Providing service during the corona crisis Interview with Ton van den Ham, Operations Manager

Yokogawa is also trying to find ways to protect its employees and customers while minimising the impact of the corona pandemic. Health and safety are at the top of the priority list, especially during this corona crisis. Ton van den Ham, Yokogawa's Operations Manager, explains how we are dealing with this situation in the Netherlands. 

How does a Yokogawa engineer currently provide service? 
Initially, we ask all our customers whether we can provide the service via a data connection. If this is possible, it has our preference. We already provided some services remotely, but now we fill in 20 to 30 percent more in this way. Together we make sure that we travel less and stay online in contact with each other to minimize the chance of contamination.  

What if a job can't be done remotely? 
Because of cybersecurity guidelines or because there is simply no data connection possible, there are customers who cannot work on a remote service. We fully understand that. For our on-site services, in addition to the precautions already in place at the site to be visited, we have taken additional measures to manage potential infectious situations: the COVID-19 Last Minute Risk Analyses (LMRA). This is a risk assessment that we immediately compiled two days after we saw that the corona crisis in Europe was taking on really serious proportions. We use this LMRA as a guideline for an initial call with the client if an engineer has to be on site. Together with QHSE manager Patrick van Vreeswijk, I then discuss the situation on site with the client by telephone. Especially in the beginning, customers were not all equally well prepared for the new situation. Sometimes it was the case that the risk of contamination for our engineers (and therefore also for the customers on site) was, to their surprise, below the industry standard. Especially in areas where there were few infections in the beginning.

What do you discuss with the customer about our COVID-19 guidelines?
For example, we want to know whether there have been corona infections among employees. But also whether the handrails and doorknobs are cleaned and whether any lines have been applied so that the 1.5 metre distance can be followed. We now see that the awareness among all customers is at a high level, thanks to the many messages and guidelines from the government. They are now much more aware of the risks and take this pandemic very seriously. If it turns out that our guidelines are stricter than those of the customer, we give the engineer extra instructions, such as working with gloves or eating lunch in the car. Unfortunately, it has already occurred to a customer that a number of their employees were infected with the COVID-19 virus. Partly thanks to our own strict guidelines, our engineer did not become infected at that time. 

How strict is the LMRA? 
We are now on version five of the COVID-19 LMRA. Thanks to customer feedback and lessons learned, we are relaxing certain guidelines or supplementing them so that they can be applied more effectively in practice. What I liked to hear is that we received feedback from various customers that this serious approach is a very good basis. What worries me, however, is that they also indicated that we are the only ones - so far - to take it up so thoroughly. Hopefully this will change soon in the near future. 

Remote service, how's that going?
Let me give you a concrete example. If you look at a Factory Acceptance Test (FAT), customers normally come to our office to take such a test. In a number of cases a remote FAT is possible because the efficiency is lower than a 'real' FAT. At a number of customers we carried out this remote variant because it really couldn't be postponed. A Yokogawa engineer then sits behind the system and carries out all the tests on the 'Staging floor area' while the customer remotely accesses our virtual systems and desktop and follows the tests. For our engineer, this is a duplication of work because he performs all operations and tests on his own. So far from ideal, but the customer is in any case happy that it is possible in this day and age. 

Furthermore, of course, we all work from home as much as possible. And I notice that our engineers liked that in the beginning because they had no travel time and therefore more time, but now they find it boring and are even eager to get back to work on site. 

Finally, our emergency services remain available 24/7. We are also available to our customers at night, as most plants operate day and night. We do see that fewer emergency calls come in during this period than expected, but even then we discuss the LMRA in advance! 

More information or questions?
As you can see, we take various measures to contain the virus and do everything we can to minimize the impact on your activities. Our service people are instructed on how to deal with personal interactions, which protocol to follow to minimize possible causes of virus spread. And if physical access is necessary, for example due to a hardware purchase, this is limited and possible under strict conditions where we follow government guidelines, supplemented with additional hygiene requirements. 

If you have special needs that we can escalate in our processes, we will find a way to help you where we can. Please contact us via your contact person.