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Manufacturers and Distributors: Lessons Learned from the Pandemic and How to Prepare Against Future Disruptions

6/7/21 – Kristin Leadingham

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The world has been dealing with the Coronavirus for over a year now, and businesses have come a long way since the beginning of the pandemic. As restrictions begin to ease and vaccines continue to be administered, now is the time for companies to look back on the lessons learned over the past year and begin planning for the future.

Below is a look at different ways companies had to adapt during the past year.

Regulatory Environment

Throughout the duration of the pandemic, governments have issued mandates regarding shutdowns, maximum capacities, and workforce safety. These regulations even varied from state to state, forcing companies to quickly shift their focus from the grind of daily operations to meet the various requirements.

Now is the time for companies to review their business continuity plans to ensure they are up-to-date in the new environment, as well as making sure their teams are sufficiently educated on the plan. For companies that have never implemented a plan, it is more important than ever to begin creating one and designating key personnel to make sure it is properly implemented when needed.

Workforce

Due to the changes in the regulatory environment, workforces were also drastically changed. Some companies were forced to shut down altogether while others were required to reduce capacity. Companies had to determine who was essential for supporting the critical operations and how they would perform their duties (remotely or in person).

As companies look ahead, they must begin to think about what their workforce will look like. Will some employees continue to work remote, or will everyone be brought back in person? Are there roles that need to change or new training that needs to be provided? Also, what does the company need to support future growth?

Supply Chain

The pandemic resulted in significant disruptions to supply chains ranging from suspended or scaled back operations to cybersecurity breaches. As a result, companies were unable to obtain the resources needed for their own operations.

Companies need to evaluate their supply chain to ensure they are adequately diversified. While a single supplier may have cost advantages, having a relationship with multiple suppliers will help safeguard the company from becoming economically dependent on a lone supplier. Additionally, companies should consider suppliers from different locations due to potential foreign trade issues or even environmental problems such as natural disasters.

Technology

More than ever, companies must rely on technology for providing data, holding meetings, creating sales, continuing production, etc. Those who were already embracing new technologies were better equipped to adjust their operations with minimal disruption during the pandemic.

Industry 4.0 is the new trend toward automation and data exchange, in order to improve efficiencies and make decisions. This included data analytics, eCommerce, automation, cyber security, and more. As we move forward, companies will need to continue to embrace technology and determine a strategy that supports future growth.

Financial Relationships

While companies were laboring just to meet regulatory standards, the government was passing stimulus plans that included the Paycheck Protection Program, Employee Retention Credits, and various tax provisions. Companies relied heavily on their advisors to keep them informed as well as to guide them through the applications.

It is important for businesses to continue to build those relationships with their advisors as changes are expected to continue. President Joe Biden is proposing federal tax law changes that will impact manufacturers and distributors. It is critical that companies understand how these changes will impact their financial future and that they plan accordingly. Additionally, it is important to evaluate your relationships to ensure you are getting proactive support from your advisor.

What the Industry is Saying

Two regional manufacturing and distribution companies shared insight on lessons learned from the pandemic. Here’s what they had to say:

The pandemic made us look at our expenses in detail and allowed us to understand what is truly needed and what isn't. We were able to refine processes and strategies that were dragging us down rather than contributing to the well-being of our business.

In-house demo expenses decreased because we were no longer bringing customers into the facility. So, we setup Zoom demos which allowed more people to attend from our customers’ facilities with simple technology that was, at most times, no cost to us. The pandemic also provided the opportunity to strategically evaluate and restructure our executive configuration to be more effective for the overall health and longevity of the company.

- Lenny DeGirolmo, President and Managing Director
Nilpeter USA

The pandemic also gave us a greater appreciation for warehouse employees and other team members who are unable to work remotely. You can sell remotely, but there’s no revenue if you are unable to ship the product.

- Daniela Noack, Controller
TKM US

Companies must be prepared to adapt quickly to change with the environment and to ensure there is open communication in all aspects of the company. As your company plans for the future, contact your VonLehman advisor to help determine what changes you should consider. For any questions related to this article, contact Kristin Leadingham at kleadingham@vlcpa.com or 800.887.0437.