Adapting to business-not-as-usual during COVID-19
An update from Kudiwa Waste & Energy Solutions, Zimbabwe
Business was looking up for Fadzai Munyuki and her team at Kudiwa Waste & Energy Solutions (KWES) earlier this year. Then operations had to stop suddenly following the orders of the Zimbabwean government, who like many others, initiated a 21 day restricted movement order as a response to the corona virus.
“We have a lot of product orders, so the temptation is to go out and produce. But we need to follow these restrictions to protect ourselves and everyone around us. This is important as we can’t afford to fall sick.” Fadzai explained.
KWES is in the business of transforming plastic waste into affordable construction materials. The enterprise contributes to a clean, safe and healthy environment by recycling plastic waste that would otherwise end up in landfills and oceans. As such, they do not fall under essential services (health, policy, food) and are not allowed to go to their usual production site to work.
“We are currently not producing, and not able to deliver our orders on time to customers. We also still have to meet overhead costs and expenses, regardless of how we perform at the end of the month”.
We are currently not producing, and not able to deliver our orders on time to customers. We also still have to meet overhead costs and expenses, regardless of how we perform at the end of the month.
Adapting to unprecedented circumstances
Nevertheless, the team is pulling together so that they can be proactive and not reactive during this period. In the short term, they have diverted their priorities to focus on administrative work, things that can be moved online such as developing a new website, their marketing and accounting.
When it comes to staff at the production line, Fadzai says that, “Production workers might have to wear the basic protective clothing such as facemasks after the mandatory lockdown and in the months to come as we continue to operate.” The team is also researching strategies that other small businesses are using to survive this period.
Fadzai shares that they have initiated negotiations with property owners to pay their rent later. “We also talked to the landlord who in light of our challenges allowed us to defer our rent for the month of April and also agreed to reduce the rent during this lease period,” Fadzai explained.
They also make a point to communicate with their customers that delivery will be late due to the lockdown and continue to update customers on their progress.
To stay ahead of the situation, they are keeping abreast of external developments that may affect the company, Fadzai says, “Keeping ourselves aware of economic and social environment – for example, prices and currency exchange rate changes, or any potential governmental aid is important.”
Smart & flexible adaptation
To adapt to the sudden change of circumstances, KWES has built an open shade area outside their original production site to continue production while allowing staff to practice social distancing outside of a confined work environment.
At the time of writing, Zimbabwe allows manufacturing companies to operate from 8am to 3pm. “We have therefore hired 3 more contract workers up until we meet our current market demand.” An administrative change to help manage the enterprise’s cash flow was also to convert salaries from time based (weekly / monthly) to production based (per outputs).
Supply of raw materials has become scarce and expensive because most suppliers are not at work. “Most of our suppliers are individuals so they are not allowed to resume work yet. We are considering ways of collecting waste at source such as homes and industries for this duration.”
Fadzai also makes sure the team is kept up to date on health and safety protocols in regards to the pandemic, through short meetings three times a week. In this way the team is on stand by to prepare for changes. “Ultimately our solution is never to panic, never to quit, anticipate what is going to happen, not be afraid of change and make decisions quickly so as to avoid losses and missing out on opportunities. We are on the lookout for any opportunities that can arise for us as a result of the pandemic.”
Asked if any advice to others who are weathering through the pandemic, Fadzai shares:
“Remain optimistic. Brainstorm to get as many creative ideas as possible. Sit down with your staff and be open to their opinions and suggestions. Do not miss out on external support such as the COVID-19 resilience workshops that SEED is offering for free. It is not business as usual, so just be alert and be willing to do things different. Do your best to embrace change.”