The concept of working remotely was not something most companies would have considered pre March 2020 but the speed at which they adapted to keep their businesses operational has demonstrated the benefits and role technology platforms can and do offer to business.
This was borne out at a recent webinar organised by Shannon Chamber’s Mid-West Lean Network when representatives from four companies – Reagecon, Abbott Diagnostics Business, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and LBS Partners – outlined how software systems and technology solutions has helped to sustain their businesses and changed the way they interact and collaborate with colleagues and customers.
Jennifer Stratton, lean specialist with Reagecon outlined how the company was the first business organisation to launch a technology called Blueworx, a social distancing and contact tracing solution developed by Limerick-based Tracworx. Initially developed for use in hospitals, this innovative product was adapted to offer companies a tool to monitor social distancing in their organisations. The device, which is now worn by all Reagecon employees when on-site, recognises other devices within 2 metres and sends this information to the cloud. This information allows for both the monitoring of social distancing within the company and comprehensive non-invasive contact tracing, if required. It has helped Reagecon to maintain a safe working environment for its employees, through helping to maintain a 2-metre physical distance between people.
Neil Enright, senior lean manager IDEM Division at Abbott Diagnostics Business shared his experiences of using Microsoft HoloLens – a technology and software platform produced by Microsoft to offer a new generation of augmented reality solutions. Using HoloLens has enabled Abbott’s teams to collaborate, share 3D computer-aided-design (CAD) models and work on continuous improvement projects across continents, despite not being in the same physical space.
“HoloLens has enabled us to get as close in a physical sense in the virtual space. It has helped us to bring new hires onto sites remotely, train people, and explain our processes via Microsoft Teams. We have deployed a 14-step new project in Korea through bringing the team together via Teams, using HoloLens to zone in on items such as workstation design.
“It’s a fantastic collaborative tool as it enables people in multiple sites to have visual contact with people, products and processes. People learn faster when they see. While it’s difficult to replicate face-to-face interaction, HoloLens is a great substitute. If we did not have it during the pandemic, I don’t know how we would have managed,” adds Enright.
Carmel Colleran, manager, continuous improvement with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals outlined the benefits that can be derived from using Microsoft Teams to support Kaizen events in a virtual setting. Ms Colleran demonstrated how the Company successfully connects people across departments, functions and sites using Teams and has deployed a complete set of Apps into the platform specific to the company’s needs.
“It’s a powerful way to run meetings, host events, share files, collaborate on documents and track activity. While it may not truly emulate the real-life environment, it has enabled us to work closely throughout the pandemic. While we may revert to live meetings in the future, we will retain some Microsoft Teams functionality where in-person meetings or travel are not essential,” stated Ms Colleran.
Kate Ivan Clancy, digital consultant at LBS Partners focused in on two software applications (Jira and Miro) that can be used for project management and process mapping, enabling management and employees to collaborate with ease regardless of location. Giving a live demonstration of both, she said that LBS Partners and its clients have found both applications extremely beneficial in enabling their teams to manage and monitor projects while working virtually.
“Companies can adapt them to their own needs,” she added.
Referring to the impact COVID-19 has had on business, Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes said: “It has challenged us all but made us innovative to look for solutions. It has most certainly made us resilient.”
The Mid-West Lean Network, an industry-led business grouping focused on continuous improvement, is supported by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. Check out www.shannonchamber.ie/events-training/ for details of all upcoming events.