Features | April 28, 2020
Tips for Manufacturers During COVID-19
As part of a webinar series, PSDA hosted “Critical Conversations for Manufacturers and Suppliers: The Economic Impact of COVID-19.” Led by industry veterans Stuart Boyar and Roger Buck, the hour-long discussion included advice for manufacturers managing client and employee relationships during economic hardship, as well as an open discussion among participants to share how they are managing their businesses during this time.
When it comes to managing distributor relationships, Boyer and Buck shared ideas around these points for consideration:
- Use this time for education. Distributors are likely having a hard time reaching their customer base or may find themselves in a quiet period. During this time, manufacturers can offer online webinars and virtual product training for their distributor base.
- Prepare distributors to ramp up marketing. In a post-virus world, marketing will be critical for distributorships. Help your distributor partners by packaging images for digital marketing and taking other steps to help them prepare for more proactive marketing.
- Manage repeat orders. Some distributors may have recurring orders in six-, nine- and 12-month increments. Keep in close communication to determine if orders need to be put on hold and help your distributors avoid unnecessary costs. On the other side of the coin, make sure your production team is aware of and prepared to make these changes, as well as able to address a possible spike in orders when business resumes.
- Keep a pulse on different markets. Some markets will recover more quickly than others when business returns to a normal cadence. Keep distributors updated on what these markets are, and which may show a lag. Offer the ability to research as a service if an employee has downtime to help with this task. Consider researching new markets distributors can enter, as well. Any insight you can share will help toward building a stronger relationship with your distributors in the long run.
- Don’t forget your suppliers. The issues your suppliers are dealing with will ultimately affect your distributors, too. Keep the lines of communication open here and learn how their supply chains and inventory have been affected, and how this may impact your ability to recover. Keep suppliers informed of your post-virus needs and any timelines you may be working on for rebound so they are prepared and working in lock step with you.
Equally important is the safety of employees and the health of the business. During an open discussion among manufacturers, these themes and tips emerged:
- Take the right safety precautions. Plants are offering gloves, masks and cleaning products for production workers. When employees are required to be in the office, meetings are still held virtually to avoid congregating in one space. Others noted they have been in close communication with their cleaning service partners to ensure they are prepared for decontamination should an employee fall ill from the virus.
- Keep morale high. To maintain a positive atmosphere, one plant is posting samples of work being done for essential businesses. The work is shared visibly as a reminder of how employees are contributing to the current crisis. Others shared they are holding virtual meetings to stay in contact with one another.
- Make smart (but sometimes tough) business choices. Many discussed their experience working with their banks nights and weekends to apply for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and for the most part, many were successful. When the possibility of labor cuts came to light, one company noted they discussed options with employees directly. All agreed to take reduced hours, avoiding layoffs and giving employees a say in the business. Others noted they are using this time to update their pandemic response plan to reflect current circumstances.
Despite challenging and uncharted circumstances, the PSDA community and its leaders have been maintaining a positive yet realistic outlook. Discussions like these show the power of such community and serve as an opportunity to learn from each other when it’s needed most.
To access the webinar recording, visit PSDA’s COVID-19 Resource Center. A complementary webinar was held for distributors and the recording can also be found in the resource center.