Friday 27th May, 2022

Keeping Australia on the move

ABHR speaks to Rema Tip Top Asia Pacific CEO Benedikt Schneider about how the company managed to keep its business moving during the COVID-19 lockdown.

As a global company, Rema Tip Top operates in every country except for North Korea, employing more than 8000 people.

However, when the time came for a local response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company moved quickly, forming a small group of leaders to develop a plan of attack.

“We wanted to be on the front foot and respond appropriately,” says Benedikt Schneider, Chief Executive Officer of Rema Tip Top Asia Pacific. “Our MateSafe culture means we take the safety of our people very seriously.”

“This philosophy became more important than ever, as it meant working to keep families and the communities we are privileged to engage with safe as well.

Related stories:

“Working in some of the most challenging landscapes in the world has prepared us to be methodical in our process to identify and mitigate risks to our business. While we are in unprecedented times, we take comfort from our process.”

Rema Tip Top’s COVID-19 Response Team implemented a number of measures to enforce social distancing requirements during the early stages of the outbreak. Staff that could work from home began doing so, travel restrictions were put in place to limit domestic travel, and a detailed checklist for managers and supervisors was created to quickly identify and isolate anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Communication was critical during the first few weeks. With potential global shipping delays looming, customers wanted to ensure they could still depend on their suppliers. Because manufacturing centres are located in Germany, the global directive was to increase stock holdings of the components that keep conveyors running.

The company’s A-class products, such as belt scrapers, and wear protection and lining, were strategically moved to warehouses around the country to ensure there would be no interruptions to essential services.

Schneider says the mining industry has been quick to respond to the safety challenges COVID-19 poses.

“Miners are no stranger to managing risks, so the industry was well-prepared to respond to the pandemic,” he says.

“They have been at the forefront of the response and we have made an effort to engage with their safety teams to ensure we are compliant with their procedures.”

Schneider says the mining industry is excellent at understanding how to use their people for maximum effect. One of the ways this has manifested during the lockdown is an increased focus on employee training.

Rema Tip Top has ramped up its external training offering, helping to teach operators how to improve processes through a better understanding of the conveyor technology. It has also put additional resources into keeping
its own teams engaged, providing training via Microsoft Teams and other online platforms.

Vocational and soft skills, such as time management and advanced Microsoft Excel skills, are part of the company’s push to broaden the capabilities of its staff. Using its internal system called Connect, Rema Tip Top has developed a number of new training modules to be delivered through webinars across the business to keep its employees engaged.

“When you arrive at Rema Tip Top, the company culture will see you grow alongside the business,” Schneider says. “You may start as a belt splicer, but all doors are open for you to develop into a leader within the business.”

A global pandemic does not only pose risks to people’s physical health, which is why Rema Tip Top has turned its focus to supporting mental health practices. The company had been developing its remote working plan for months before the pandemic hit, and one of the first questions raised was: ‘how do we keep isolated workers engaged and connected?’

The answer was to use the technology available for more than just work meetings, encouraging people to check in. The company believes social interactions and behaviours, such as talking about the footy or asking what someone did on the weekend, are important to maintain even if outside of the office. Regular “huddle” video calls between teams have been implemented to get people talking about life outside of work, and to check on the wellbeing of each other and their families.

“We take a lot for granted in working life, with humans being highly social creatures,” Schneider says.

“As our workforce dynamic changes for the foreseeable future we’re doing everything we can to ensure we remain connected to support our people and our communities.”

Schneider says the next step for Rema Tip Top Australia is to continue looking outwardly to better understand the needs of the industries it operates in.

The company has spent the last year working on improving its internal systems, connecting platforms and preparing its strategy. Now, it aims to bring its advanced conveyor product offering to new customers and markets.

“As a distributed global manufacturer, we’re moving forward with strategies to both mitigate the risks this pandemic presents, but also positioning the business for growth,” he says.