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Webinar takeaways: How suppliers have been keeping their staff healthy and motivated during COVID-19

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Webinar takeaways: How suppliers have been keeping their staff healthy and motivated during COVID-19

By Elizabeth Shilpa and Michael Spinner

Moderated by World Printers Forum Director Ingi Rafn Olafsson, the webinar saw about 40 participants with whom the speakers shared how they have been keeping teams motivated.

The situation at Agfa

Agfa produces and distributes analogue and digital imaging systems and IT solutions for the printing industry.

While the pandemic has negatively affected businesses and sales across the globe, Kirschke said the company was seeing an increased demand for plates. 

This was caused by newspaper publishers building up their safety stock fearing a shortage of consumables. He added that the plate production plants have not been affected at all due to the crisis.

However, hardware sales have been struggling, Kirschke said.

“Nobody has the time or mood to decide on new investments. And with everything closed down, there is no means to go to printing sites,” - Reiner Kirschke, Agfa.

Impacts of the crisis

Kirschke listed these major effects of the crisis at Agfa:

  • Hardware decisions and installations postponed

  • Challenges around consumables such as paper stock due to the fear of papers being virus carriers

  • Increased demands for plates due to newspapers building up their safety stock

  • Challenges around keeping the sales team focused, in good spirits and trained

Keeping the sales team focused and motivated is crucial to the business, and Kischke said Agfa has been focussing on it even during the pandemic. 

“The sales teams are being trained intensively in all the time zones to keep them fit for the future,” he said. The training is being provided via webex, videos and podcasts. 

When it comes to IT services, Kirschke said 95 percent of IT and the workflow was being done remotely. 

Going forward

Kirschke said the post pandemic era would usher in a lot of changes in the business as well as in the ways the company has been functioning. 

While an immediate short term drop down is expected, he said the main focus of the company after the pandemic will be on reducing the cost of ownership. 

“It means streamlining your processes, implementing elements that will help you save whatever you like to save – be it ink or paper or energy,” he said.

“This started many years ago,” he noted.

“Now there will be an increased focus to reduce cost of ownership, to keep newspapers alive, to keep the culture of newspapers alive,” - Reiner Kirschke.

According to Kirschke, the future will see:

  • A drop down in Q3 and Q4

  • More demand for automation

  • Changes in infrastructure

  • Increased demand for freedom of workspace

  • Increase in cloud business

  • Stress-test with workflows

  • Shorter run links

  • Lean and fast processes

  • Increased focus to reduce cost of ownership

Kirschke wrapped up saying he was still optimistic. “Corona gives an opportunity to think about a lot of things in a different way, and this is the perfect moment to do it,” he said, adding: “I’m from Bavaria, and my glass of beer is always half full!”

Doing things remotely at QIPC-EAE

At QIPC-EAE, EAE focuses on newspaper press controls and workflow software, while QIPC focuses on camera-based measurement and control equipment for the graphics industry. In the Netherlands, home to QIPC-EAE, an “Intelligent lockdown” was announced on 15 March imposing restrictions until 28 April. 

This meant the company could keep their offices in the Netherlands and Germany open, from where they could still send out spare parts.

But operations in other regions have been difficult. In general, the company is trying to handle the situation by doing things remotely, Menno Jansen said.

“Like IKEA furniture, we try to do it with remote manuals and remote support which is working out quite well,” he said.

“We are trying to do the best with the tools we have,” he added. “For example, some of our service engineers were sitting at home since they couldn’t do installations and service. We utilised our Spanish and Portugese speaking engineers to follow up on earlier service requests or to make aware customers on a service requirement from South America and Spain and let them know we are around to support them even though we are not close to them.”

Direct impacts

Jansen said the main challenges for them are:

  • Difficulty in ensuring that press and machines were up and running, as service engineers could not be sent out.

  • International installations are no longer possible.

  • Seventy percent of engineers no longer able to work on-site.

  • Sales team not able to visit customers anymore, but are instead trying to keep in touch via video conferencing and telephone calls.

  • DRUPA (the largest printing equipment exhibition) was cancelled after making all the arrangements for it.

  • EAE-QIPC open house in Amsterdam was cancelled until further notice.

Amid the difficulties, Jansen said the company has been doing everything to keep the staff healthy. The company rules were changed immediately mandating social distance between employees and barring them from coming in close contact during breaks and lunch.

Ensuring safety, motivation

For those working from home, the company ensured that they had the right environment to work. 

“We checked the conditions at home of many employees who worked from home. Many were just sitting at the dining table on a normal chair, not the ideal place to work behind a computer. If you worked eight hours like that, it could cause injury to your neck and shoulder. So we provided 90 percent of our employees with monitors, printers, laptops and even chairs,” - Menno Jansen, Q.I Press Controls.

He also noted several other things the company has been doing to keep the employees motivated.

  • Asked employees to respect the same working hours

  • Started holding morning meetings by Skype

  • Tried to motivate them through these meetings and giving them tasks 

  • Inform employees on a daily basis about the situation

  • Built a “we-are-in-this-together” culture – that encourages employees to go the extra mile for their co-workers 

  • Asked staff to think out-of-the-box to do things differently

  • Asked staff to be ready for the post Corona times where things would pick up again and utilise the time in hand now to clean up and get the documentations in order.

Looking ahead

Jansen said the company might need a couple of months or longer to get out of the crisis. “What we are offering our customers now is a remote system check at lower rates,” he said. “We can remotely dial in to our customers and do a PC check, hard drives, temperatures, CPU, internet network checks, and that way we can give them preventive maintenance advice.”

Post pandemic, he said the company is also looking at conducting a customer satisfaction survey and insourcing some of the works that were earlier outsourced. 


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2020-04-15 07:39

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