Five Q&As on the company’s response to the coronavirus situation with Sanjay Mathur, Vice President for India and South East Asia
How is the coronavirus impacting health and safety in Foseco?
As a global company, Vesuvius and its Foundry Division Foseco, are closely monitoring the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Our primary focus has been to protect the health and safety of our people, their families and that of our customers and business partners. As with many organisations, we are taking steps to ensure that the health and safety of our staff is safeguarded, whilst where possible seeking to secure the continued operation of our business and protect the interests of our customers.
What impact does the coronavirus have on Foseco’s production and sales?
Our operations have inevitably been disrupted as we deal with temporary site closures and supply chain issues such as longer lead times and sometimes shortages of key raw materials and our teams are working hard to maintain business continuity.
We have updated our operating procedures in our production facilities to maintain social distancing where possible, to provide additional PPE where necessary and intensified our hygiene program. This presents many challenges but I am confident that our teams can overcome them.
We have implemented home working for a significant number of our staff and introduced safe working practices in all our offices and production facilities. Our selling and technical teams continue to provide support and advice to our customers through the increased use of video conferencing and technical training webinars.
How is Foseco contributing to solving the coronavirus situation?
Many of our operations have been actively involved in supporting their local communities in the fight against COVID 19 including:
- Provision of materials and equipment to the local community to manufacture 10 000 face masks in Brazil.
- Donation of 1500 litres of hand sanitiser to the local community and the Red Cross in Germany.
- Distribution of protective kits including face masks, gloves and hand sanitiser to contractors working on our sites in Mexico.
- Manufacture of special plexiglass boxes to allow health staff to treat CVOVID patients safely in the USA.
- Given PPE to local hospitals and provided food for local police on duty as well as migrant workers.
How is the coronavirus situation affecting your work as Vice President for India and South East Asia?
The coronavirus situation has thrown up many challenges. We faced closure of all our factories and the corporate office in India due to the national lockdown. Our factories have restarted but operating at very low levels of productivity. The demand from the industry as of now is extremely low and the revival will be slow and painstaking. Automotive, general engineering, valves, railways etc., most of the sectors are suffering except for mining and agriculture.
During the lockdown, we had to quickly adapt to set up virtual channels of communications with our teams at all levels, to ensure the safety of all our staff in light of this unfamiliar threat and make continuous efforts to restart operations and reduce our costs and working capital. We worked hard to develop emergency response procedures to manage such calamities, developed plant shutdown and restart protocol and revised our preventive maintenance systems for our equipment/machinery/facilities.
A tricky challenge faced by us was to ensure restart of operations without putting our people and plants at risk of an accident through deteriorated chemicals, clogged pipes or valves and possible damage to electrical installations. Through sheer in-depth and intense work by the team we started operations without any safety incident. Some of our strong protocols for staff safety were picked up by the local industry/government as best practices.
The morale of the team needed to be kept high in such a situation. Through daily update meetings with top 30 leaders of the region, fortnightly virtual townhalls and multiple other interactions we managed to keep the team spirit high. The Indian Foundry team feels confident that it will come out of this even stronger than before. This is a great learning experience for everyone including me. A crisis teaches a lot more than normal times. The most important learning for me has been that with the right direction and motivation, teams can rise several notches up in their efforts and performance and deliver astounding results.
How does the coronavirus impact your long-term view of Foseco and the foundry industry?
The foundry industry has been severely disrupted by the crisis, as in many countries, businesses closed temporarily to help reduce the spread of infection. We will inevitably experience a short term drop in casting demand due to the current downturn and we may unfortunately lose some foundries on the way, but castings remain a critical component across a broad base of end-user sectors and I don’t see that changing any time soon. COVID, as with any other major shock to our economic system will create both problems and opportunities for ourselves and our customers and we must react quickly to respond to them.
As for Foseco, we have a long history in the foundry industry and have weathered many storms in the past. We have a strong product portfolio and excellent people and our increasing focus on R&D is starting to bear fruit. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be launching several new products this year, especially for the aluminium foundry sector which is a key market for us. I have been impressed with how our people have responded to the crisis, and I am confident that we are well placed for the recovery to come.