We spoke to Ed Carter, Sales & Development Manager for ICL to find out how they have adapted their working practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How has COVID-19 affected life at ICL as one of the industry's leading manufacturers?
It has affected us in a big way. It was brought home very quickly when a member of my sales team (Phil Collinson) came down with coronavirus fortunately, he has fully recovered. It has changed everything we do really; all our forecasts have gone out of the window and production has had to change. We have to remain open to be able to supply the industry and our customers, whilst still observing all measures to keep our staff and customers safe. It has meant a lot of working from home, for those divisions that can. We have set up systems so that the office can speak to the warehouse and so on and so forth. As you would imagine (like most people), the sales team communicating with end-users and distributors has changed as we are making use of video calls. We have got to stay in contact to know what they need so that we can feedback, call down forecasts and change production as much as we need to.
What measures have been taken to overcome some of the current challenges?
We have taken the measures to change shift patterns for the factories, making sure social distancing is being observed. The use of video calls has changed things a great deal; I think we have all learned quite a lot from it - that we can be more efficient in the way we operate day to day. It is undoubtedly challenging trying to keep everything moving; you really have got to be on top of forecasts. We have seen specific industries continue to keep going. The guys that are involved in groundsmanship are looking at when the season might reopen and should they renovate now or later. So, they are going to need some product now, albeit it less than they would have required in a typical year. In golf, we have seen an increased demand for growth regulators, so we have had to up forecasts on that product to manage grass growth. Things have significantly changed, but I think there has been an opportunity to train and communicate differently and we have done quite a few webinars. We did one last week on invasive weed species, with two hundred or more end-users logging on. We have also taken out a lot of dealer training on products like wetting agents and growth regulators. This seems appropriate and suitable whilst we have a bit of drought starting to kick in and skeletal staff in place.
Do you think what's happening now will affect the way you work once normality hopefully returns in any way?
We have been impressed with how robust Microsoft Teams and Zoom have been, as we have been forced to use them a bit more. We will no doubt continue to use them going forward, but there is still a lot to be said for face to face contact - I think customers will always want that. We can certainly be efficient going forward and will have learned something from this experience.
There are definitely going to be repercussions on the back end of this, for how people manage their turf. We have learned a lot as a supplier to the industry and I think every groundsman will have also learned a lot on how they manage their facility. I believe budgets will be affected; how people spend money to manage their courses and facilities as efficiently as they can, will see change without a doubt. Buying products that are proven and are tried and tested. Just making sure you spend your money wisely to get bang for buck is going to be at the top of everyone's list!