Life after COVID-19

A GREATER emphasis on agile supply chain methods, a ramp-up of e-commerce ordering, greater reliance on sophisticated machine monitoring and new ways of assessing machine issues are among the things machinery makers expect to become a way of life post COVID-19.
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Komatsu believes suppliers may be more efficient when the COVID-19 pandemic passes.

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Komatsu Australia executive general manager of people and strategy Colin Shaw said the flexible deployment of key staff to areas of immediate need had become part of a rapid evolution process over the past two months.

"We are already planning for life after COVID-19 and it will contain efficiencies that we have developed as a response to the pandemic," he said.

"People have been at the height of our COVID-19 strategy."

More than two thirds of Komatsu's Australia and New Zealand workforce of 3400 have continued to provide service and manufacturing functions in the company's plants and in the field.

Office staff have, in the main, worked from home.

Komatsu Australia CEO Sean Taylor said probably the biggest change had been senior people no longer going to site.

However, despite that productivity remained high.

"I'm not sure I'll let people travel again," Taylor told Australia's Mining Monthly.

While he was speaking half in jest, Taylor had been impressed with how his team had been able to respond to the changes the COVID-19 restrictions had forced on the way they worked.

"We're getting a lot done and spending a lot less time on planes," Taylor said.

Shaw said Komatsu had worked with the Minerals Council of Australia to ensure recommended protocols met industry standards during the pandemic.

Komatsu's technicians have been COVID-19 trained and certified.

Paramedics have been employed at key manufacturing sites and split shift protocols had been introduced ranging from separated workplaces and crib rooms through to designated machinery disinfection time between major operations.

"Meticulous process detail goes right to the heart of good customer relations," Shaw said.

"Once a machine has been serviced and cleaned, a tag indicates its condition, which gives customers confidence that every consideration has been taken to ensure the health of their employees."

Komatsu has also set up a team to deal with customer problems.

"A flying squad of technical experts was moved from Western Australia to Queensland in recognition that members might be isolated for some time and that on-ground local support is far more efficient in current times," Shaw said.

"Paramount was the ability of our people to make that commitment without putting their family or personal requirements at risk."

WesTrac CEO Jarvas Croome said the restrictions imposed to help stop the spread of COVID-19 had decimated air freight, which had led to a change in the way the Caterpillar dealer operated.

Take the case where a part fails.

Pre COVID-19 parts would be sent back to Caterpillar in the US via air freight for assessment.

In the COVID-19 environment Caterpillar has asked for photographs of the part to be sent instead.

Air freight costs have risen six-fold and wait times have blown out.
Croome said if further assessment was needed the part would be sea freighted to the US.

That takes three months to sea freight items back to the US.




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