Coronavirus | Case history: Foglizzo, how an Italian company is reacting to this emergency

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he state of emergency in Italy caused by Coronavirus is having a very rapid course in the country. In just 2 weeks the population – citizens and companies – have witnessed continuous different and contrasting messages by the government and experts; initially people were invited not to be too alarmed, you only had to pay attention to hygiene rules and not to stay in too much contact with people, but it was essential to continue to make your life, go out and go to work; the social media trend was #milanononsiferma (Milan does not stop). Then, rapidly, things have changed. The dramatic increase of positive cases literally knocked out the entire health system in the North of the country and in the night between last Saturday and Sunday what was once a small “red area” limited to a few small towns around Milan was extended to all of Lombardy, the region with the highest GDP in the country. Today, a few hours after this first decree, all of Italy has become “red zone”. Now the new social media trend is #iorestoacasa (I stay at home).

If on one hand citizens, at least in their private life, have been slow to respect the advice and recommendations that came from the government, which invited to a lifestyle change with a significant reduction of social contacts, on the other hand the business world immediately caught the signs of the emergency by putting into practice autonomously and spontaneously different working methods that could facilitate the reduction of the risk of infection. In recent days, many companies have sent emails to advise that the company’s operations were going ahead with the integration of remote and virtual operations.

We thought it could be interesting to give voice and space to one of these companies, Foglizzo, leading supplier of high quality leather for antique car restorations, yachting, aviation, motor, boutiques and residential interior design industries. We interviewed Paolo Foglizzo (through digital systems) to learn more about the impact of the emergency on the company’s daily life.

Interview with Paolo Foglizzo | Foglizzo

1) How has the coronavirus emergency impacted on your company in the past two weeks and how is the situation today?

“People have been our first concern: we started to operate through smart working methods from the very first moments, for this we were already quite organized thanks to an advanced technological innovation process, which we could introduced last year with the aim of reorganizing our processes and business models. Our company operates globally, we have an Hong Kong-based office, we immeditaley closed it as a precaution and reduced all the contacts that could present critical issues. The biggest problem we have today are people’s fears and above all the consequences this emergency and measures will have on our economy”.

Foglizzo | One of the sessions via skype

2) Have you already experienced difficulties on new orders? How are your Italian and foreign customers reacting?

“For the moment the worst consequence is given by the difficulty in traveling, which made us cancel important appointments and shows and by the cancellation and postponement of some important trade events. It is still too early to understand the real impact, we expect a contraction in the next month, but orders continue to arrive today, they are the result of the work done so far”.

3) How have you re-organized your company in more detail in order to face this emergency situation in terms of relationships but also health and prevention?

“We immediately and pro-actively activated all the necessary prevention measures without waiting the dramatic development of the situation: our workstations respect the one-metre rule, we canceled our trips, as well as group training sessions. We requested our cleaning company regular service with a special disinfection of all the premises. We put in pratice everything that the Ministry of Health and our common sense recommended… and even more! We have invited our collaborators to adopt new habits more suited to this situation”.

4) How did you re-organize your operations?

“As I said before, the organization in a “smarter” perspective had been already implemented in our company; we did not have to decide for big changes from this point of view. The goal we want to achieve in the following days is a sort of cultural change in our business: our customers are used to having us always close to them – phisically -, now “staying close to our customers” have a slightly different meaning. The goal is therefore to understand how to “be physical present and near to our customer” with the same strength and attention as before. For some time now we have believed that digital systems can be a revolutionary solution in our sector and therefore we have accelerated this process to the maximum”.

5) Which processes can be re-invented in the “smart working” formula? Is it possible for an artisan company like yours?

“Production represents the real challenge. We have re-thought the workspaces and, in order to minimize the risk, we have limited the times workers interact. The rest of our operations can be carried out through smart working methods, in order to avoid any form of gathering or potentially dangerous situation”.

6) Is this a formula that you have already been able to experiment in the past, perhaps in other non-emergency contexts?

“Not in such a massive and unexpected way, but yes, flexibility and smart work are now fundamental solutions and are already part of our work organization. We love to define ourselves as a “creative company”: design and craftsmanship are our best known characteristics but also innovation and technology are a fundamental part that makes it possible for us to be the Foglizzo that everyone knows”.

7) What does this emergency teach us? Are there any positive aspects we can derive from this experienc? I’m thinking for example that maybe in these situations you have the opportunity to think how to make processes work in a more strategic, functional and optimized way. Maybe some of these new methods can be maintained over time beyond this period of emergency… What do you think?

“Certainly, this situation is accelerating our approach to the digital, virtual world: we are developing new tools in order to organize meetings and training sessions with clients but also for the selection and control of the materials, for the monitoring activities, all of these new solutions will give us new inputs for the future. Each situation is useful for learning something, and our whole team is working together to create opportunities for all of us: I’m sure they will surprise us positively as always! Certainly reactivity times require more and more ability to act and improvise solutions”.