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Navigating COVID-19 and how it will change the business landscape in the steel manufacturing industry

Africa's leading manufacturer, merchandiser and distributor of steel and value-added products, Macsteel, is planning to leverage on technology to sustain its business growth as part of its post-COVID-19 business continuity plan. This is after the spread of COVID-19 created business disruption around the world, leaving many large and especially small businesses struggling.

Nival Porun, Operations Executive at Macsteel says COVID-19 has made businesses realise the importance of technology, further relying on digital technology to drive their business operations and communications.

“Before the pandemic face-to-face meetings were the norm, however through the technological infrastructure now implemented, we have assisted some areas of the Macsteel business to operate. This provided the comfort and necessity of social distancing without having to put ourselves and others at risk.”

Porun says the new landscape post-pandemic is such that every business will have to embrace the new way of operating, through technology and digital communications, while the face-to-face meetings will only be done when it is critical to do so.  The IT sector will be the area of opportunity, especially for businesses that need the technological advances to streamline their operational processes and align their businesses with the new norm.

Porun says, “Macsteel is heading in the right direction and has made major inroads in terms of using first world practices in manufacturing. We've taken steps to get to that level of applying advanced manufacturing practices aligned to 4IR practises. There are a lot of learnings and opportunities, and in terms of capabilities, I believe we will align our operations based on what has happened in recent months.  As a result of the pandemic where we were all forced to swim for survival and we have all done reasonably well in terms of keeping our heads above the water”.

He says all businesses were caught off guard by the pandemic and whilst they may have continuity plans in place from a risk perspective, not all plans are developed for a disruption of this magnitude.

If during this time, you’re negligent when it comes to the management of people or your processes regarding health and safety protocols, you run the risk of losing highly skilled staff and specialised employees and this could be detrimental to the operations of the business in the long-term.

All organisations should comply with the World Health Organisation standards in terms of process as well as health and safety procedures such as wearing of personal protective equipment for the health and safety of people working in the business.  People are key stakeholders to the business and without them the business cannot run or exist.   So, looking after your people and ensuring that they are healthy and able to work is another key factor that businesses will need to focus on in the future.

“When we were in lockdown level 5, anticipating level 4, we started preparing systems to ensure that we were compliant with the new regulations as set out by the World Health Organisation and our national government such as hygiene measures, social distancing as well as complying with the curfew whilst our employees commuted to work and back. We had to put all these processes and measures in place to ensure that our people were safe and there was business continuity as per government COVID-19 regulations.

Here are some of the key lessons that came out of our experience with COVID-19 that can provide guidance to other businesses:

  • Your business continuity plan needs to be driven from the top-down rather than bottom-up and this should be aligned with your compliance standard. If you don't align your continuity plan with the legal compliances, you’re putting your organisation and executives at risk of being fined or prosecuted.
  • Ensure that your processes for health and safety measures are updated and in place and the culture of the business is aligned to these practices.
  • Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket, spread them as much as possible to mitigate where possible from a risk perspective.
  • Identify opportunities to improve business operations to be more technologically driven.

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