We are in shock. All of us. For a few weeks now, it has been very complicated for us (impossible in many cases) to predict how the future will behave based on our past experience. Even the shortest-term future.

It would be interesting to analyze the reasons why human psychology make us feel insecure and afraid in this situation, but possibly it would be far from what is expected from a technology publication. Or perhaps it is not, and it may help to demonstrate how technology, properly applied to the service of people and organizations, can serve to mitigate the impact of an event that is causing millions of people to be confined to their homes.

Tele-work and remote management in times of COVID-19

There is no question about the dramatic consequences that will derive from the current situation, both on our lives and on the economy. Ages ago, we would possibly be talking of several decades necessary to overcome an unexpected event like this.

For sure, the emotional and social impact, the most significant, cannot be avoided. But fortunately, the also relevant long-term sequels derived from the immediate interruption of the productive activity can be mitigated. Thanks to technology.

What many of us did right after the forced confinement notice was to prepare ourselves to perform our work duties from home. Each from his own, but as a team, keeping the organization active. For technology companies, digital native, it is easier to adopt this kind of flexible methodologies that allow them to keep the company operating with a minimal productivity penalty (even zero in many cases).

However, contrary to what might be expected, there are other much older and apparently traditional organizations that, based on the transformation of their internal organizational processes, have been also able to implement these agile mechanisms. And for sure they have been affected by the situation, but in a less dramatic way and showing a really quicker adaptation than their competitors. That is precisely the most significant benefit of true digital transformation.

On this matter, Global Omnium, the second largest private water utility company in Spain, with a 130 years background, can be highlighted as a relevant example.

The company manages all aspects related to the collection, purification and distribution of drinking water, along with sewage and wastewater management in more than 300 municipalities in Spain and other 7 countries. Their business includes the management of a 15,000 kilometers network of pipes and 500 facilities, providing service to more than 3 million people.

In this case, more than ten years ago the company started a digitization process that has led to the full integration of its production management systems. Among other initiatives, the integrated control center, based on Nexus Integra, was put into operation more than four years ago. The whole company operation is managed from it, performing tasks such as checking that the operation is correct, receiving system alarms and coordinating maintenance tasks.

This control center, along with the company headquarters and the rest of the offices, was closed more than two weeks ago. And it could be done with minimal impact despite being a crucial piece for the infrastructure operation and the supply of a basic service, because it has been adapted to allow fully remote operation. This makes it possible to manage every process and coordinate all the operation exactly as if it remained open and functioning.

As a result, dozens of people have been able to stay in their homes without generating a significant penalty in the due service, and remaining protected from the contagion and so, limiting the spread of the epidemic.

The cost of having been prepared

Of course, not all situations are the same and is it not possible to apply the same methodology over all companies. However, it has recently become clear that being able to remotely and completely monitor, organize and manage industrial processes has a tangible benefit when it is essential to minimize the presence of manpower in offices and production centers. The return on investment is evident in this scenario.

“it has recently become clear that being able to remotely and completely monitor, organize and manage industrial processes has a tangible benefit”

All the companies that seriously and rigorously decided to embrace this transformation process assure the same: it has been a complex task but the benefits are extremely significant, particularly when the scenario changes and there is no turning back.

That is why it is worth trying to manage production in an integrated way, accessible from any location by anyone in the organization as well as making sure that relevant data and information can be accessed when needed. Being able to supervise, launch work orders to production, solve issues and incidents, get early alerts, coordinate work teams, have reliable data in real time, etcetera, are the proof of its great value. The expression “Digital Twin” during these days, especially in its meaning of integrated operation, can mean a lot in terms of keeping active the production and the company activity.

Therefore, the key point at this moment is not so much to analyze the cost that it would have had to get better prepared for this event, but the cost implied by not having the organization ready to work in the current scenario.

We will bring out the best os this situation

A valuable conclusion from this exhibition is that, as in any crisis, our society, our companies and ourselves, not forgetting our way of living and managing will be affected, but there is no doubt that we will continue moving forward.

It is essential to understand what has been done correctly so far in terms of management and what can be improved, and also to find out which are the secrets that are allowing some to better overcome the obstacles encountered during these complex times that we are facing, since additional difficulties are likely to arise in the future.