavirus at Krones” has already given you an idea of these and many other measures we have taken. What we’re focusing on today is daily business in coronavirus times – and on how we’re managing to get machines and components ordered to our clients, and to provide them with the service they need even in this situation.

No matter whether it’s a single component or a finished machine: assuring delivery capabilities

At Krones, it’s only possible to put together assemblies, machines and lines if there are no bottlenecks in parts procurement. So as to ensure an uninterrupted supply from vendors or Original Equipment Manufacturers (aka OEMs), the Supply Chain Management Taskforce (set up in March) maintains a process of regular mutual feedback with the 3,000 most important vendors, and checks their delivery-capability status. And this has paid off: thanks to good cooperation between every party involved and not least to the in some cases proactively increased inventories, luckily there have not been any supply bottlenecks at any time.

When it comes to dispatch, we likewise depend on external factors: for example, around 80 per cent of airfreight consignments shipped by Krones are transported in passenger aircraft. Due to the enormous restrictions in worldwide air traffic, our staff in logistics now have to deploy all their coordinatory skills to ensure that the goods are delivered to the centres or to our customers right on time. As far as seafreight is concerned, we’re likewise confronted with some obstacles to overcome. However, as things stand today, these minor jams and shifts can be effectively compensated for – and in the majority of cases we can still deliver our goods within the agreed timeframe if there is a Krones technician at the customer’s site to receive the shipment.

Open, transparent communication

Are the parts currently required actually available? Can the technician provide the support needed? Or will there possibly be delays in delivery? In the times we’re going through at the moment, questions like these are obviously pressing concerns for our clients. Since the beginning of this year, we have been giving more general answers to the questions most frequently asked in a number of official emails, with which we’re keeping our customers up to speed. And when quite detailed questions on a specific project are asked, that’s where are colleagues in sales are involved. But instead of – as had otherwise been customary – being out there on the spot for important deadline coordination or during the hot phase of a project, communication nowadays takes place almost exclusively in virtual space. With major key accounts or clients in countries far away, in particular, video conferences were the order of the day even before the coronavirus appeared on the stage. However, the travel restrictions have meant quite a large change especially for brewers or filling companies located within driving distance from Krones’ facilities. But here, too, the maxim applies: if the IT infrastructure is up to the job, the new online communication options will be used – and should the internet link happen to fail in an individual case, then most issues to do with ongoing projects can be just as effectively resolved over the good old telephone.

Service support: here to stay

But not every issue can be resolved exclusively by digital or telephonic means – especially not in cases where the machine is at the client’s premises and technical support by a Krones expert is needed. In such cases, the usual response is: send out a service support technician. 2,700 fitters are travelling the globe on behalf of Krones. Worldwide travel restrictions, however, cancelled flights or clients’ own isolation regulations are currently posing quite substantial challenges for them. “Just waiting” until it will be easier to travel to the customer’s facility is obviously not a viable option at present. And this is why Krones is at precisely the current juncture benefiting from its strong, decentralised service support network – its local experts are more in demand than ever before because it’s they who are at present carrying out urgently needed service support jobs on the spot at clients’ plants. In this, they are assisted by their colleagues at home in the shape of remote access, by telephone through teams, or with the help of smart glasses. But: not all fitters are currently in their home country. Even though Krones in mid-March put it at the discretion of all 2,000 technicians who were out in the field back then to return home, around 70 per cent of them at that juncture decided to stay put, so as not to let the client down due to a precipitous departure, because they felt they were safe enough where they were. And here a definite “Thumbs up” is in place for so much commitment and loyalty to Krones and, of course, our customers!

If after this and last week’s review of living with the coronavirus at Krones I wanted to give an interim verdict, then it reads: with the help of unprecedented and in some cases pragmatic means, Krones has turned “Mission Impossible” into a success and made sure that business could be kept up and running as best as possible even in these times of crisis. In doing just this, the Krones team is at present mostly topographically separated, that’s true, but in its day-to-day work has moved even closer together. Our claim of “we do more” is here taking on an entirely new dimension, don’t you think? In the next part of our blog series, you will learn what else is behind our “we do more” motto – and how Krones is living up to its social responsibility even in these less-than-easy times.