It is safe to say that 2020 was a challenging year for all. As the coronavirus pandemic took over the globe, people and businesses everywhere learned to adapt to new (and ever-changing) guidelines. From lockdowns to social distancing, it was a year of unprecedented situations, forcing everyone to navigate the unknown.
Like all other businesses, Welch Equipment and the material handling industry faced its own set of challenges. Even during these times of crisis, the supply chain never stops. With quarantine orders in place, people were at home more than ever, stockpiling supplies to avoid nonessential grocery store runs, which lead to an increased demand for supplies and a strained supply chain.
As an essential business, Welch adapted to the new normal and, as a customer first organization, did everything we could to maintain the level of customer service our customers expect from us. Since we are a full-service material handling provider, our team witnessed changes across the board: from equipment sales to warehouse design, equipment rentals to socially distanced forklift service.
Here are some things we learned in 2020, as well as our predictions for the years to come.
Adapt. Adapt. Adapt.
Business and the way it is conducted can change daily, as we all learned last year. Just because tactics have worked in the past, it does not mean that those same tactics will hold up in the future (or during a global pandemic). Staying up to date on technology was especially important, as meetings shifted from face-to-face to virtual. Utilizing virtual meeting platforms, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, was crucial in addition to maintaining contact through email, phone calls, and text messages. However, being an essential business who serves other essential businesses, it was necessary for some of our team to continue to work from our office, adhering to all health and safety guidelines. Serving our customers the best we could, while keeping our employees safe, was our top priority.
Another way our team had to adapt was adhering to new guidelines, not only put in place by local governments, but by our customers. For our service and rentals team, this meant sanitizing every piece of equipment being worked on or being delivered to a customer to prevent the spread of germs. For others, it meant having your temperature taken, wearing masks, and social distancing when visiting a customer location (if visiting at all).
Transparency is Key
With the world in such an uncertain state, there were several things out of our control that affected our customers. Factors such as incorrect lead times, freight damages, and installation scheduling conflicts all impacted projects and timelines. However, it was important to inform customers of any delays to manage expectations, especially during this climate.
Always Stay In Tune With Your Customers’ Needs
More than ever, it was important for us to understand our customers’ pain points. While some of our customers were extremely busy last year, others slowed down. With market uncertainties, many businesses were tightening budgets, reducing costs, or even shutting down locations. Creative solutions and new product offerings from the Welch team were essential to assist our customers during these hard times. We worked closely (from a distance!) with customers to determine what was absolutely necessary vs. what could wait. We also were able to help alleviate some financial concerns by offering flexible financing, deferred payments, and leasing options.
Trends for 2021 and Beyond
Customers Will Be Doing More of Their Own Research
Buyers will continue to take the initiative to research before purchasing. With the availability of online information, the decision is in their hands to prequalify OEMs and Dealers. Especially with more business being conducted digitally and virtually, consumers are able to make decisions on their own without the guidance of a salesperson. However, complex solutions such as automation will still necessitate the expertise of material handling consultants.
E-Commerce Will Replace Some Retail
Even in the B2B landscape, e-commerce is finding its way. For low cost, non-consultative purchases (like hand or electric pallet jacks), buying online is the perfect quick solution to get what you need quickly. With e-commerce, buyers are also able to shop around for the best price. This transparent pricing information is something they may not have been privy to in the past when deals were done one-on-one with salespeople.
Product Needs are Changing, with Electric, Robotics, and AI Solutions Leading the Way
As the world changes, so do our customers’ product needs. One of the major shifts we have seen has been the move from IC (Internal Combustion) equipment to Electric. With a bigger push to “Go Green” and be environmentally friendly, we will continue to see the uptick in electric purchases. In 2020, we also learned that labor can be an issue. Many companies were faced with the tough decision to let go of some of their workforce. In turn, robotic and AI solutions will continue to replace the need for physical labor.
Business Will Be Done Differently
There is no doubt that several companies will continue to work from home permanently. The workforce has found effective ways to meet and communicate and has learned that they can largely still accomplish what they need to remotely. This reduces travel expenses and has the ability to improve a company’s bottom line. However, while not as much office space will be required, warehouses and the supply chain cannot operate from home…which is good news for the material handling industry.
If you are looking for forklifts, material handling equipment, warehouse design services, or anything else in 2021, contact the experts at Welch Equipment. We are a complete material handling solutions provider serving customers across the Rocky Mountain Region in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Montana.