COVID-19 Impact: Demand Increasing for Applications Such As Informative Communication

COVID-19 Impact: Demand Increasing for Applications Such As Informative Communication

Ernest Azzam, the Large Format Printing Regional Business Manager for Eastern Europe, Turkey, Middle East, and Africa at HP, speaks to Print Pack about the measures undertaken by his company to ensure continuity of business without disruption

During this COVID-19 crisis, what measures have you undertaken to continue your own business without disruption? 
At HP, we are focusing on managing the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation with both urgency and a sense of care. The wellbeing of our employees, partners, customers, and their families remains utmost priority. We have implemented a wide range of actions across our business to keep people safe. 

As for our global supply chain, we are working closely with suppliers to continue delivering products and services for our customers. Meanwhile, we have canceled all HP-sponsored, live, in-person events through at least the end of January of next year. In the interim, we are working to remain connected with our partners and customers in other meaningful ways, including hosting smaller virtual events. 

What measures and initiatives have been taken to provide uninterrupted service to customers?
One of our first priorities has been to look at how HP can provide cybersecurity support for those working or learning from home. To this end, HP has made available ‘HP Sure Click’ to users for free until September 30th. The offer was made available for all HP and non-HP Windows 10 PC customers. Part of the programme is an online advice service and free HP webinars to set up home offices securely. 

In addition, we have also launched a number of partner and customer relief initiatives. Together with endorsed finance partners, HP’s Integrated Financial Solutions group is now offering a variety of financial and asset lifecycle options, including deferred or reduced payments until 2021, short-term rentals and cash infusions for customer-owned HP devices through a sale leaseback program. 

Yet another initiative we have launched in recent past is the HP response to COVID-19 guide for customer and partners with details on our business continuity plans, how-to guides and other useful information pertaining to the most common requests we have received such as how to clean your PC or printer properly, best practices of working from home, and tips for hosting virtual meetings. 

Which top industry verticals and markets have you seen the maximum traction? How has COVID-19 impacted business with existing customers in those verticals and markets?
While there are industries that are clearly hit harder by the pandemic than others, such as the retail, hospitality, and airline industry, we have seen demand increasing for informative communication mostly for indoor applications. But where we have also seen a lot of traction is in the digital education sector. Already in March, HP has launched the BeOnline initiative here in the UAE in partnership with Classera and Mirai to give schools and universities free access to a full ecosystem needed for a remote learning experience.

What sort of business and financial impact do you expect for your business as a result of COVID-19?
The financial impact will depend on a number of factors. What can be said is that people across the world are confronting immense challenges and adjusting to new realities. This extraordinary situation will have profound impacts on modern life – from business and the economy to politics and culture. The role of companies in society will fundamentally change – and we must step up to meet the challenges of this moment. 

As we marshal our full resources to support response efforts, we are also seeing a new role of technology in everyday life – keeping us connected and helping us support one another through this time of uncertainty. In the coming weeks and months, we can expect to see a shift in people’s perception of technology: Once seen as a deterrent to creating meaningful connections, technology must become a great and vital enabler of humanity. One that helps people to keep learning, keep working, and keep going. 

Have you kick-started any initiatives for your employees to better handle this crisis?
Starting in mid-March, HP employees worldwide have been instructed to work from home, if their roles allowed for it. For those system relevant workers that were required on the side, HP has taken measures to ensure their safety, including travel restrictions, site visit restrictions, in-person meeting postponements, physical distancing, alternate staffing shifts, safety signage, and enhanced cleaning and sanitization practices. 

Re-entering HP offices continues to depend primarily on where in the world employees are located and the pandemic trajectory in those areas. Considerations include local and federal regulations, community infection rates, our ability to ensure employee health and safety on-site, and business needs. Re-entering offices has meant staggering teams, physical distancing protocols, providing safety equipment such as face coverings and sanitizer, and implementing other local safety protocols. 

Each week, HP employees are invited to a series of HP Spirit activities developed to help them stay healthy, productive, and connected. This has included health events, such as virtual office hours with HP’s global medical director, webinars about managing anxiety and sleep, and yoga classes. Some activities support the transition to working from homes, such as tips for homeschooling and ergonomics. And some are promoted to just keep things fun, such as a global dance party with a live DJ, printable family crafts and games, cooking classes, and an employee talent competition.

Where do you see new opportunities emerging from – either industry sectors, jobs, markets?
This health crisis has changed the way we think and work. I believe that we will see some applications grow immediately such as informative communication (posters, stickers, etc that help people with social distancing) as well as rigid protective separators indoor (acrylic separators at supermarket cashiers, and so on).

For the printing industry it will be in 3D printing and digital manufacturing. HP is working with its global digital and manufacturing community to mobilize 3D printing teams, technologies, experience, and production capacities to deliver critical parts in the effort of tackling COVID-19. HP’s 3D Printing R&D centers in Barcelona, Spain; Corvallis, Oregon; San Diego, California; and Vancouver, Washington are collaborating with partners around the world in a coordinated effort to increase production to meet the most urgent needs. 

So far, HP and its global community of partners and customers have produced more than 2.3 million 3D-printed parts using HP 3D printing technology to help healthcare workers on the front lines. Some applications that are currently being validated and finalized include the potential industrial production of face masks, face shields, mask adjusters, nasopharyngeal swaps, hands-free door openers, and respirator parts.

Note: This article was updated on 15th June 2020.

Chris Fernando

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