Smith Navigates Customers Through Pandemic Challenges

Todd Burke, Smith’s President – Americas

In relation to COVID19, what was the biggest hurdle your organisation overcame?

Travel restrictions have presented a challenge for Smith during the pandemic because onsite audits and customer visits have been put on hold. We successfully navigated this situation by building an online, virtual tour of our Houston operational hub. We began production of the virtual tour before the pandemic with the goal of providing customers a walkthrough of our facilities and a step-by-step look at our quality process that would be accessible remotely. Through the tour, customers are now able to experience Smith’s facilities as though they are visiting in person. Work-from-home requirements also presented a new challenge for Smith, though our existing proprietary systems and mobile apps allowed our workforce to quickly mobilize without any disruptions. With communication and system tools already in place, Smith was able to quickly adapt to a remote work environment.

How did your organisation avoid supply chain disruptions during the pandemic?

Smith is busiest when supply chains are disrupted, and there has never been a bigger global disruption than COVID-19. Our teams are specialized in navigating varied and challenging market situations, and, last year, that helped us steer smoothly through the pandemic’s upheavals. We keep our customers’ supply chains connected and moving in difficult conditions, too, and 2020 was a year in which many customers worldwide looked to us as a vital partner. Given that, we saw a continuation of our steady growth of recent years.

Do you believe employees working from home is sustainable and will be the future of the workplace?  

Agility has always been a key philosophy for Smith, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been a proving ground for our company’s – and employees’ – ability to get the job done under any circumstances. Our technological infrastructure – from strong business-continuity resources to proprietary internal trading platforms – was a major part of what enabled us to keep moving uninterrupted, even when we had to go remote. In the future, we’ll continue strengthening these infrastructural underpinnings to keep our capabilities ever-growing and workforce flexible to meet new norms. If COVID-19 has taught us one thing, it’s that flexibility is a necessity and, like a lot of companies, we had to adapt to doing things remotely and will continue that to a certain degree.

Due to the pandemic, is it in Smith’s equation for machinery to take over specific jobs that cannot be conducted on a WFH basis?

One of Smith’s strongest competitive advantages is our people. Our team’s ability to work side-by-side with data-mining and data-science processes to produce the latest market intelligence information puts us in a vital position to help our customers navigate their supply chains. The dedication and wealth of knowledge that our employees possess have helped position us as the #1 independent distributor for most of the last two decades. Our long-lasting relationships with suppliers and customers also play a significant role in contributing to Smith’s breadth of data points and resources. We look forward to continuing to grow our workforce globally.

What can we expect from your organisation within the next quarter?

A key focus for Smith in 2021 is to continue expanding our capabilities to optimally support customers in any industry at every stratum of their business and supply chain. Smart technology and increasingly sophisticated 5G tech integrations across a broad array of industries and companies represent significant business opportunities for Smith. Continued growth of cloud service and edge computing, along with subsequent demand for ITAD-related services, will also be key.

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