The last 18 months have given us many opportunities to grow both as individuals and as companies. We have needed to adapt, pivot, and refocus multiple times as we navigated through three waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. In our industry, this caused major spikes in buying trends, longer lead times, unprecedented growth, and issues with attendance due to staff who are self-isolating. Material costs of starch, pallets, strapping and our raw material “PAPER” increased, and shortages followed. And unfortunately, it isn’t as cool in our industry to announce we are going paperless… To top it all off, Atlantic and other industry leaders were hit with a malware attack. These truly are unprecedented times. I know what you are thinking-‘thanks Captain Obvious’!
So the question is, how did we not only survive, but thrive over these last 18 months?
Our Senior Team let go of trying to predict the unpredictable. Instead, we decided to control the controllable. We focused on OTIF (On Time In Full) and communication to both our internal and external customers. Hence, in this blog I will discuss how our communication allowed us to effectively adapt to the many changes of our norm or new norm.
So what did Atlantic do? For the past 18 months we have communicated quickly to our internal teams and our clients. We have given all the details we had whether it was good, bad or even ugly. This clarity in communication led to transparency which in turn led to trust. This improved trusting bond has opened the channels to where both internal and external stakeholders are fully committed to working through a challenge, of any type or magnitude, in collaboration.
Here are a few examples of the challenges we faced and how each one benefitted from quick, open, and honest communication:
Challenge: Extended lead times catching our clients off guard, due to their clients’ spike in business.
Customer service, Planning and Sales brainstormed ways to solve each client’s predicament separately. In many cases involving other team members that weren’t responsible for that specific customer.
Result: Many of our customers were able to find a secondary solution to their issues.
Challenge: Malware Attack – No visibility to production or deliveries.
We had employees working 18 hours a day, supporting other departments. We had our revenue teams going into the shipping area, people doing things manually like invoicing, delivery slips, and schedules for the plant. That’s not including the crazy hours our I.T. team worked for many weeks.
Results: Our clients came to the rescue as well by rescheduling their plants and updating us on our deliveries as we had no visibility. Now that’s commitment to working through a challenge together.
Challenge: Unprecedented growth in our industry.
Our clients understood the situation clearly including paper tightness, longer lead times, less flexibility and in response to such difficult situations they stepped up with us by sending regular forecasts, placing orders proactively, check inventories internally.
Results: We were able to avoid many rush situations, and in numerous cases it meant pushing orders back so that we could support them or other clients.
We would not have been able to rise above these challenges without clear, honest, and open communication as it led to a commitment of finding a solution together. A big thank you goes out to our internal teams and our loyal, understanding customers!