Jan Ferwerda, President of Technische Unie delivers a message of perseverance and encouragement amid the Covid-19 crisis, shares how the company is adapting to the situation, and how he envisages the future…
How is Technische Unie coping with perhaps the greatest challenge in the 140 years of its existence? How is the market reacting and what options are there? Interview with Jan Ferwerda, CEO of Technische Unie and Sonepar Netherlands.
What impact is Technische Unie noticing from the coronavirus outbreak?
“We feel the challenges every day. We are not a service provider that can work from home for a period of time with a few adjustments. In our service centres and within our logistics organisation, colleagues need to be physically present every day to help customers and deliver installation materials. This involves a great deal of effort and requires creativity and perseverance on the part of everyone. I have great respect for how customers, suppliers and Technische Unie employees are handling this. The way we are fi nding a way through, tackling it every day and adapting to the diffi cult, rapidly changing circumstances, is phenomenal.”
Which measures have been taken?
“The logistics process is key to our organisation. We’re doing everything we can to assure it. At the same time, we are also complying with the Working On Safely protocol which has recently been drawn up for the construction and engineering sector. For this reason, all non-essential external visits to our distribution centres have been cancelled. Drivers have been given disinfectants to use. We have limited the number of customers we admit to our service centres at any one time. Lines have been drawn on the fl oor to help them maintain a distance of 1.5 metres; the coffee corners are closed and protective perspex screens have been placed in front of the counters. Apart from that, we are asking customers to use our delivery service as much as possible.”
Are all products available?
“On the purchasing side, we are seeing some suppliers experiencing problems in maintaining their regular goods fl ows. In such cases, our procurement specialists aim to help customers by suggesting alternatives. We also provide real-time stock information on the website and link through to alternatives where necessary.
Many customers are continuing to work even under these circumstances. The fact that our drivers remain the physical link with our customers is very much appreciated at the moment.”
What has the response of employees and customers been?
“Many of our employees have been working for the company for many years, while there are also many customers we have known throughout their careers. There is a lot of solidarity! Sales reps who are currently making fewer customer visits are volunteering to help out in our service centres. If a colleague calls in sick, others take over as much of the work as possible. Of course there are concerns, but above all there is an enormous drive to get through this together. If there’s one time when we need to live up to our pay-off Enablers, it’s now.”
About Technische Unie
Technische Unie is the largest technical wholesaler in the Netherlands. It is made up of over 2000 associates and is the supplier of 2 million products. It is proud to deliver such services as the delivery of installation materials in the field of electrical engineering, lighting, tools, plumbing, heating and climate technology. Its customers are ever-present in the installation, construction, government and retail industry.