Geuther Vietnam – how did we manage the Covid-19 lockdown
October 25, 2021
Geuther is a privately invested Belgian Company that started operations in early 2020, just before the Covid-19. Geuther designs, develops, and manufactures wooden and steel baby furniture for large brands in over 35 countries. Around 250 passionate wood experts produce everything from highchairs, stair gates, playpens, cribs, changing tables, …
Starting operations just before the pandemic was already a challenge but surviving without a single positive case during the complete lockdown was almost a miracle. How did we achieve this and what are the key learnings?
1. Navigate through the lack of information available from Authorities
We observed in May-June what was happening in the North and heard from AkzoNobel Commercial Director Maximilen Schréder that Authorities had asked them to stay inside the factory to avoid any virus spread. After exchanging with other factory owners, we decided to
- increase our stock level of raw material and semi-finished products to have enough when suppliers would have to close
- build showers, add toilets, buy tents and prepare the logistics to feed our staff
- prepare all staff mentally for such a move
We locked 200 staff inside the factory starting 5. July at a time when Authorities In Binh Duong were not able to approve such a move. This was 2 weeks before the Authorities made such a move compulsory
2. Team spirit and the role of managers
The first week was fun, everyone was positive. Some started building a table tennis table with spare material, others built a body-building station or for the less health-conscious a smoking relaxing area, some played badminton, went jogging around the factory, … As time passed, first workers started to complain about the food, about the temperature, … and some wanted to go home as well, especially when hearing from other factories where almost all had gotten the virus.
The role of managers was key in this situation, especially the HR and the team leaders in the factory. They spent hundreds of hours talking with the workers, explaining how lucky they were to be safe and have a job, added some changes to the menu, bought extra fans, arranged online doctor consultations ... They organized every weekend special events, cooking classes, game competitions. I became a French teacher for a while!
We of course lost some workers but ended the stay-in on 23. October with 190 staff.
The whole management team also stayed in the factory, including 2 ex-pats, leading their team by showing the example
3. Contribute to the community
Geuther contributed to the Binh Duong Covid fund and had multiple contacts with Authorities and local hospitals to see how we could help. We donated cribs to one hospital where orphans were sleeping on the floor. Our staff produced changing mats in their free time and many workers offered to donate part of their salaries to help those in need. Amazing to see such a community spirit which at the same gave a purpose to their work
Last Saturday, everyone finally went back home and this Monday, 50 more workers who were not able to stay in will be back at work. A unique experience, sometimes misunderstood in the West, but an experience that has forged friendships, respect, and strong bonds among all.