MDS Coating Technologies in Slemon Park manufactures erosion and corrosion resistant coatings for gas turbine engines for military and industrial applications.
“When COVID-19 hit, we were somewhat prepared, because our customers require us to do a lot to mitigate their risk, including having a pandemic plan and a disaster recovery plan in place. We realized our plan was not specifically designed to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, so adjustments had to be made,” says Kerry Butler, VP Finance and Operations
“We do a lot of work for the military, which is great because revenue from that source spiked as commercial aviation disappeared to almost nothing. That spike meant that the pain of the revenue drop was not that bad.
“We looked at sourcing our supply chain. Fortunately, we carry a large amount of buffer stock and a lot of key components, which really helped us as well.”
“We fine-tuned a lot of our IT processes to accommodate people working from home, and we improved things on the engineering and accounting side.
“It is difficult to break old habits and learn to operate with six feet of social distancing, wash hands regularly, and stay home from work when you have the sniffles. The important thing is to ensure if something does happen, we don’t jeopardize our whole staff. We need to keep them safe.
“Of those people working from home, 99.9 percent are more productive. That was an eye-opener for management. The younger workforce especially appreciates the flexibility of working from home.”
Business recovery strategy
“Travel will be limited going forward, and we have realized we don’t always have to travel to attend the usual board meetings. I do not see this pandemic going away soon, and I don’t see passenger air travel going up any time soon.
“We had diversified into commercial projects as well as military, but now we are back to one industry. Diversifying and using our knowledge and skills to become applicable to another industry is still important.
“Fortunately for us, our retraction was less dramatic than for most companies in the aerospace sector. Recovery for us looks more focused on the military side and we will have to wait out the commercial aviation side until it comes back, and we will be positioned well to take advantage when it does come back.
“The key for commercial aviation coming back is doing a lot of work on aircraft to make passengers feel a lot safer with respect to pandemics. That means a big overhaul, and to do it at a time when there are no sales is pretty difficult.”
The Atlantic Canada advantage
“The great advantage to being on PEI is that companies have access to decision makers and can avoid a lot of bureaucracy to get things accomplished. Many talented young people prefer to stay here, whereas in other regions they don’t. Also, in this pandemic, the PEI government was quick to react and do the right things.”
Keeping employees engaged
“It is important to continue to keep employees connected through online meetings. When we are separated as some work from home, it is easy to forget about how people are dealing with this pandemic. Here on PEI there is a shortage of help for people experiencing mental health difficulties. That needs to be addressed.”
“As an employer, when we assess new people coming in, we look beyond what is on their resume, and look at the character of the person, the work ethic, and how smart and quick they are in reacting and adapting to changing circumstances. That goes a long way towards being a successful hire.”
For more about MDS Coating Technologies, visit www.mdscoating.com