Keeping Business Moving
Beckett Asia Pacific (BAP) has joined the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic with its resumption of operation at its facility in Daxing District, Beijing, capital of China. BAP is a wholly-owned subsidiary of R. W. Beckett Corporation, a U.S. leading manufacturer of combustion products used in heating, cleaning equipment, and for custom applications. BAP’s Daxing plant manufactures electronic control boards for gas and oil burners for the U.S. market, with annual revenue of about US$10 million. The company also supports sales of its own heating equipment for the Chinese market. Although BAP had no previous institutional experience dealing with a public health emergency like the COVID-19 outbreak, through cooperation with the local government and careful study of public reports, it implemented safety measures appropriate to this situation immediately upon its resumption of operation on February 10.
Everything was ready before the facility reopened. The management team studied news reports, formed a virus fighting group and analyzed the roles and responsibilities of every employee. All employees have been trained in extra responsibilities to sanitize their workplaces, regular cleaning personnel have enhanced duties, and professional cleaners are brought in weekly. Normal work safety only needed marginal enhancement. As BAP workers assemble electronics, they already must wear anti-static gloves and masks to keep out dust. Now, their gloves and masks are antiviral and special disposal procedures are in place.
According to Sunny Sang, BAP’s CFO and Director of General Administration, the most important safety elements are communication and personnel management. Colin Ji, the company’s Director of Engineering, Supply Chain, and EHS (Environment, Health, and Safety), described the three to five yearly trainings that the EHS personnel working at the plant had with the local government, indicating the company’s high level of readiness to cooperate with local authorities for epidemic control. They are doing all they can to keep their workers supplied with safety equipment. General Manager Nick Sykes, in America during the epidemic due to cuts in travel connections, sourced 5,000 face masks from abroad to send back to keep the factory supplied during the outbreak.
In addition to providing for their own workers, BAP is also working to aid China in the fight against the virus. Sykes’ family adopted a girl from Wuhan in November 2019, and when the epidemic broke out in that area, he cooperated with the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) to send 24,000 N95 respirators to over 30 child welfare institutions and elder care facilities in Wuhan and other places around China. While sourcing supplies for BAP operations, Sykes was able to work with the CCCWA to get direly needed protective supplies for local facilities.
BAP is reaching as far as possible into its normal set of resources to meet the exigencies of this situation. Employees who cannot return to the office are working from home, such as IT personnel. Some of their suppliers have not yet resumed operations and some have not yet communicated with BAP, but the company knows most of the orders required for the next 12 months. They are able to adjust the schedule to fulfill some orders early, keeping workers productive while waiting for suppliers to start up again.
Sykes reported that he knows of two or three companies that have had to exercise force majeure clauses in their contracts because of the epidemic, but BAP has not yet had to do so. There is a delay of two to four weeks for some orders to be shipped to America, but he anticipates the full resumption of operations with all suppliers coming back online by mid to late March. They have supplies to keep working throughout most of the year and do not anticipate needing to engage in layoffs or unpaid furloughs.
This special period is forcing all businesses to shift gears as they seek to resume operations after the Chinese New Year holiday and the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic. BAP knows the challenges that lie ahead, and it is meeting them with full confidence and professionalism. It is keeping its employees working, and therefore earning. Companies want to care for their workers, but they can’t pay their workers if they don’t bring anything to customers. Whatever comes next, BAP is on the front lines in its sector to win the fight against the virus, and it will be in top shape when everything goes back to normal.