COVID-19 has created a volatile market and will continue to negatively impact every business sector until we have a clearer picture surrounding the length and depth of this pandemic. In the technology industry, businesses are dealing with a dramatic strain on their supply chains all around the world. Companies are limiting travel, cancelling meetings outside of office walls and temporarily banning non-essential visitors. Most organizations are also sending employees home to work, and we’ve seen a few companies that have been forced to lay workers off.
Day-to-day operations for most companies have also changed drastically. We’re seeing more and more businesses invest in virtual tools and technology platforms to alleviate the challenges of social distancing. The use of online meeting platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams is surging. The efforts of IT firms and in-house IT teams have ramped up as companies work to facilitate an efficient online work environment. Laptops and webcams around the world are also sold out as companies place hundreds of thousands of orders to ensure their employees can work from home.
Fortunately, advancements in technology have significantly mitigated the impact of COVID-19. There are various technology platforms and companies that are facilitating a smoother transition into a virtual work environment. Acronis, a member of the Arizona Technology Council and a Scottsdale-based leader in cybersecurity, is offering its enterprise-grade file sync and share solution free to all service providers at no charge to support remote workers through July. This is helping companies retain strong security measures in this new work environment.
Everyone is feeling the impact of COVID-19, but businesses are adapting to survive, and many will come out stronger in the end.
As mentioned above, one of the most significant things we’re seeing is a larger investment in webinar platforms and social media tools, which are providing new ways for companies to engage with their audiences. Council board member Rebecca Clyde and her company Botco.ai are providing their AI-powered, automated chat service free of charge throughout the course of the COVID-19 closures to franchisors in the beauty and wellness industries. These types of tools help companies connect with their audience, share information, conduct transactions virtually and continue to keep business going. In fact, we’re probably seeing more customer engagement now than before the outbreak as companies work hard to keep everyone updated on operations and the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses.
In addition to moving engagements, events and meetings to a virtual environment, we are also seeing businesses make significant operational changes or pivots to better serve customers in this time of crisis. In the engineering and manufacturing sector, there are several companies here in the Valley that have shifted production to help serve healthcare customers.
Benchmark is supporting medical customers focused on developing solutions to prevent, test and treat COVID-19. The design, engineering, testing and manufacturing provider has ramped up production on or helped redesign key devices, such as ventilators, portable X-ray units, chest scanning devices, nitric oxide treatment systems, diagnostic equipment and infusion pumps for temporary hospitals. Benchmark is also working on two transformational polymerase chain reaction testing products — one for COVID-19 and another for sepsis, a common condition in COVID-19 patients — that will yield results within an hour.
Tucson-based Universal Avionics and Honeywell have also joined the fight by shifting some areas of production to help produce medical face masks and shields. Honeywell has even committed to hiring 500 new workers to help meet the healthcare industry’s demand.
Phoenix-based Prorenata and Tucson-based Paradigm have reconfigured production to the development of testing kits. The Biodesign Institute at ASU is working on developing innovative robotics platforms to handle larger volumes of COVID-19 tests. The Translational Genomics Research Institute is working with government bodies at every level to expand testing across Arizona. PADT is using its product design, simulation and 3D printing expertise to help design and build ventilators for The University of Arizona Medical Center.
Whether they are directly serving the healthcare industry with technology and safety equipment to fight COVID-19 or investing in virtual platforms to engage with customers, Arizona businesses are becoming more innovative to serve customers in this time of crisis.
At this time, supply chains are certainly constrained. Non-essential businesses in the technology industry that rely on national and international supply chains are having a tough time. However, just as production remains steady or, in some cases, is increasing in essential industries, the supply chains for these industries haven’t been affected as significantly. In some instances, such as in the medical sector, companies around the world have worked hard to improve and accelerate their supply chains to ensure devices and equipment critical to the healthcare industry are abundantly available.
The threat of COVID-19 has certainly made many companies wary of international supply chains as well. However, we’ve come together around the globe to ensure components and materials necessary to maintain a somewhat normal life, as well as those needed to prevent, test and treat the outbreak, remain available. Large companies such as Phoenix-based Avnet and Intel have seen their supply chains come back online quickly as suppliers in China, South Korea, Japan and others reopen and restart their economies.
I believe we will see more companies leverage virtual tools to engage with customers and partners more frequently than ever before. With the increased investment in webinar platforms, social media tools and online meetings, we’ve all become more adept with technology, and companies have quickly learned to utilize virtual tools to conduct daily business.
I also anticipate that as we return to what resembles normalcy, more companies in technology will utilize a remote workforce. The infrastructure and technology are now set up to allow employees to work from home. Many businesses, especially small ones operating online, also will take advantage of the cost savings available with a full or partially remote workforce.
But to be human is to connect and collaborate with others. Given what we have all been through together, relationships have been enhanced and the face-to-face human connection will be ever more vital to our future.
This is one part of the June 2020 cover story on industry impact of COVID-19. To see the full story, click here.