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Transcript Blog – Podcast – The Global Impact of Coronavirus Pandemic on Building Products Industry

Josie: (00:30)
Hey all listeners and welcome to this special edition of our podcast of our industry insights podcast by SAP. We are zooming in on the building products industry. So in order to do that, I am so lucky that I have with me in our studios. Our home studios is Ursula Gruen and she’s the global bead at SAP for the building products industry. So the perfect person to join us to talk more about this. So Ursula, thank you so much for joining us today.

Ursula: (01:05)
My pleasure. Thanks for taking me here. Hosting me here, taking me sounds. [inaudible]

Josie: (01:12)
Hosting here. We’re all confused because of COVID. So we’re super excited to be hosting you. And, um, before we start talking about how building products are being impacted, what, who are you, who’s Ursula? What, um, what do you do at SAP? I mean, we all know you’re the global lead. I just said that, but, um, what, what does your role include?

Ursula: (01:34)
Well, what we actually do is, um, I’m part of a group that is called industry business units and we are basically the global unit within SAP that takes care of a specific industry. So understanding the industry needs, helping also internal, uh, SAP folks understand what the industry needs are, um, really being the ones tailoring. Then in the end, the solutions that SAP is, um, developing to the industry needs. So I always say like, we are kind of like at the border between the development and the customer side. So not necessarily the, uh, all of the industry terms on own to our developers, not necessarily our customers understand all of the development terms. And so we try to be there, the, uh, interpreter between those two units or those, um, groups of people that, should understand each other well so that we can deliver the perfect solutions for the customers.

Josie: (02:39)
So an important role kind of building a bridge between the two worlds and then very customer focused of course. And um, on a more personal level, I know I can find you at home, that’s not a surprise, but where is the, where, where is home? Is that in uh, in what part of the world are you?

Ursula: (03:01)
Oh, world Europe, Germany, the South Western part called [inaudible], which is something like, um, half an hour, three quarters of an hour away from the headquarters of SAP in Waldorf. So, um, that’s why I usually have my office. And you had quarters of SAP involvement with, but currently, as we all, probably most of us that can work from home, we do that from home.

Josie: (03:26)
Yeah. And how’s, how’s that going for you? Are you, are you finding it hard to work from home or is it going

Ursula: (03:33)
Oh, okay. It’s, it’s having its challenges, right? I mean, um, my husband, he’s a developer, not at SAP, but also in the same, um, kind of like internet, IT industry. So, uh, he’s working from home now with a daughter is at home, so you may hear my husband in the background because he’s also having a phone conference at this moment in time. So, um, it’s, it’s having its own challenges, but, uh, well, I mean I always say I’m lucky that we have that possibility to work from home and be safe at home and, um, yeah, I mean it could be definitely worse.

Josie: (04:11)
We agree with, it’s, it’s interesting because I think I’m part of a global team at SAP, so I’m used to working virtually. So for me it wasn’t a crazy big difference being at home. But of course I do miss the office and the human interaction of seeing my coworkers every day. But good to know that you are safe and sound and healthy at home. Um, so first of all, let’s talk a little bit of more about your, the industry that you cover. I mean, when we all know that all industries are being impacted, I think to different degrees of course, some more than others, but I’m curious to know what you’ve seen so far in terms of how building products is being impacted by our current global pandemic.

Ursula: (04:55)
Hmm. Oh, it’s not an easy answer on it. I mean it’s, it’s always, um, it’s always that consultant answer. It depends. Right. But it’s true. Uh, in most of the countries the construction industry is seen as essential business. So in most of the countries, construction industry is still up and running and construction industry needs building products to be able to, to have material to work with. Uh, so from that point of view, uh, it’s not effected as bad as many other industries that we see. Like, um, I mean like in Germany, the automotive industry is, it was completely shut down. It starts, it starts to be revamped now, but I mean, um, we didn’t hear that, uh, in most of the parts of the world for the building products industry, still we see, of course a big impact. I mean, uh, when the, um, production is still up and running, of course the companies need to make sure that they can ensure work to safety, for example, and that may require that you, uh, really decrease the amount of work that is done on the shop floor. So to be able to really have those, um, physical distance between the workers and so there is a lot of impact. I don’t, say it’s easy for them. Um, it’s just, you know, when I compare it with the hospitality business with some other businesses, uh, there is still something going on still in that industry.

Josie: (06:34)
Right. Yeah. So of course like, like we both, um, are hitting on, it’s to different degrees, but still you’re seeing some impacts. And what, what are, do you have, do you see what companies are doing in your industry to kind of cope with the new reality? Or are there any good examples so far? Any best practices that maybe someone listening now can leverage to better get through our global pandemic?

Ursula: (07:01)
Yeah. Well, we, what we see is really a couple of, of things that are really, uh, really done. I mean, uh, how many points do you want? Right. Um, what, well I see is, um, the first thing really is that keeping workers safe. You know, I mean if, if you, if you still want to run your business and, or you still are allowed to run your business still, you have that impact of um, making sure that you have the physical distance that you have to test infection measures. And so, uh, it requires a lot of flexibility in the companies. So to, um, typically you onboard external staff to make sure that that disinfection measures are taking regularly, that you take the measure, the temperature measurements, the body temperature measurements. I don’t know how that is called in English the term really actually. Um, but you know what I mean, that that is taken, uh, on a regular basis.

Ursula: (07:59)
So we see that they, that kind of services are brought into the companies, um, very often now to ensure that the ones that can go to work, that they are safe. Uh, the, the other thing that we definitely see is there are supply shortages. And, um, so with the, the industry being also the supply chains being global, I mean, no doubt about that. Uh, we see shortages because in some other areas of this world, businesses have completely shut down or transport isn’t working or whatever. So there is numerous reasons why people find it difficult to get the supplies that they need. And, uh, I mean, I guess until now most of us have heard about, uh, SAP is offering for that. So the, um, the access to the supplier network on a Reaper. So we see that, um, a lot of companies in our business already, sorry, in our industry have already done that.

Ursula: (09:02)
Uh, we see that, there is a lot of traction in that one. So it’s something that people take into account. Um, then another thing that, um, currently is really on the top of the head of people is, um, say it’s channeled. It’s uh, I mean with the, you know, with the do it yourself stores for example, being closed. Um, and, and people maybe being at home, stuck at home and say, okay, it would be a good opportunity to run away to my apartment. Uh, so they, they need to get the material to do so. So, uh, we see that people in businesses are really thinking about the sales channels. So even if, uh, traditionally they were just in the B2B world, they now consider a B2C scenario in parallel. Uh, and that of course has its own implications. Again, uh, not only from a software point of view, but also from the business relations. So what does it make to the retailers if you now as a producer start to open up your own sales channels? So it’s, it’s, it’s difficult and tough, um, discussion that has to be led there. But it’s something where people or companies that have that already, maybe at the back of their minds, they, they take that now the plans, they take them out of the drawers and discuss about that in much more detail nowadays. So, um,

Josie: (10:43)
It’s interesting how COVID 19 is really re-imagining business models and I think almost any industry, right?

Ursula: (10:54)
Yeah, I mean, I mean that, that, that brings me to another point. Um, well what we really also see is that thing of, uh, you know, we are in a global world and we have to supply chains that are distributed all over the world and suddenly you’re thrown back into your local community. And we see that a lot of companies really think about what can they do for their local community. And I mean, it’s not exactly building products. Um, so, but I, I was so impressed by a couple of examples. I mean, uh, I, I had that on a newspaper recently here that, uh, [inaudible] in, in Spain, in Madrid. Um, they, they couldn’t do their normal work, but I mean, Spain and especially Madrid is hit very, very hard by COVID 19. So they had a lot of people in hospital needing the ventilating machines.

Ursula: (11:52)
And so there were, there were people in, in the [inaudible] business in, in Madrid that said like, okay, let’s do something. We need to do something. And so they completely, within a very short period of time, they, they were working, uh, digitally together with hospitals, with doctors, with uh, engineers and Indian. Now they use the engines for the squints screen wipers. Is that, what’d you say? The things that make the windows screen, uh, dry again, uh, and, and build ventilating machines. I mean, of course they are not to the standard as a medical equipment would be, but at at least it can help for certain period of time. And we’d see examples of that in various industries, textile industries where they, uh, do them, uh, suddenly, uh, say that they do the mosques and um, not anymore shirts or whatever they use to sew.

Ursula: (12:54)
And when I look into the building industry, they are building products, industry, uh, a topic that has been a lot in the industry was those, um, prebuilt components, pre preconfigured material that you can buy and just kind of like plug and play with it in, in the place where you need it. And, um, I, I can see now, uh, for example, um, the hospitals, I mean there is a lot of those, uh, non-permanent hospitals needed. So building products, companies can really play a big role in delivering, um, ready walls to build up the hospitals. They can deliver, um, movable sinks and faucets, uh, so that, uh, you have that type of equipment available. So I really think that it’s something where companies actually think about what can I do good for the community that I’m in. And it’s something that we see, uh, really across all industries and also in the building products industry.

Josie: (13:59)
And it’s, and it’s really such a good point. It’s like, I think this is a time of empathy, a time of staying. What can we do to help? And you touched on this earlier, that we, at SAP we’re also doing something to help. And you, you touched on, or you mentioned Ariba. Um, so what, are there more ways in which, like what w what we can offer SAP as a company to help maybe specifically in the building industry, um, to help companies cope better there or help them with their, at the technology side of dealing with the pandemic?

Ursula: (14:34)
Yeah. Well I see is that definitely the world will become more digital when I look at the long run because I mean, let’s face it, I mean COVID 19 will impact us, uh, until there is a resignation found for it. Um, definitely and let’s face it, if we have, uh, coped with COVID 19, then there is the threat of the next virus coming in the next decade for sure. I mean it’s, uh, yeah, at night, uh, not only second wave, but I mean look like 10 years back, I think it was the time when we had SARS. Uh, and I mean, lucky enough, uh, we were able to, um, to, to prevent the spread of SARS, uh, because it had different impact on the human body. Uh, then, then COVID 19 and it was much more fatal. And so cases that were effected were found much, much faster.

Ursula: (15:35)
But let’s face it, I mean, in 10 years from now, there will be another virus. So I think that we all have to, um, to really think about how can we do our business more digital to be really prepared for that kind of threats that are coming. So where, where do we need to be global and where do we need to be local and where can we still afford to be like we really physical and where do we need to be digital? And, uh, when, when I look at, I mean, I know it’s, it’s kind of a stupid answer, but you know, like all our business is around making companies digital. So, uh, that’s what I really feel. This is at the core of what we as SAP are doing and, uh, all that things will help companies to be better prepared for the next wave, the next, uh, next virus that may come.

Ursula: (16:31)
And I mean we have lots of things that you know, in, in being in that distance, in that physical distance and maybe then also the social distance, uh, companies really need to make sure that the employees are well and so we have the experience management things to really help companies understand how are their employees and what’s going on. Maybe also on the customer side, you know, uh, that can be spread there also in, in that area. So, uh,

Josie: (17:02)
I think that offering right from Qualtircs, Yeah. And it’s essentially a pulse, right? Like as I guess like simplified way of saying it, a survey that you can send out to your customers or your employees to get a pulse check on how they’re doing, which is something that’s of course also applicable to building products. Um, so if we look even, I guess further ahead and if you, as, as an, as an expert in, in the industry that you’re in, what would you say that companies that are in the building products industry should be doing to cope? And, I mean, you touched on it by, by, by saying that they should be more focused on their digital strategy, but is there anything else that you would, companies in the building industry should be doing?

Ursula: (17:54)
I really have that. How to say that. I mean, we technically, I believe that we all need to do what we can to help the community that we are in to cope with it. I mean, seriously, I mean that I really mean that from the bottom of my heart. It’s something where I as an individual may be able to help my neighbor doing the grocery shopping because they are already old and it’s more, they are more endangered that I am. Um, and it’s also true for, for the companies, I mean, for the businesses that they really should be taking a look at. What can they do, uh, to help their local community because their workers typically also come from that local community. So it’s not only a, a human thing, but also a business related thing that we need to take into consideration there. Uh, and then it’s really about, uh, how can we really make sure that we are better prepared for something to come like that because, um, let’s face it, I mean, uh, currently the building products industry is not affected as much as other industries.

Ursula: (19:09)
Uh, but I think we’re all aware that there will be an economic downturn coming. Yeah, I mean that’s, that’s for sure. So, uh, the thing is really now when, when money gets short, uh, also construction projects will be stopped or not be planned. And so building products is not needed to the same extent. Uh, and, and so there will be an economic downturn coming also in the building products industry, that’s for sure. So, um, I think that we really need to, um, to be prepared for that and make sure that we have done all that we can to make sure that we have the right products that are still needed, that we really can produce in a way that is, um, efficient so that we really can have a competitive price. And, uh, really? Yeah. When I asked my crystal ball, well I really, well I really see is that uh, the supply chains will become less global and more local, regional maybe, uh, you know, like uh, all over Asia, all over Europe, all over the Americas, but not that global anymore maybe in some areas. So, um, I really think it’s, it’s about finding the right networks in the area that you’re in, uh, to be prepared for, to time that is coming.

Josie: (20:37)
Yeah. I think, and that’s funny you said you mentioned your crystal ball cause that’s actually, I always ask my guests to book into the crystal ball. So you did that on your own I think. I mean so in summary it’s about ensuring of course the health and safety for the employees that are in the building product industry. It’s about looking ahead, I’m seeing how you can digitize your business to be prepared for the next wave or whatever you want to call it. And it’s about also of course, reaching out to us to SAP because we’re here to help. And you mentioned course Ariba, which is has a free offer. There’s also the Qualtrics. So I guess Ursula would be, you’d be the right person to reach out to if there’s a listener from the building products industry thinking how can I engage better with SAP and get help from SAP?

Ursula: (21:27)
Of course, of course. I mean, uh, the, the first contact for, for the, um, existing SAP customers is always of course the account team that they have. I mean they are, we are very much aligned with the account team. So that’s one of our, of our task and our role in the industry business unit. So for existing, uh, already SAP customers, I, I would, I would always recommend get in touch with your account team, work, work closely with them. They are there to help they know your business, uh, they know your company. Um, and they are the ones to discuss with. Uh, and I mean if there is a, you know, like things that you’d like to discuss with me, of course, are absolutely, I mean, um, we’re here and we’re absolutely interested or I’m also absolutely interested in getting to know what’s on the mind of the building products industry. And what is driving you and uh, and learn from you guys and see where we can help. So that’s absolutely crucial. Yeah,

Josie: (22:28)
I think it’s all about in today’s world it’s all about collaboration, empathy, helping each other. And you mentioned that both on a personal level but also as a company. So Ursula with those words, thank you so much for coming on the show and for giving us a better insight into what is going on and how building products are being impacted by our pandendemic and also looking ahead and kind of saying what we should be doing to better keep up and to, to survive in this, um, crazy world that we live in right now.

Ursula: (23:03)
Thanks for having me on. Uh, it was a pleasure, having that discussion with you.

Josie: (23:08)
Likewise and to all of those who listened to this episode, thanks so much for tuning in. If you want to learn more about what SAP is doing to help and the free offers that we have, um, you can learn more, uh, going on SAP website. So thanks a lot for listening. Bye everyone and see you on the next episode. Goodbye. Thank you for listening to this episode of our podcast. Please subscribe to our channel industry insights by SAP at open SAP, Apple, Spotify, or people podcasts. To learn more about what is doing to help you cope and covert 19 you can go to sap.com about global health safety and find free access to select SAP software tools to support your business in much more. Stay safe. Everyone.

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