Wednesday, May 6, 2020
By Andy Kalambi, CEO Rize Inc.
As the world economy emerges from its COVID-19 cocoon we begin to realize that the world has rapidly changed around us. COVID-19 is still here, the numbers are still growing worldwide and while we are yearning to reclaim ‘business as usual’, our economic soothsayers find their crystal balls cloudy. However, one thing is crystal clear...the experiences of the past weeks which have enabled us to survive this pandemic are seared into our consciousness and will remain with us for a long time to come. It is said that for something to become a habit one needs to do it continuously for 21 days…and we have been at it for much longer than that.
Let’s look at the three themes that have helped us in this COVID-19 P.A.U.S.E time:
A new normal is beginning to emerge as we start paying special attention to these three themes and make them integral parts of our life’s routine. Let’s start to examine each of these big themes and relate them to what the RIZE experience has been till now:
The need to stay healthy and focus on our individual wellness has been the biggest learning from the COVID-19 crisis. Our constant washing of hands is just one emblematic habit in the need to focus on our health. The world is now getting gradually used to wearing masks as a way to protect oneself and others from “the spread”. We realize that the best line of defense in any health crisis is our own immunity and this is a constant endeavor. There is an increased realized that the primary source of contamination comes from the simple act of touching anything…or anyone.
We exist in a hyper connected world where our own well-being – physical, financial, emotional – is intrinsically and intricately connected to others. As we saw distressful situations of people falling sick and healthcare / essential workers scrambling in the face of adversity and shortages – we realized that none of us had the luxury to sit around and watch. We had to act…because everyone matters – the person delivering mail and packages to our doorstep, ringing up our groceries and collecting our trash.
The world has gone through this gigantic experiment of working or studying from home…the jobs and roles that survived this crisis best were the ones that could adapt to work/study anywhere and were not fixated to locations where we must congregate. The roles that could not adapt, unfortunately saw a dramatic reduction of activity, however temporary it may be. To be able to stay productive it became important to implement and adopt new workflows which enable people to stay productive anywhere and anytime tethered by the technology that enables. A new normal has emerged where our homes have become the primary workplace, and our homes now needs to be better equipped to foster productive work and study.
At RIZE, COVID-19 came as much of a challenge as it did for everyone else. We are a growth stage start up with big dreams, unique technology but limited resources. These resources became even more restricted in the COVID-19 crisis. However, we started adapting to the new ways or working and realized that speed was of essence to devise a new workflow to stay productive. We did not go about this with a big plan or strategy, but what emerged over the weeks was the makings of one…here is how we played to each of these three themes:
We moved our entire team to work from home, while taking special permission from the authorities to keep our office open for emergency activities. Each of the engineers was enabled to take one or more of our industrial 3D printers home. We were able to do this without worry about safety issues because our printers are designed and certified to be safe for usage in indoor environments. The materials we use are biocompatible, recyclable and completely non-toxic. Which meant that our engineers could continue to work while tending to their kids at home, cooking meals, etc. They could deposit used material into the recycling bin without having to worry about any special handling needs. Most importantly they could handle the materials without risk of any cross contamination. Our UL 2904 certification for health and safety of 3D printing for indoor usage came in handy…but I must say, I am concerned that we are still the only 3D printing company in the world who has this certification…I believe this crisis should lead to the sensitization that everyone needs it.
Over the almost eight weeks that we have now been working from homes, we saw an increase in productivity, as our engineers used the time they saved on commuting and doing non-essential stuff. We stayed connected everyday through a morning companywide check-in, daily team meetings and maintaining even some of our traditions like Friday lunch (done virtually). The virtual environment brought us closer as some even had family members join some of these online calls. During all these eight weeks, the entire team has worked on the trot, without taking vacation days and churning out some of the best work we have ever seen in our company. We have designed components, prototyped them, tested, worked with key suppliers and even got them manufactured – all the while operating from the safety of our home, while selectively and safely using our office to do the shipping and logistics. All this was possible because each of our engineers converted their basements/gym/kitchens/garages into micro-factories.
3D Printing technology has assumed a new importance and relevance for an unprepared world hit by a monumental crisis…there was a desperate shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the entire industry jumped to meet this need. What this meant was that anyone from RIZE who had a 3D Printer at home was able to contribute and help our #covid19heroes. Some of our engineers went on overdrive, developing new applications to help prevent the spread of infection. There were others building new parts for critical equipment like ventilators. While most of the 3D printing companies were equal to this task, what we did differently was focus not just on PPE but also the person who would wear it. By leveraging our safety principles and our technology we made our PPE unique and built an emotional connection with the special people who used them.
Emerging from this crisis we have a new set of learnings – a new workflow and a set of practices which focus on staying productive anywhere and anytime, be responsive and responsible to the community at large and ensure that we are proactive about maintaining our health and wellness.
We would like to share these learnings and practices with others, as we collectively and individually make sense of the new world we now find ourselves – a new normal which has the opportunity make us more productive, connected and relevant.