How Deceuninck Faced Monumental Organizational Change and Emerged Even Stronger

The COVID-19 pandemic shook up organizations across the globe.

Food and beverage. Airlines. Entertainment. Hospitality. And certainly manufacturing.

Supply chains were severely impacted, materials were becoming increasingly difficult to obtain in a timely manner (if available at all) and finding and retaining qualified employees was an ongoing challenge for manufacturers.

At Deceuninck, we quickly witnessed that materials, capacity, and qualified labor were evident challenges that we would need to overcome. In 2023, on the other side of the pandemic, our outlook is strong. The lessons we learned in terms of logistics, operations, hiring, workplace culture, and technology are now being applied to how we function on a daily basis. Now, these areas of the business are proving to be some of our strongest pillars.

Unexpected and Unprecedented

An unprecedent pandemic led many organizations to reconsider operations and staffing. How long would this last? Two weeks? Two months? Very few foresaw lingering effects lasting more than two years later. What was even more surprising was the strong construction demand that continued shortly after the pandemic shutdown.

Demand was blowing up and because of the precautions we took in preparation for a slowdown, we did not have the capacity to support it. It was during my first few weeks here that we realized we needed to revamp and reconsider our operations. We ordered extra machines to fulfill demand and stay reliable for the customers who depend on us.

We identified materials, qualified labor, and capacity as three of the biggest challenges during the early months of the pandemic, and the entire Deceuninck team needed to unite to overcome them. Capacity was a challenge because the marketplace was so unpredictable early on. There was a surge of demand and we did not have full visibility into what kind of capacity we needed at the time. From then on, our sales team did an incredible job of capturing demand and reporting back to us. We needed better visibility into what was coming before it even got here. The sales team was pivotal in making that happen for us. We added 30% extra capacity to manage the influx of demand and hired new resources to manage the supply chain, continuously monitor it, and steer the organization appropriately.

Through hard work, we achieved high-functioning operations into 2021. Even with our systems working at peak performance, it means nothing if you don’t have the right skilled people to run it.

Power of Our People

Our people are so important. We never struggled to find hands, but keeping capable employees was a challenge with so much competition from other employers.

We have built a culture that underscores the importance of hiring dedicated, hardworking people and advancing them through the organization.

We do not always hire pre-skilled extrusion operators. We hire good people and then train them to be highly capable extrusion operators.

Once I joined the organization, I committed to spending a lot of time listening and learning to ensure everyone was aligned with the overall business vision, a new market dynamic, and ongoing demand. This applied to employees across the organization and included exercises that helped to clearly identify roles and to map out a gameplan to collaborate and grow as a team and as individuals.

In terms of attracting new employees, we did utilize the essential hiring methods that many organizations were putting in place during the pandemic-induced labor crunch. We also adapted compensation and bonuses and instituted new benefits for employees.

Another key component to employee retention is embracing and caring for new and tenured employees, and the value of teaching them the tangible skills necessary to succeed and grow by offering a career path filled with opportunity.

Compensation gets people in the door, but really showing our people that we care about them is what keeps them.

After a dip in overall staff numbers following the onset of the pandemic, we successfully restaffed the operations and production team to support the strong continued demand. One example of growth that took place was in our human resources department.

Since the pandemic, our HR team has grown from four team members to sixteen. It was critical that we reinforce this area of our business to ensure we had enough resources in place to find and hire new, qualified talent.

In turn, we have bolstered all of our departments where necessary, and also filled the needs on the production floor for packers, extrusion line operators, and more.

Core Compounds

We have a strong reputation when it comes to the formulation of compounds that are used to produce window and door profiles and extrusions. These material science formulations are engineered to deliver superior performance, weatherability, longevity, and sustainability. When the pandemic began, we were prepared for potential material shortages, which inevitably ensued. For years, we prioritized the research and development of highly advanced formulations even when raw material shortages were not a concern. Over the course of decades, our scientists had also unlocked multiple ways to create these compounds. This proved to be immensely valuable when certain resins and polymers were becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.

Our material science team has a firm grasp on an entire portfolio of alternative materials in the market and how to incorporate them into our formulations if we need to. This put us in a position to be prepared for an event such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and it certainly helped us navigate through its most challenging phases.

We were able to tap into new resources to maintain the quality or even improve upon the properties of materials that go into our extrusions for window and doors.

Tapping into Technology

Technology played an important role in our progression through the pandemic, especially when it came to the supply chain. However, technology also applied to machinery and innovation of products, business processes, and IT.

We were preparing for a big leap in how we utilize technology leading up to 2020, so we were primed to deploy it during the pandemic. We have more than 70 production lines, making us one of the largest extruders in the industry. Despite our huge footprint, we were dealing daily with a large number of complex SKUs and orders. We couldn’t fulfill these orders unless everything was running smoothly and there was an excess in capacity. Therefore, we put technologies and systems in place to monitor production outputs, change-overs, stock levels and tendencies in marketplace demand. We then took all of these information sources and applied them to our processes, allowing us to make proposals to the production scheduling team and get everyone what they needed to run the lines.

An updated S&OP system and tools to manage the entire order fulfillment process fostered essential interdepartmental communication and efficient workflow throughout our organization. Moving forward, we now have the tools in place to support our own growth as well as applying these learnings and processes to our customers’ businesses.

A Prosperous Future

At the end of the day, the pandemic challenges confirmed for me how strong this team is and how we truly embody a Can Do attitude. We owe a big part of our recovery to the knowledge and network that exists within the Deceuninck Group, as well as our partnerships with suppliers and our customers that depend on us. Companywide, we have three “must-win battles” conducive to keeping the organization on its current growth trajectory: people, customer service, and sustainability.

We must continue to find and retain really good workers that we can upskill and put on a career growth path. Customer service is always going to be one of the keys to success and, as we’ve always done, we are prioritizing our relationships with customers to ensure they get the materials they need, when they need them.

The pillar of sustainability is also very important to our organization. It is at our core and permeates all that we do, from our processes to our products and where those products go at the end of their life cycles. When we do good by the environment, everyone wins.

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