Building on strengths

The Insider – courtesy of Lift & Hoist International magazine.

Jon Backes, vice president at The Crosby Group, describes negotiating the challenges of the pandemic and the adaptions that will stick as we move into the recovery phase.

Recently I have been asked how The Crosby Group has handled the ongoing pandemic at our factories across the globe.  I understand why people enquire as we’ve got approximately 30 global sites with a heavy footprint in Europe and North America—both COVID-19 hotspots.  The non-discriminatory nature of the virus means global companies have been hit the same as mom-and-pop stores. Around us we have seen restaurants, retail stores and other non-essential businesses shut down. Luckily, we are starting to recognize some signs of life as many businesses reopen.

Throughout COVID-19, The Crosby Group’s manufacturing and distribution sites have been delivering product to our customers with relatively little disruption to our supply chain.  We have been fortunate to have a skilled team working to keep our employees safe and orders fulfilled.  So, what has been our recipe?

First and foremost, COVID-19 is a safety incident, but not like any other.  What do we look for when safety issues surface? Data. Information. Facts. Figures. Roadmaps. Experts.  We see leading indicators for incidents (near misses) and we adjust to eliminate them. We monitor best practices and new insights and we adopt them.  For us, these actions are not only focused on how we ensure safety and quality internally, but also how our products enable safe working environments around the world.

Now, look at the data and signals we get every second around the changing landscape of COVID-19. We consume statistics around infections, death, mobility, hospitalizations, and at the end of it all, recovery. There is so much information at our fingertips that it is often difficult to interpret it all.  What’s even more challenging is taking new analyses and emerging best practices and placing bets in our daily lives that yield tangible results.  How do we make sense of it all?

Like all of us, I’m constantly observing how my peers and customers are approaching COVID-19 and doing my best to learn from it.  Based on what I have experienced thus far, I see several key best practices in navigating these unprecedented times:

Focus on safety as the top priority.  As we navigate this fog of data, we must keep our teams grounded on our core value of safety.  In our industry, safety issues don’t stop.  Unfortunately, there are lifting incidents more often than we would like to see.  And with COVID-19 we are now fighting safety on more fronts than ever before.  We keep our teams diligently focused on how we can best enable a safe workplace and produce the highest quality products – for the safety our team members and for our customers.

Keep it simple and adapt locally. For manufacturing sites, the safety of the team starts with a simple set of global best practices: have a response plan, implement the most up-to-date cleaning practices, social distance, adjust shifts and workspaces to create space –  all tenets of placing employees’ safety first. This minimum set of rules at every site creates a framework to reliably manage risks.  As mentioned, we are absorbing a tremendous amount of data and insights about COVID-19. The leadership teams at each and every one of our facilities continue to innovate and respond to local, provincial and federal guidelines in each country and region where we operate.

Communicate often.  I find that information is often the antidote to uncertainty.  For our employees, we routinely update them on the latest work practices and guidelines through newsletters, town hall presentations and video podcasts.  Equally as important has been our communication with our customers, through multi-media formats and simple phone conversations, to check-in on their teams and businesses as well as keep them updated on our continued ability to deliver product.  Also, comparing strategies with peers from other companies has been beneficial – we are all facing similar challenges but can benefit from understanding the pros and cons of various approaches.

Build on your strengths.  Looking back on how our leadership has handled the pandemic mirrors our long-established manufacturing strategy – global presence with local end-to-end capabilities.  As I’ve written before, in times of any safety or other incident, a business like The Crosby Group benefits from a vertically integrated manufacturing strategy.  We have found that our high degree of vertical integration allows us to keep our production focused and simplified with fewer handoffs from raw materials to finished goods.  And those same local teams that ensure our product quality is best-in-class allowing us to firmly stand behind our products are the teams making decisions and taking action to keep our people safe.  Even as a vertically integrated company, COVID-19 can teach us lessons and I’d place a bet on the fact that many firms are exploring more vertically integrated systems.  I’ve spoken to representatives of several companies who are experiencing many challenges trying to bridge fractured supply chains.  The reality is that if a facility suffers a COVID-19 incident somewhere along their supply chain and must shut down for two weeks, imagine the wider impact that can have.  In that sense, this pandemic has been the acid test for any vertically integrated manufacturing process and serves as a reminder that companies must strive to fill in supply chain gaps where possible.

As we enter the recovery phase of the pandemic, I am really interested in the ability of people to adapt and work together in times of adversity.  COVID-19 is so monstrous, in every sense, that perspective has been the hardest thing for us to find. One moment, people are understandably panicking about their businesses, the next worried about bars and restaurants reopening, and then just grateful to have their family safe and well. Some may crave a return to the old world, but fret that it might not be safe to venture out. Thus, camaraderie has become very important as we tackle this safety incident and transition to the recovery.

To talk about a transition though implies that we’re changing from one state to another. That’s open to interpretation as I anticipate that we’ve already arrived at our end destination when it comes to certain best practices.  For example, will rigorous cleaning practices and personal hygiene routines be relaxed?  When will be the next time I arrive at a business meeting and shake hands?  Will face masks become accepted company policy for anyone feeling under the weather or recently recovering from an illness?

For The Crosby Group, addressing COVID-19 has been a thoughtful reminder of our core values of safety, reliability and innovation. We must tackle the challenges of COVID-19 safely to keep our employees healthy, and we need to do so reliably in order to create peace of mind. Finally, all of us have to address the virus innovatively as information and facts are ever evolving.


Close Comments