The Sustainable Housing Foundation Board has continued to meet virtually since the Ontario lock down in March. Our Board members are uniquely positioned to reflect on how everything that is happening may impact the sustainable housing building sector in Ontario,
Paul Lowes, BP Canada
The impact to our business was swift and certainly opened my eyes to how we currently do business and what we needed to address in order to grow. Some companies saw the pandemic as an opportunity to focus their energies and test a new business model while prospecting for new business. Others understood the need to keep themselves focused, chipping away at their “to do” list while ramping up their online presence to become an industry voice and ultimately grow their market share. Some businesses implemented survival mode and focused on strategies to help make it through the pandemic.
We experienced some challenges with the supply chain, given our plants are located in Quebec. We could certainly move product out of the province to fill orders, but finding back shipments from Ontario to Quebec proved challenging given the provincial shutdowns, which impacted the cost of freight. Our Executive Board implemented social distancing policies very early on, restricting in-person meetings with customers from mid-March that continues to this day, although modifications are expected in the near future as provincial policies are revised. The sales team continued to use online meeting platforms and our phones to effectively generate business while maintaining contact with our existing client base. It did however become clear that in-person meetings were still vital to many components of the sales and customer service processes.
Social distancing guidelines prevented people from reporting to the office, which in turn significantly slowed down the administration of all aspects of a business.
I think this national shut down certainly gave us insight into how to better prepare and to position ourselves for future market demands.
Frank Buck, Davis Buck Agency
The negative impact of the corona-virus on the supply chain feeding the residential construction industry cannot be understated. While the warning signs were present for some time before the lock down our country still seemed to be taken by surprise at the rapid speed with which things came to a halt. While residential construction was fortunately deemed an essential economic activity given its dominant share of provincial GDP and current closing commitments, productivity on job sites quickly dropped to less than 50% because of social distancing rules and labour being justifiably fearful for their health.
In the building material manufacturing sector the predictable impact has been production lay offs, decreased work hours, diminished cash flows, working capital efficiency dropping in response to increasing aging inventory carrying costs and component supply chains backing up. While this is better than the total industry shutdowns we saw in other large markets like New York City it continues to be devastating for material order books across the industry. The virtual office has become a much larger reality as the home office becomes the new norm. Traditional office space will look much different post pandemic as employers embrace the benefits of trusting virtual office technologies and their employees.
The pandemic has exposed many cracks in the foundation of our civil society and our social priorities in general. At this point the virus continues to call the shots as we struggle with the health and financial risks associated with re-opening our economy to quickly. We need to keep our heads up, keep the lines of communication open and vital, stay positive and demonstrate leadership through high levels of common sense and a keener sense of community and caring. We must also prepare and steady ourselves for a protracted recovery period relative to the availability of mitigating therapies and eventual vaccines. The critical challenge of keeping our job sites and industry supply chains healthy and productive will go a long way in providing high quality housing production, stabilizing our financial health and preventing industry business failures as a result of a prolonged recovery and continuing restrictions.