Flex (formerly known as Flextronics) delivers innovative design, engineering, manufacturing, real-time supply chain insight and logistics services to companies of all sizes in various industries and end-markets. Here is the interview with Mr. Sekaran Letchumanan, VP, Operations at Flex spoke to EM about how Flex is managing global pandemic situation and their support to their customers during this crisis.
- As global technology leader, what is your response on COVID-19 and how are you managing the situation amid this outbreak?
For us at Flex, we experienced disruptions to our China operations very early on this year and this prepared us for what ensued to the rest of our global operations. Monitoring the situation closely and being able to learn quickly, we acted on developing a strong script for our business, which we also duplicated globally.
Our primary concern and priority is to ensure the health and safety of our employees and we are proactive in establishing safe work practices. We have been in full support of all official efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. We are adhering to all prescribed government guidelines in our Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and will continue to be in full compliance, going forward as well. We will also look to help communities around us where we can via the Flex Foundation.
In India, Flex has resumed its operations, in an orderly phased manner. We restarted our manufacturing in May 2020, with 50% of our workforce, as per the government mandate. Flex SOP’s include but are not limited to:
- Daily temperature screening (when entering and exiting the workplace).
- Ensuring availability of hand sanitizers at appropriate locations.
- Manufacturing and ensuring availability and the usage of face masks.
- Education and awareness of employees through posters and LED screen displays, in regional languages too.
- Regular & frequent sanitization of the workplace such as the lobby, cafeteria, restrooms etc.
- Ensuring social distancing at the production floor, canteen, meeting rooms, restrooms etc., via floor markers. We have created individual cubicles for employees to eat at the cafeteria as well.
- Disinfection of vehicles:- those of our employees and vendors, every day. This also includes the buses that transport our employees.
We have a Global Resiliency Advisory Team, a regional crisis management team and a country specific crisis management team, who work closely to monitor the health, safety and security of all our employees at each facility.
- How are you helping your medical customers as this is one of the priority demand industry during this health crisis?
Globally, we are working closely with leading healthcare companies and we continue to rapidly increase production of much-needed medical equipment. Flex has the expertise, global footprint, capacity and skilled teams to help meet this need.
With 30 years of medical manufacturing experience, we understand the sourcing and manufacturing challenges that come with building a range of products such as ventilators, oxygen support products, hospital beds and other critical equipment under the newest regulatory guidance and can help expand manufacturing quickly, to meet critical needs.
There has been significant increase in demand of critical care products such as oxygenators, testing equipment, patient monitors and ICU-related necessities due to Covid-19 pandemic. We manufacture all of these products and moreover, have increased our production to help customers meet this demand. We are also in the process of manufacturing different ventilator programs. Typically, medical programs take nine to 18 months to ramp. We ramped and started shipping ventilators in five weeks.
- Can you highlight the technology solutions and services you are offering in this situation?
We are in a distinctive position to see trends early because of where we stand in the value chain, and the diverse markets that we serve. We manufacture everything from any small consumer device to cloud infrastructure. Our manufacturing service also includes drug delivery systems and autonomous vehicle electronic modules. We operate directly and indirectly, in almost every country in the world.
- Which are the new technology areas where you are focusing on and think of as future manufacturing solutions?
We anticipate Industry 4.0 to have a lot of scope in the future. Emerging technologies — AR/VR, M2M communication, 3D manufacturing, Autonomy, Simulation, CyberSecurity, Big Data and the Cloud – are vast and hold a lot of potential for growth and innovation. Flex’s 4.0 priorities are M2M communication; Smart Automation and Robotics; Augmented Reality and 3D manufacturing alongside Simulation and Visualization. Flex runs about 100 global operations and is partnering with businesses in the cloud, robotics and process innovators. We believe in always doing the right thing and we want to use our manufacturing expertise to make products that contribute positively to the world.
- As a manufacturer, what are the challenges you are facing during this crisis and how are you managing to resolve them?
The health and safety and our employees is our number one priority and concern. Flex has 1,60,000 employees in over 30 countries, and most of our employees are factory workers. Social distancing is a challenge and hence we have made appropriate safety measures to follow this concern. Our people want to continue working and since we engage in essential products, it was important for us to absorb considerable resources into creating and maintaining protocols in order to protect our employees. We have done over 7 million-temperature screenings till today.
- As we understand, it’s difficult to predict the future growth in this situation, but can you please comment on how will you win and sustain your growth?
We have always adapted to current requirements. Though, the automotive segment has been profitable for the past few quarters, however, we are always conscious about the market demand. Today, there is a pressing need for medical equipment and as we already have a footprint in this segment, we will continue to ramp up that manufacturing.
Moreover, to sustain growth, we need to upgrade our knowledge and skills according to changing times. Flex has an incredible track record of innovation and leadership in our industry. At our core is a commitment to design-led innovation, whether in engineering services or advanced manufacturing, or in 5G or artificial intelligence. We are passionate about solving our customer’s toughest problems.
- In this health crisis, many of the events stands cancelled, how are you engaging your customers, partners to know and learn about your products and technologies?
We are engaging our customers through the use of latest technology as is the need of the hour. We have created an internal platform to conduct virtual tours at our sites to give a simulated effect for our customers. We hold regular online meetings, webinars etc., to ensure that we engage with customers on a regular basis.
The internet and cloud infrastructure allow us to work from home, connect virtually with people and keep information flowing. At Flex, we are guided by our purpose to build great products that bring value and improve people’s lives. We are working to meet our customers’ demands by providing critical infrastructure for essential services, while following the recommended guidelines for the safety of our employees and communities.