Innovation in business, marketing strategies, online operations highlighted in WebIECon 2020

Known to be versatile, flexible, and a “jack-of-all-trades”, Industrial Engineering (IE) graduates take up a variety of different positions in fields ranging from business to trade. 

Optimizing complex systems—“making things better”—is one of the main goals of IE; its necessity in the corporate world and in society remains ever-important, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Adaptability has always been the name of the game for mankind,” said Dr. Willy Zalatar, Industrial Engineering Department chair, in his opening remarks for WebIECon 2020 organized by the Industrial Management Engineering Society last August 15 and 16 via Facebook Live.

With the theme Innovating the New Normal, the annual two-day event featured guest speakers who discussed their business ventures throughout the pandemic and exemplified some of the potential roles of IE graduates in different industries.

Corporate decisions

Problem solving is needed now more than ever in the “new normal”. Ernest Cu—director, president, and chief executive officer of Globe Telecom—shared in his keynote speech how he put that trait to good use when he decided to shift company operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic to continue serving their customers.

He noted that aside from continuing existing services, Globe has also made strides to offer additional services such as allocating more data to customers, free WiFi connectivity in certain hospitals, and fundraising efforts for frontliners.

Similar points were raised by Jaime Lee, president of Honest Ventures—a company that distributes and markets various products like bags—as she emphasized the importance of maintaining customer relations especially amid quarantine. “There’s this mindset that if you’re on lockdown and you’re not relevant or present, they think you’re out of business,” she explained. “You must be ready to show yourself.”

Simple acts like checking in on customers and listening to their sentiments online, she shared, may improve their perception of one’s business.

Jack of all trades

Unilab Raw Materials Cluster Assistant Vice President Paul Yapjoco weighed in on the relevance of industrial engineers in today’s industry. Because of their flexibility, Yapjoco asserted that industrial engineers “are a good fit to any part of a company and in any industry.”

Flexibility as a business is also key under the current situation. Lee references a quote from Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, saying that “you have to be small to be flexible.”

Shopee Philippines Fast-moving Consumer Goods Manager Anton Suarez also advised future industrial engineers that “it’s not bad to specialize, but do not put yourself inside a box”, underlining the importance of learning to adapt under new circumstances. As with any other profession, there is always a need to take risks and build relationships, he added.

With all these, aspiring industrial engineers also need to display key traits—critical thinking being one of them, especially for problem-solving in systems and processes, and to take into account risks on the job and other external factors, Yapjoco emphasized. 

Room for innovation

“[Continuous] efforts to digitize and transform our organization has also allowed us to transition and adapt more effectively to operating our business remotely,” Cu shared, adding that Globe has utilized methods such as employing a work-from-home setting with the use of video conferencing platforms.

However, he admitted that the telecommunications company was not “immune to the effects of the pandemic”, with much of its store operations and network building activities suspended.

Indeed, these effects were felt across different industries and business ventures. Shell Philippines Fuels Brand Manager Jerome David remarked, “COVID-19 is more than just a health crisis.” 

Affecting transportation and distribution, the quarantine pushed Shell Philippines “to innovate and [to] think” of how to sustain revenue, especially with the petroleum industry being different from consumer brands like produce and gadgets. “Marketing for a commodity like fuel is a bit more traditional, so it made us widen our perspective on how we can remain relevant to motorists during this time,” he stated.

Consumer behavior “shifted dramatically”, according to Cu, with students and employees moving to remote setups. Such factors like the need to have device and connectivity access should not go unnoticed, he stressed, especially for corporate decisions on providing relevant products and services. Cu predicted that, with the change of needs of customers amid the pandemic, “Many new businesses will rise.”

with reports from Enrico Sebastian Salazar

By Eiji Sunagawa

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