Taking care of business: Online boom helps Victoria tech firm to thrive

Source: Times Colonist
Author: Surinder Kumar

A commentary by the chairman of Victoria-based Vecima Networks, which develops hardware and software for broadband access, content delivery and telematics. It has offices in Saskatoon, Burnaby, Atlanta, London, Amsterdam and Tokyo. A reboot of our continuing series on the impact of COVID-19 on local businesses.

COVID-19 could be compared to a hurricane that has impacted businesses all over the world.

The unprecedented and overwhelming nature of the ­crisis has shaken businesses and institutions to the core.

Stories of local ­businesses’ coping strategies and ­perseverance in the face of this extremely challenging ­situation are encouraging to say the least. It is true that after years of hard work some of the businesses may not survive despite some help from governments at ­various levels.

Fortunately, Vecima’s story is as one of the very few ­businesses that were able to not only sustain but grow during this period. We provide ­network infrastructure platforms with extensive software. These ­platforms are used by cable companies around the world to deliver broadband high speed internet and Internet protocol video services to homes and businesses.

Because of people ­working from home, online ­learning and higher demands for ­entertainment online, our customers’ networks were stressed to, and in many cases beyond, their capacity. This increased demand for all of our products.

While this was the ­primary reason for our fortunate ­situation, it was not without ­challenges.

The health and safety of our employees was a paramount consideration and we source parts from all over the world.

Toward the end of March, we gave all of our employees paid time off so that they could arrange their affairs to work from home. About 80% of our employees are able to work from home. This opened up space for the remaining 20% of direct manufacturing employees.

The extra space was quickly rearranged on the manufacturing lines so that people could work at a safe distance from others. Strict cleaning and hygiene measures were also instituted for which supervisors were made directly accountable.

Another step was to provide two weeks of paid sick leave for everyone, even for those who had no such leave left in their account. This was done before governments offered similar help. This was meant to encourage employees to not hesitate to take sick leave if necessary, without financial burden, and in so doing protect themselves and others.

In addition, regular town hall meetings were held virtually to communicate our position and plans to the employees.

To overcome our parts-procurement issues we had to act swiftly.

Early in March we contacted our customers to confirm that their orders were firm. Based on this, we sourced some parts sooner than normal.

This was not completely without issues. For example, a sub-assembly manufactured in the Philippines was delayed because of the lockdown measures in that country. In this case we finished the products by rotating the existing assembly and explained the situation and our plans to our customers. They were accommodating and as soon as the lockdown was over, our supplier worked overtime to send us the parts. They were also extremely thankful that we provided work and demand in the presence of turmoil.

Our employees have come through remarkably, and like many businesses we consider them as our most valuable resource. We have also learned that some anticipation and action based on that goes a long way. We have kept growing the business during this challenging year.

While we are extremely thankful for our situation, we fully appreciate the challenge posed by this unprecedented and deep crisis for businesses, ­governments and institutions.

All of our front-line workers are the true heroes.