The COVID-19 crisis has challenged every aspect of our global community, from education to governance to business operations. As many of our colleagues in the robotics industry have done, we have adapted to the challenges and believe that we will come out a stronger organization for it.
The culture of IAM Robotics is born from the desire to tinker, to experiment, and to push beyond what we think is possible. While we could not have foreseen the events of the past three months, we remain steadfast in our belief that we are capable of solving difficult problems and will settle for nothing less.
Adapting to Remote Working
Throughout the pandemic, our first priority has been to keep our team members safe and healthy while continuing our work to develop robotic solutions that will transform the supply chain at a time when that transformation is most needed.
As for many others, the transition from the pre-pandemic world to the pandemic way of life happened quickly, and for many of our teams the pivot to remote working came without too many challenges. But as you might imagine, building and testing robots remotely does not happen as easily.
Nonetheless, our team rose to the challenge using their intuitive creativity and resourcefulness to adapt to business disruptions. Our manufacturing team members were onboard to build components at home, and, when it came to testing, one employee took Swift to their home to do so.
Using Technology to Bridge the Communication Gap
So how did we make this work? The key to our success during this time has been the constant communication we have maintained even while working remotely. Normally, our office space is an open-space design, allowing for immediate and easy access to every team member as necessary. Of course, remote working doesn’t allow for the ability to look up and see if the person we want to talk to is readily available or not.
To fill this gap, we have used a variety of technology to keep the communication flowing. There has been a heavy reliance on Slack to communicate, as well as emails, texts, calls, and plenty of Zoom and Google meetings to keep everyone informed. Individual departments meet daily and continue to communicate throughout the day. To ensure we celebrate our successes, we have developed a communication channel dedicated to sharing accomplishments and progress we have made within the company while working remotely.
Transitioning to a New Normal
As stay-at-home orders begin to relax, many of our team members are continuing to telework and will continue to do so until we are assured it is safe for larger teams to return to the office, which we anticipate will occur around mid-summer.
Some of our manufacturing, software, and testing team members, however, are beginning to work onsite in small groups following strict safety guidelines. Prior to the crisis, our plans were in place to move much of our operations to a new headquarters and innovation center in Pittsburgh. While the new space remains under construction, we are transitioning small teams of four to six people to work at the new space during limited periods of time, as well as continuing to use our existing space in Sewickley.
Our manufacturing team is building robots at our current location while the rest of the team works from home, providing them plenty of room to spread out and assemble robots. While construction continues at our new headquarters, a small team of software and testing engineers are beginning to work in the 30,000-square-foot space, which allows for ample room to maintain appropriate distancing.
In order to make this transition to in-person work safely, we have implemented strict guidelines for working together at both locations. Body temperatures are taken upon arrival, and team members are required to wear masks, gloves, and glasses. At the conclusion of each shift, each team member is responsible for spending 30 minutes to clean their work areas and common areas. We rotate teams on a weekly basis to mitigate any possible disease spread, and we do not permit staff members to enter the building on the weekends.
Of course we hope the pandemic does not worsen, but we have developed worst-case scenario plans if they become necessary. For example, we have developed a contingency plan should our entire team not be able to return to our new facility all together as planned this summer or we have to return to remote work due to a viral second wave later.
At this time we are still looking forward to opening our new headquarters and Showcase Innovation Center, although it may not be open to the public until later this year or next year depending on the safety guidelines regarding large gatherings.
At IAM Robotics, we are interested in addressing complex and technically difficult problems, the solutions for which will disrupt the supply chain industry and create better, more productive e-commerce fulfillment processes. The pandemic has raised the awareness of automation in e-commerce, and we believe there will be a rise of adoption sooner than later. We are ready to be a leader in this transformation and set a positive example for others.