Human Interaction Key for PaR Systems during COVID-19 Crisis
29 Jul 2020
Maintaining relationships has been difficult for individuals and businesses alike since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. For PaR Systems however, the past few months have reintroduced the importance that human interaction brings to a company. The company based in Shoreview, Minnesota, has actively sought to understand employees and customers alike, while developing new COVID-19-related technologies and maintaining existing projects in an unprecedented business environment. This approach provides hope it will come out of the crisis as a stronger company.
“Due to many of our customers being designated as essential businesses, we had to implement remote work practices extremely quickly, which had been planned for ahead of time. We learned how to collaborate with our customers and with each other internally on the fly, allowing us to remain flexible and adjust as we move forward,” said Darragh Staunton, President and COO of PaR Systems. “It is a real tribute to our employees and vendors for choosing to develop creative ways to keep our customers going.”
PaR Systems (PaR) is a leader in providing advanced production technology solutions for manufacturing automation, critical material handling and defense systems for a broad range of industries including aerospace, hazardous materials, life sciences and marine sciences.
Backbone of America
As the reality of the crisis hit, PaR, like many companies worldwide, sought to use their manufacturing capabilities to help companies produce COVID-19-specific products. PaR did undertake several projects automating the manufacturing of ventilator and respirator production, while learning to do so with new remote work practices. While these types of new projects typically take them 4-6 months to complete, PaR was able to turn these around in 8-12 weeks.
“We wanted to do our part to mobilize and deliver those projects,” said Staunton. “And that really opened our eyes to what we can do.”
Beyond the COVID-19 efforts, PaR knew it had to focus on existing customers, because at least 80% were deemed essential businesses. PaR has been successful in continuing work on all existing customer projects underway since the crisis began.
“I think keeping our employees working and continuing to deliver to these essential businesses is as important as doing the COVID-19 projects,” said Staunton. “Those efforts are what make up the economic backbone of America.”
Crucial Creativity and Planning
The ability to continue their operations took an immense amount of creativity, both within their operating procedures and human resources. Even before stay-at-home orders were put in place, PaR’s leadership put extensive time and thought into strategic planning and preparation early on for what the company saw as an imminent need to move to a remote work staff. So, as travel restrictions and safe-distancing techniques were instituted, the company was able to seamlessly turn to remote techniques quickly. Engineers learned to accept equipment virtually using video cameras instead of in-person reviews. Staunton said PaR is the first automation company to install guided robots in their facilities. The robots are driven by individuals with remote access so they can interact with on-site peers in a shop environment or in meetings instead of Zoom conference calls. Some robots will be sent along with delivered systems so PaR engineers can interact with customers in their facilities in a safe manner. Employees quickly accepted the abilities the robots provided them and customer feedback indicated they have been impressed with how quickly PaR instituted remote capabilities, said Staunton.
“We were forced into some practices we would have questioned in the past, such as designing multi-million systems remotely and learned not only is it actually possible, but we can be effective at it too,” he said. “I believe this allows us to carve out a message to our customers that they can trust us because we know what we’re doing.”
The company also learned a bit about itself over the past few months and Staunton believes their internal collaboration will be even better post-COVID-19.
“We were perhaps too reliant on tools like Enterprise Resource Planning,” he said. “We learned we needed to go back to our roots and rely more on actual human interaction.”
PaR officials turned a creative thought process to their own internal human resource procedures as well. Beyond remote work practices like virtual meetings and robot usage, they have placed an emphasis on employee health. Robust facility screening procedures, safe-distancing practices in group settings like lunchrooms and contact tracing for possible exposures were all implemented. The company also opened their approach regarding hiring possibilities, where they source talent from and where their vendors are located.
“We are making a concerted effort to focus on the health and well-being of our employees, with them coming first and profitability second,” said Rachel Resnick, vice-president of Human Resources.
Staunton believes PaR will be a stronger company coming out of this crisis, knowing they can never go back with so many lessons learned. The company’s culture has evolved in how they engage and interact with customers. It has become very clear to the company that employees will be better able to integrate their work and home life because they feel supported. Staunton believes the way PaR employees communicate has changed in a good way, placing a focus on getting to know others on a more personal level.
“By focusing on how we engage with customers and our own employees, I believe we have set new standards for ourselves for being better prepared for any possible interruptions,” he said. “And I hope other companies have had the opportunity to do the same.”