Reporting from across world markets, Enterprise Ireland’s Agritech Market Advisors have compiled this buyer sentiment update consisting of case studies from importers, distributors and leading dealerships of agricultural equipment.
As part of our Market Watch series, we have interviewed 23 companies to provide first-hand updates of the situation on the ground in key regions across the world.
Jens Altmann, Market Advisor, Automotive Industry, Enterprise Ireland Germany interviewed Robert Metzger CEO and publisher at eMove360°, a trade fair and community platform for Mobility 4.0 – electric – connected – autonomous in Munich.
eMove360° Europe is already now world’s biggest B2B trade fair for electric mobility and connected & autonomous driving.
The video interview discusses the effects of the current Covid-19 situation on new technologies, forecasts on the industry and alternative ways of connecting with stakeholder in the market.
- Effects of Covid-19 on technological development in the automotive industry
- Influence on regulations and Electromobility and its related supply chain
- How to counteract current contact restrictions e.g. alternatives for physical trade shows
See the webinar here.
Customer engagement is critical during the Covid-19 pandemic, as organisations across every industry look to connect, engage, reassure, and supply their customer base.
In this time of uncertainty and disruption, Irish BPO and IT companies have demonstrated impressive flexibility in providing their outsourced services to ensure international companies can overcome these engagement challenges from a remote setting and provide a positive customer experience.
Following Enterprise Ireland’s recent Industry Bulletin which looked at developments across the world affecting Irish BPO and IT Services companies, this edition of our Market Watch series focuses on the UK region and a key end-market for many Irish companies; the UK energy sector.
This webinar reflects on the
- Immediate impact of Covid-19 on the UK Energy sector
- Challenges for energy retailers and their customers
- Future opportunities in the sector for outsourced service providers to develop new and stronger partnerships with energy retailers in the UK.
See the webinar here.
David Corcoran, Senior Market Advisor, Enterprise Ireland UK
Peter Haigh, former Managing Director of Bristol Energy, CEO of ELEXON, and Director of Business Retail at E.ON.
Each month the Enterprise Ireland MENA Podcast will discuss the opportunities for winning business across the Middle East and North Africa.
The series will include insights from leading industry figures, in-depth analysis on emerging market trends as well as helpful advice on how best to succeed across the MENA region. Click below for the podcast from May 21st.
Mike Hogan, Regional Manager Enterprise Ireland, MENA
Jack Larkin, Trade Development Executive, Enterprise Ireland MENA
The global supply chains for technology products like smartphones and laptop computers are now almost as complex as the products themselves.
A typical smartphone, for example, is made up of components and materials sourced from up to a dozen suppliers on multiple continents, which are shipped to a manufacturer for final assembly before being sent onwards to distributors, retailers and ultimately sold to consumers.
This presents two major problems for manufacturers and others involved in the chain – visibility and provenance. A new project led by Dublin-based Exertis Supply Chain Services, with funding from Ireland’s Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF), is aimed at solving both of them.
A subsidiary of DCC, Exertis Supply Chain Services is a leader in materials supply chain design and operation. “Our focus is on technology and we provide global supply chain capability for the Exertis group and clients across the globe,” says Brian Cassidy, Head of IT and Director responsible for data protection with the company. “We are also a centre of excellence within the group for the use of blockchain technology.”
The Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund is a €500 million fund run by Ireland’s Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, as part of the National Development Plan under Project Ireland 2040. It is administered by Enterprise Ireland, the trade and innovation agency. An example of the country’s strong focus on developing some of the world’s most innovative companies, the initiative funds collaborations between research facilities and ambitious companies to develop innovative technologies that change the world in which we live.
Exertis solves visibility problems in the supply chain
The objective of Exertis’s DTIF-supported project, which also involves Dublin-based technology company Sonalake and the CeADAR Technology Centre located at University College Dublin, is to develop a blockchain-based platform, which will transform the technology product supply chain.
“The two problems we are focusing on is the need for end-to-end visibility of products and components along the supply chain and the need to prove the authenticity of products once they reach the market,” says Cassidy.
“We are using the blockchain to provide a peer-to-peer platform for authenticating provenance and we are providing visibility across the supply chain where multiple partners and a high volume of products are involved.”
The current lack of visibility and difficulty with provenance result in a number of issues. “In terms of visibility, for any participant in the supply chain it is very difficult to know what is selling and what is not,” says Cassidy.
This lack of visibility leads to problems with availability. “Typically, the retailer might know what the distributor has in stock but won’t know what the manufacturer has. Visibility is very much limited to one point up or down in the chain. A manufacturer may not know how much product distributors or retailers have because they usually don’t share that information.”
Provenance is another issue. “When the item does arrive at the retailer, proving its authenticity can be a really interesting challenge. If a fake product comes into a customer’s hands, a manufacturer wants to be able to see how it got there.”
Sharing information dynamically
The Exertis project is highly innovative in that it will provide an open platform for multiple users in multiple supply chains, with each participant being able to decide which other members of the chain they wish to share information with. Furthermore, it will allow them to share selected pieces of information with selected participants.
Once the data gets put on the blockchain it is immutable and cannot be deleted. “It is encrypted and decrypted at a granular level,” Cassidy adds. “A retailer might want to put a transaction on the platform but may not want competitors to know anything about it, whereas they do want the distributor and manufacturer to know. However, they may not be able to share with the manufacturer certain details such as the price they paid for it or what they sold it for. They can decrypt different parts of that dataset for different partners and their ERP system will be able to dynamically decide what information to share and who to share it with.”
Manufacturers will be able to see what is selling and how much product is in the channel in real time. This is important for planning manufacturing output, as well as for managing warranty liabilities. “Manufacturers will usually know how many units were sold, but don’t know exactly when. They need to know that for when the warranty starts. This platform will address that issue. It provides a place where all participants in the chain can contribute, but everyone controls their own data.”
Initial work on the project, began in 2018, with the DTIF-supported three-year project beginning in earnest in August 2019. “The DTIF funding has accelerated this project significantly and facilitated our collaboration with CeADAR and Sonalake. At Exertis, we have looked across our business and identified several exciting use cases, which we expect to roll out in several areas in the coming years”.
For more information and call dates for the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund visit the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation website.
When the novel coronavirus first emerged, Cubic Telecom acted fast to protect its staff and cement its customer relationships. Those moves are paying dividends now.
The software innovator, which has received funding from Enterprise Ireland, today employs 150 people. It experienced particularly fast growth last year and was recruiting new team members right up until January, when the first inklings of the Covid-19 crisis emerged. When it did, the company acted swiftly.
“The senior team was very focused on getting as much information in as possible early in the Covid-19 life stage. There was a focus on human impact and economic impact. We did some very detailed analysis on the impact to the company and took the right amount of time to assess the steps that needed to be taken to ensure the sustainability of the company. Once this was done the teams could be reassured and day to day work could continue as before,” says Richard Springer, the company’s Director of Commercial Strategy.
“People have come first and this has been led from CEO level down. There have been cost reductions and tighter control of the financials but at the same time, we are still driving the business forward to make sure we come out of this period in a strong position.”
As a technology company, it helped that remote working and the use of tools such as MS Teams and Zoom were already well established in the company.
Once the scale of the crisis was assessed, all staff members were asked to work from home, with some international staff flying home to their native countries to work from there. The use of video and teleconferencing has ensured productivity has been maintained ever since.
“As restrictions started coming into place, very open communication with employees was maintained and, in the background, extensive modelling work done by looking at previous events, including Spanish Flu to SARS and MERS, in order to create very good future forecasting and cash management,” explains Springer.
Decision making was quick and efficient at the top, with the senior team participating in daily catch-ups every morning. What were previously weekly catch-ups were turned into reviews of what was happening in key markets worldwide, as well as planning for the recoveries in each.
The key to successfully managing the crisis for the company so far has been to focus on ensuring there was “over communication” with both staff and customers as both cohorts adjusted to remote working.
“That meant giving people more information, communicating at a more personal level about how their family is, for example, and ensuring there was more collaboration,” says Springer, who says that acknowledging the ‘human’ side of current events is vital. “It’s about making sure the team is okay and that everyone knows what is happening.”
Being empathetic and working to safeguard employees’ physical and mental health was paramount too, with new programmes in areas such as yoga and mindfulness introduced for staff.
Adapting to customers’ needs
Cubic Telecom has customers all over the world, which means travel has always been a staple part of its customer relationship management. Business development strategies traditionally include a presence at major international trade shows, such as CES in Las Vegas and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, with vital support provided by Enterprise Ireland.
With such events no longer taking place, the company quickly predicted that customer relationships would need to be maintained and developed remotely too.
“We spent the first few weeks of the lockdown focusing on customer relationships, talking to existing customers,” he says.
While nothing replaces face to face meetings, he says, by again focusing on the human side of the situation, and encouraging collaboration, these relationships are successfully being strengthened remotely.
Although a pandemic is never welcome, the fact that Cubic Telecom is by now so well recognised in its sectors internationally helps. “We are at a point where a lot of our relationships are very well established. As a business we are also still small enough to move fast, but big enough to be recognised in the industry as a player,” he explains.
Enterprise Ireland’s backing from its earliest days led to Cubic Telecom unlocking a series of investments as it grew, including from major industry players such as Audi and Qualcomm, among others. More recent investment has come from long term backer ACT Venture Capital and the European Investment Bank.
The connected intelligence company is now acknowledged as a pioneer in eSIM technologies and advanced data analytics, offering mobility solutions for IoT, automotive and mobile device companies across the globe.
It has mobile operator partnerships in more than 190 countries, for example. One of the most recent, with Etisalat, a UAE telecoms company, was announced at an Enterprise Ireland trade mission to the Middle East.
While it is not business as usual for the company right now – too much outside its walls have changed – it is business as ‘best as possible’.
“Our employees are well informed about what is going on, our business is running as it was previously and supply chains are open and running,” he says.
As a supplier, it is critical to understand that “everyone is experiencing different impacts to their business,” he advises.
“It does not matter what size that business is, during this time everyone could be under pressure. That is the key when dealing with any business during this time. There needs to be a collaborative approach in how to get through the next months together and as much sharing of impacts, plans and information as possible to help each other.”
Download the bulletin here.
As a result of the Covid-19 global pandemic, Enterprise Ireland construction companies are experiencing unprecedented market disruption both domestically and across international markets.
Following our last market bulletin at the end of March, this report for April provides a high-level sector update from the Enterprise Ireland network of overseas construction advisors on their markets. Already we are noticing the loosening of restrictions and the strategic prioritisation of the construction industry by many national Governments.
Enterprise Ireland’s industry bulletin for the Aerospace & Aviation industry provides insights from Market Advisors across the world, on market developments in each region, exploring market conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic , developments, opportunities and supports.
Read the full report here.
Sean Long, Enterprise Ireland, Senior Market Advisor UK for Automotive interviewed Ian Henry of Auto Analysis on the changing landscape of European Vehicle Manufacturers.
The interview explores their
· current organizational structures
· plant operations
· purchasing contacts
· trade tariff considerations
· developments around new vehicle platforms.
The video interview took place on 10th March 2020, prior to Covid 19 restrictions.
Developing employee engagement now will pay dividends long into the future
Up until the pandemic, the biggest challenge facing many firms was attracting and retaining talent. That hasn’t changed, says Ryan Williams, CEO of Conscia, a training provider which specialises in employee engagement.
Conscia is the architect of a series of online modules designed to help companies maintain employee engagement throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
Each provides practical steps to take, plus easy to use templates and frameworks, to help companies maintain their employee value proposition (EVP).
Those that succeed in doing so will not only optimise productivity throughout this current, difficult time, but will be well placed to capture the opportunities of the post-pandemic surge.
Those that neglect employee engagement, however, risk damaging their reputation as an employer of choice long into the future. “It’s about asking yourself, how you want your company to be remembered after this pandemic,” says Williams.
Your EVP is an invaluable retention tool and should be robust enough to support employees in good times and in bad, he points out.
“The market for talent will be equally as competitive when we come out the other side of this as it was when we went in,” says Williams.
“Though some sectors will suffer more than others, the fact remains that if you needed a software developer before this, you will still need one after it, so it is important to get the best talent that is out there.”
The top priority for employers right now is communication.
By this stage new work practices will be established, either from home or, socially distanced, in the workplace.
“The novelty of the early stages has well and truly worn off, the buzz of setting up meetings on MS Teams and Zoom has ebbed, and people are starting to feel this will never end. The risk is that employers stop communicating when in fact it is vital to over-communicate now and throughout this process.”
Deliver your communications with confidence
In a period characterised by uncertainty and anxiety, it’s important to display “honest confidence” he says.
“Be honest and transparent and deliver your communications with confidence, even if it is bad news, such as, perhaps, having to take a pay cut to get through this. People can cope if they realise there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Empathetic leadership is essential. “You need to communicate your company’s vision and mission with empathy. It’s about understanding that your people are going through challenging times.”
Weekly ‘all hands’ meetings online are an opportunity to show that everybody is part of what is a communal effort.
“Be very honest about what you do and don’t know. The rumour mill can be difficult to manage so share the good, the bad and the ugly with honest confidence.”
Decision making in a time of crisis should be quick and decisive, with resources allocated speedily. Employee polls are a quick and effective tool for effecting change, offering maximum transparency and ‘buy in’.
Regular, scheduled and consistent communications help keep fear and anxiety at bay. Use video as much as possible. “People want to see their leaders.”
Be cognisant of the impact not just of your words, but of your tone and body language too. “Lean forward, be expressive, use your hands,” he says.
As well as large town hall type, and team meetings, make sure to set aside time for one to ones, to check in with people and see how they are doing.
Recognise and reward output. “Celebrate team wins and individual efforts more than in ordinary times. People are doing fantastic things right now so make time for shout outs in meetings and promote them on your social media too.”
Fostering ‘water cooler’ moments online helps to replicate the everyday interaction of the traditional workplace. “Don’t lose your social cohesion.”
Building trust and loyalty
At every step, focus on building trust and loyalty. “Very many companies have spent years building up their culture. Don’t lose it. Find new ways of maintaining it instead.”
Social distancing will likely continue for some time, as will working from home. “We are all living with uncertainty at present, so ‘What does this mean for me?’ is the key question people have. While you can’t control this, you can help by removing as much of the uncertainty for employees as possible.”
Provide purpose and stay positive
The current situation provides a great opportunity for learning and development. “This doesn’t have to cost you money,” he points out.
“It could be online learning opportunities, or a situation where an experienced member of staff helps train up others on a new software tool, such as cucumber. It could be a buddy system, where someone experienced is matched with someone who may be feeling overwhelmed.”
Spare capacity could be given over to executing planned projects that had previously been put off. “We have one client company, for example, who built an entire logistics platform in eight weeks, a project it had long wanted to do,” says Williams.
Such initiatives help provide purpose, an important component in employee engagement.
Set short term goals for long term results. “Focus on bite sized projects to help people navigate through.”
Finally, stay positive. “Remember, this is different from the financial crisis because it is the same for everybody. From Ireland to China to the US, the base line has lowered for everyone. So, while there is uncertainty, and a need to paint as honest a picture as possible, it’s also important to look to where the opportunities will be post-pandemic.”
To find out more about building employee engagement during the Covid-19 restrictions see here.
Download the bulletin here