The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced processors, customers and vendors to adapt quickly to a new way of working and buying.

As just one example, NiceLabel has launched a program that offers free subscriptions to its cloud-based labeling and technical services to assist organizations that are involved in fighting or supporting those who are fighting the pandemic.

Ken Moir, vice president of marketing, NiceLabel, answered some questions on the program, how the company is providing remote support and lessons learned that can be applied to the future.

Food Engineering (FE): What steps do companies need to take to get approval for this program? If they are an existing customer, does it require any changes to what they’re currently doing?

Ken Moir (KM): NiceLabel wants to help all organizations in the fight against COVID-19. Really, our cause is about helping the society to combat the virus. We want to help any organization that feels labeling has become an obstacle causing delays in getting essential items to those who need them or could benefit from greater efficiency of the supply chain. Submit your case to us—our approval process is relatively simple. We have a team ready 24/7 to review requests worldwide, make decisions instantly and provide access to NiceLabel’s cloud-based software to help get supplies and necessities to the front lines as fast as possible.

The program has already received interest. Right now, we’re working with a fashion retailer who switched over to manufacturing PPE. A major charity composed of chefs and volunteers has also requested our help to streamline its efforts to prepare meals for healthcare workers and people in need. Our purpose with this program is not to argue or worry over profit. It’s purely about helping those businesses aiding the fight against COVID-19. Our focus is to eliminate delays, not create them.

FE: How is NiceLabel supporting customers remotely? What changes did it require to be able to maintain support without on-site work?

KM: All of our operations today are completed remotely, but this isn’t a new concept for us. NiceLabel has teams and offices in more than a dozen countries across the world, and countless employees worked from home even before the pandemic, so we learned the importance of remote collaboration a long time ago. In fact, this is our normal. Part of our success comes from equipping our staff with the right virtual collaboration tools. We make sure our team has superior visual, audio and microphone equipment so that whether we’re participating in business meetings, sales calls, pre-sales calls, demos or discovery workshops, we are prepared to excel in any virtual environment.

Our cloud-based labeling software underpins our remote support and diagnostics capabilities, as we can help to iron out any problems and even help to set up complete systems without being there physically.

FE: What challenges were created by the switch to remote support in such a short time frame? How were they overcome?

KM: Regarding the switch to remote work, we haven’t experienced a distinct transition, but many of our channel partners have. We’ve become a bit of a guiding force, coaching our partners on practices that are already normal for us--how to communicate, sell and utilize the right applications remotely. It’s been incredible to see the communal shift take place in the companies that work with us and in our own company where regular remote work of a smaller group of employees is now embraced by the entire team.

FE: What lessons have been learned from remote support that can be applied to future support efforts once things return to “normal”?

KM: For years now, we’ve learned that everything in a conventional office environment is just as possible in a remote one. We need to spotlight the efficiency. I could be based in Germany, but I can travel at the speed of light to the US. And just as quickly, I can be back home for dinner with my family. It will cost me nothing.

More companies converting now are finally recognizing the benefits of a virtual environment given the current pandemic. The world is changing. The adoption of remote work and cloud technology will only continue to rise as an outcome of the situation.

The efficiency doesn’t stop at the office. We’re also seeing the effects of remote work influence other areas, like the sustainability cause. So, while unexpected, this shift is creating a massive chain reaction.

FE: How has NiceLabel been able to maintain effective communication with all stakeholders? What lessons have been learned from that specific aspect of the change?

KM: Our stakeholders consist of staff, end user customers and channel partners. Recently, our number one priority has been to make sure all of our own staff feel engaged and guided as they make this adjustment; stand-up meetings have become a daily operation for us.

We also invite staff and partners to embrace the unexpected on our video calls, be it pets or children waving in the background. It’s not an issue. We’ll wave right back.

Ken Moir is vice president of marketing, NiceLabel.