Positivity and connection during COVID-19

PACE speaks to Treotham Automation managing director Mikael Paltoft about how the company is overcoming challenges to their supply chain during COVID-19.

Paltoft counts his company as lucky during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The disruption in air freight and delivery costs, which according to Paltoft have been raised by nearly 600 per cent, has not stopped the company from moving its operations forward.

It is business as usual for Paltoft, whose phone starts ringing at 8am in the morning. He said his staff had adapted very well to new ways of work.

“We went very quickly to working from home, even if we couldn’t go out and see customers like we normally do,” Paltoft said.

Salespeople at the company’s offices across Australia in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth have continued to communicate with customers and provide client support.

In terms of supply and demand trends, Treotham is seeing similar figures for April compared to the same time last year, but expects to see a slowdown in the coming months.

“We are right on budget, so that was 10 per cent up from last year,” Paltoft said.  “The main slowdown is because it’s very difficult to get goods in. That’s the biggest roadblock for the moment to get goods in from Europe.”

In the meantime, the company has turned to sea freight to order new stock.

While the company’s office and warehouse in New Zealand were completely shut down, there is still good business in Australia during the downturn.

“We have ordered in extra stock by sea freight from our key suppliers to be able to supply our key customers, and make sure we have sufficient stock if a problem to source products arises,” Paltoft said. “We especially need to be able to supply our ongoing projects, such as in telecom, railway and infrastructure.”

Paltoft said he was happy with how the government has managed to keep the number of coronavirus cases down amid the uncertainty.

Treotham is still working with manufacturers on-site to solve problems, while applying social distancing measures.

Australian customers can arrange virtual product or engineering meetings with the company.

One of the company’s biggest suppliers for 30 years, igus has continued business with meetings on Microsoft Teams to showcase products.

Paltoft said working with igus as a long-time business partner is very useful when it comes to observing business during the pandemic.

“It’s interesting to see how we can utilise igus in Germany,” he said.  “They’re very much at the forefront when it comes to how they work in this COVID-19 environment.”

igus recently built up a virtual technical engineering machine exhibition, where every customer can still walk into the stand, and salespeople showcase products.

“Because the Hannover Fair Exhibition was cancelled, they decided to still go ahead with the show, but they did it in-house,” Paltoft said. “They invited every customer to come have a look even, but through goggles.”

Although order intake slowed down “a lot” at the start of the pandemic due to uncertainty, Paltoft said weekly online meetings are helping staff stay connected and bring production back to normal.

“The positive thing is we have a much better contact with the branches now because we’re using Microsoft Teams,” he said. “We’ve been pretty lucky at Treotham.”