“One word: Together”
The pandemic brought unprecedented challenges for our support staff who pulled out all the stops in 2020 to keep deliveries running as smoothly as possible. A few of the team look back at the challenge…
When a contract is signed, it passes to one of seven Sales Administrators (SAs) in Munich or one of two in Växjö. Together with the Sales Directors, the SAs are the link between the customer and Södra, ensuring the right pulp is delivered to the right place at the right time.
Dante Alarcon and Therese Green are based in Växjö and both have school-age children. Alarcon: “Initially, the biggest challenge for me was finding myself at home, with family life to juggle and no colleagues. Coffee is not the same over zoom, but communication became more important than ever.”
Karina Bachmann in Munich says it was communication and flexibility that were key when the pandemic hit. “We all know each other’s customers and were all able to jump in when needed. We were constantly talking with each other, with other Södra departments and with our customers. Everyone was very flexible. And because we all know the customers, we were able to help support them if, for example, a mill in a country outside of our contract needed help. We did our best to assist, something which the customers appreciated.”
Riccardo Bonacasa, also based in Munich, agrees. “I have just one word to sum up this year: Together. We really did invest in keeping everyone close, even though we were physically apart.”
Alarcon: “Our honesty and transparency also paid off – we did everything we could when supply was tight and the customers would trust that if we couldn’t do more, we had done our best.”
“Working with logistics was key,” he adds. “When Spain and Italy shut their borders at the start of the crisis and there was a shortage of drivers, we changed some routes immediately, competing with other freight to get on rail routes or barges, for example. It was a relief that we were quickly considered a supplier of essential goods.”
Laura Mendozza in Munich: “Strong relationships with our customers proved crucial. We kept in close touch, so we knew what the customer’s current situation was. This helped us plan and forecast accurately, ensuring our production teams responded efficiently. It was this great cooperation, along with the teamwork within Södra, that enabled us to meet requirements.”
For Bachmann and Alarcon, the challenges this year actually began before March, with the gilets jaunes strikes in France. “With routes blocked and workers refusing to load at the ports, it was very tough,” Bachmann recalls. “We had to work around them with the terminals finding emergency contractors and new routes to get to the customer. It really has been a very busy year!”
Was it stressful? They all laugh. Mendozza: “It was extremely stressful but also very rewarding. There was a real sense of teamwork and fighting for a common cause. Our customers appreciated what we were doing, and they trust us: That is a really good feeling.”
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