Over the past six months, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the world’s economy, and the HVAC&R industry is no exception.
To shed light on the effect of the pandemic on the Japanese HVAC&R industry, Accelerate Japan (published by shecco, publisher of Accelerate and Accelerate24.news) is conducting a series of interviews with Japanese HVAC&R suppliers on how they are adjusting to “the new normal” as well as the opportunities that have arisen for the industry.
In the following interview, Guilherme Figueiredo, Sales Manager, responsible for Nidec Global Appliance’s Embraco portfolio in Japan, discusses how his company is dealing with the challenges posed by COVID-19.
// Accelerate Japan: Overall, what impact has COVID-19 had on business operations?
Guilherme Figueiredo: In general, some of the concerns are the same as in all businesses, such as the timeframe that this pandemic will consume, the future overall impact and the question of when it will be possible to have more predictability on economic and global health issues.
More specifically, in the short term, when the COVID-19 crisis started, the biggest concern was maintaining the stability of the business, maintaining sales, and keeping the production running. In parallel, there were concerns with the supply chain.
From the point of view of our global sales and customers, during the peak of the pandemic, some projects were put on hold for a while. This was due to a reduction in production for some of our customers resulting from the impact they themselves suffered on sales.
// Accelerate Japan: What impact was there on your planned projects?
Guilherme Figueiredo: With our customers that foresee long-term planning, we did not feel any significant changes. So for projects that are being planned for launch in 2022 or 2023, they are still on schedule with no big disruptions. Long-term planning is something commonly seen in Japanese customers.
However, among our customers with projects in the medium term, we saw two different behaviors.
In projects driven by the market, we noticed a guideline to postpone, aiming to reduce spending during the 2020 year. But in customers that are being pushed by regulatory changes, we saw a very low impact on project schedules.
// Accelerate Japan: How have your marketing and promotional activities been affected?
Guilherme Figueiredo: The Embraco brand has always been very engaged in participating in trade shows and all sorts of events. But due to the pandemic, many trade shows have been canceled, and it had an impact on our planned marketing activities.
To mitigate this impact, we have been participating in several virtual events such as the Virtual Trade Show and ATMOsphere Australia 2020. We are learning how to make the most out of these new channels to strengthen our relationships with customers and the professionals in the refrigeration industry.
On the other hand, this crisis has made us invest more time and resources into projects focused on online education and content generation for refrigeration professionals, as well as to improve the digital tools that we offer to them.
We have made a series of webinars in Portuguese, French, English and Spanish and created new material for our technical content platform, RefrigerationClub.com.
We have also constantly promoted our product selector software (PSS) and the Embraco Toolbox App in order to support the professionals and their routines. These actions have helped strengthen our relationship with customers, specifiers, contractors and refrigeration technicians.
For Japan specifically, we have worked on creating a more robust catalog in Japanese and improved the frequency of our newsletters in order to keep the market aware of our new projects and product launches.
// Accelerate Japan: How do you manage your business differently now?
Guilherme Figueiredo: Taking into consideration the fact that Nidec Global Appliance counts on having a broad and geographically balanced footprint, we had the chance to anticipate preventive measures for our European and American factories and offices by learning from the experiences of our Asian colleagues dealing with the pandemic.
Though there were different approaches depending on local government regulations, we set up a global committee that implemented procedures and actions in partnership with each region. This enabled business to continue running while also ensuring the implementation of communication, cleaning and hygiene routines as well as the establishment of testing and social distancing protocols.
Beyond that, it is worth highlighting that the company dynamic has changed since we have learned to lead, communicate, train and do business in a remote way – and most importantly, it is working.
In general, our administrative teams are being encouraged to remain working from home whenever possible. Even so, we continue to be close to our customers, launch products, and join virtual trade shows. Internal collaboration still exists, but in a different way.
// Accelerate Japan: What positive changes have you seen in your business?
Guilherme Figueiredo: The pandemic has affected people from different companies and businesses in a similar manner, considering the principles of social distancing and isolation. So when I think about positives, the first one that comes to my mind is society’s rapid change of mindset and behavior.
In our case, we already had some sites familiarized with home offices, but during the COVID-19 peak, everyone was challenged to at least give it a try and it has proved its value and efficiency by having great deliverables despite being physically separated. Of course, in addition to that, there were some decreased costs in terms of facilities maintenance, collective transportation, traveling and so on.
But for me the real gain is to see us, as individuals, as well as the company as a whole, become faster and more open to adopting new ways of getting things done. Flexibility and adaptability will be key to succeed in times like these and I am glad to see us moving towards it.
// Accelerate Japan: What are your current priorities?
Guilherme Figueiredo: After the crisis peak, and as the market reaches a more stable situation, comes a concern about looking for solutions that help to reduce costs. Embraco has been a partner in this sense, giving total support in co-development projects and creating solutions that have the right fit for this moment.
We have restructured our projects pipeline and focused on accelerating solutions that deliver the same current technical requirements but add the standardization and miniaturization factors, in order to be more cost efficient for our customers.
One example is our new ongoing development NEU three-phase voltage compressors, with fixed (on-off) speed, which have the same cooling capacity in a smaller size, when compared to previous three phase-platforms. For variable speed compressors, we are also complementing our current solution to add the three-phase voltage feature. Both will soon be available in the Japanese market.
We are also working on the launch of a standard condensing unit portfolio for the Japanese market – which will deliver a complete solution and offer the same quality that our compressors are known for while also reducing our customer’s direct production costs.