3 minute read 18 Jun 2020
Young woman in conference room using laptop

COVID-19: How COOs can sustain operations and keep workers engaged

By

Glenn Steinberg

EY Global and EY Americas Supply Chain Leader

Helping companies transform, create value and optimize business performance. Thirsty for knowledge. Ski enthusiast. Husband and father of two Michigan Wolverines.

3 minute read 18 Jun 2020

Operations must continue, but on a remote basis for the foreseeable future and, in the longer term, with resiliency fully embedded.

In brief
  • Look at sustainable cost reductions and focus on delivering the most important SKUs.
  • Help people use spare capacity productively. This will help improve their performance and secure their long-term loyalty.
  • Make resiliency part of daily operations by stress testing the business and supply chain for potential disruptions and uncovering any gaps.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned operations on its head. Site closures, remote working, and the previously unthinkable possibility of losing key staff to illness or worse, present a highly urgent and complex scenario for COOs.

The situation and expectations for COOs

Ensuring the safety of the workforce is priority number one. It requires enhanced situational awareness and the ability to locate all personnel along with fail-safe methods to communicate with them.  But it’s also critical to keep them engaged and motivated.

However, policies and procedures typically designed for “business as usual” may become barriers for companies responding rapidly in this global pandemic threat. A new protocol has to be defined and invoked.

Seven actions for COOs

1. Look at sustainable enterprise cost reduction

Many industries need to adjust to very different revenue levels and will need to reset their costs appropriately for the long term.

2. Plan ahead

Compile a list of your customers and establish a strategy to serve them for at least the next four to six months, while identifying the level of communication and priorities for each. Validate interdependencies by tracking and responding to critical supplier or third-party vendor interdependencies and resiliency challenges as they emerge.

3. Evaluate SKUs and distribution channels

COOs should focus less on manufacturing a wide range of SKUs and focus on ensuring a continuous supply of the most important ones. Many industries have seen a dramatic shift to online distribution, so this channel needs to be set up profitably. Later on, as society ramps back up, all SKUs can be assessed for whether they’re needed any more.

4. Explore ways to guide people through this period

Many people have spare capacity, so help them access opportunities for professional and personal development. This will help improve their performance and secure their loyalty once the pandemic has lifted. There are thousands of online learning resources externally, and organizations can encourage employees to explore internal courses too – for example, the EY Badges program that contributes toward a Tech MBA.

Help guide people through this period by encouraging them to access opportunities for professional and personal development.

5. Facilitate agile mindsets and methods

Allowing employees to run self-forming teams, and prioritizing results and pace over organizational structure, can have a double advantage – higher productivity and reduced management workload for COOs.

6. Restructure resiliency governance

Integrate key stakeholders from business functions, crisis management, continuity, technology and security services into one operating model to drive full transparency around risk and build confidence to sustain business operations. Instigate regular performance testing, and identify and address resilience challenges in the supply chain, such as reduced service from critical suppliers. Also build greater visibility into extended businesses: for manufacturing-centric value chains that means developing end-to-end visibility from Tier N supply base through the distribution network to customers.

7. Embed resiliency into daily business operations

Stress test the business and supply chain for other types of potential disruptions, uncover the gaps and build a plan to build resiliency in. Coordinate changes across enterprise resiliency plans, innovating rapidly with the aid of a resiliency platform to integrate plans.

Summary

COOs must focus on ensuring the safety of the workforce but it’s also critical to keep employees engaged and motivated. However, policies and procedures typically designed for “business as usual” may become barriers for companies responding rapidly in this global pandemic threat. A new protocol has to be defined and invoked.

About this article

By

Glenn Steinberg

EY Global and EY Americas Supply Chain Leader

Helping companies transform, create value and optimize business performance. Thirsty for knowledge. Ski enthusiast. Husband and father of two Michigan Wolverines.