Coronavirus: taking an industry leading approach

Coronavirus: taking an industry leading approach

Friday, 16 October 2020

Stuart Farrell, Head of Supply Chain Management, reflects on Cornerstone's approach to the ongoing pandemic and what might change going forwards.

After what has been to date a global pivot point for Supply Chain Management, with the onset and continuation of the global pandemic, now is a point in time to pause and share some of the steps already taken in Telecoms Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) to ‘keep Britain connected’.

As the UK moves into, what some describe as a second wave of coronavirus, and with local lockdowns becoming the “new normal”, there are some key lessons and learnings for Cornerstone, our Partners and the Industry as a whole.

Overall, I would say that both the Fixed and Mobile Telecommunications industries have responded well to this exceptional situation, being pro-active with the use of technology, innovation and leading by example. According to Nigel Newton, Managing Director of one of our long-standing strategic partners, Clarke Telecom, Cornerstone's response has been to "set a very high benchmark by taking an industry lead, that to my knowledge, has not been replicated anywhere. Your approach to supplier communications and leadership has been exemplary." 

Very encouraging feedback to receive, which we have heard flavours of many times over the past four months on our weekly touchpoint communications MS Teams calls. They validate all the team's hard work, which started as soon as the government announced the national lockdown.

Stuart Farrell, Head of Supply Chain Management, reflects on Cornerstone's approach to the ongoing pandemic and what might change going forwards.

Our priority was to make contact with all of our strategic CNI Suppliers, creating both a verbal and visual dialogue early on. It allowed everyone to understand how they could work together, to continually provide much needed connectivity for the nation. We did this by hosting weekly Supplier Surgeries on MS Teams, attended by 70 colleagues across Cornerstone and our supplier network. Our agenda led with Health and Safety, which rightly so, was at the centre of all our decision-making.

In addition, during these well attended surgeries each week, we were able to provide the latest updates on the CNI estate that we own and manage on behalf of Vodafone and O2-Telefónica.

We also shared the latest, up to date Government safety advice and guidance, and cascade details from the National Criminal Intelligence briefings, giving much needed locations of possible terrorism events, such as arson and vandalism. 

With the primary aim of wanting to make the lives of those out in the field safer and better understood by the British public, we backed up our approach with tangible actions. We did this by providing CNI equipment and jackets, creating telecoms critical works van signage, developing CNI site notices, and issuing correspondence to explain to the public, where needed, that our people were key essential workers performing critical services to the nation. 

Recognising the potential financial risks to some of our suppliers during these uncertain times, we also made the bold decision to reduce payment terms and paid valid invoices quicker. By doing so, we ensured the ‘freeing up’ of operating cashflow, enabling our suppliers to support their sub-contractors downstream, allowing them to continue trading and providing a much needed service.

Our company values drove all of our actions, while demonstrating to our partners that we genuinely care as a company and value them. In turn, I'd like to think we have influenced them with best approaches for managing their suppliers, from the experience they have shared with us.

As for the future, I firmly believe our approach, actions and lessons learned will place us in a strong position.

We are now as a business and a 4,500 people strong Supply Chain, better equipped to take on any second wave challenge, and I strongly believe we have new tools at our disposal to be even stronger next time, with flexibility, transparency and safety forming key parts of our business continuity plans going forward.

I'm confident we will get through this situation as #TogetherWeAreBetter