Networking has always been an integral and important tool for Semco, as for any graphite company. Our network doesn’t just facilitate people-to-people communication, but also people-to-machine. As CNC machining has taken on a bigger role in graphite production at Semco, so has our network, which allows our machinists and engineers to program runs and complex jobs. In early 2020, we thought Semco was a highly networked workplace.
Then came March 2020. With COVID restrictions, networking has taken on an even bigger role in our graphite company. Departments that understood in-person work as the bread and butter of what they do were suddenly thrown into a new world. The sales department is a case in point. Their work used to be on the road, face-to-face. In the span of a couple of weeks, the department shifted to phone calling and video chatting taking center stage. Today, most companies are probably utilizing video chat, with customers and vendors all using Microsoft Teams and Zoom. The same goes for us, too. Most of our meetings at Semco are currently being held through Microsoft Teams or Zoom, and not only in the sales department. Quality Control is another graphite production department that probably didn’t envision itself doing much of its work online, but which has made networking central to what it does now. Customers that once needed first-hand, in-house inspection of their product are now working with us over Teams for their inspections. Our inspectors do their jobs while being guided and recorded by the customer over Teams, making sure the inspection procedures are followed.
What we’ve come to see about our new networking practices is that they do not represent a temporary but necessary diminishment of our capacities as a graphite company. Instead, they greatly increase our versatility in serving our customers without compromising the quality of our graphite production work. The assumption that many things had to be done in person turned out to just be false. Even our ISO 9001-2015 certification, which we worked very hard on for months and were proud to obtain, was partially done remotely. The initial audit was conducted in person, but the recertification was conducted through Teams. Clearly, the graphite production industry has expanded its notion of what can be accomplished well through networking, and Semco has led the way in the industry with this shift.
Now, if you visit our facility in Lorain (even remotely), you can see that this is not February 2020 anymore. It is not commonplace to see even the large majority of our Sales Team outreach being done through digital platforms. Of course, as humans, we are not ready to give up on the human touch completely. We have seen some return to face-to-face meetings. In fact, we have a handful scheduled just this month here as Semco. We also have several travel events planned for the near future. For clients who are more comfortable consulting in-person, we are more than happy to do business that way, too. For sure, we all appreciate some things getting back to normal in 2022, but digital platforms and video chatting are definitely here to stay.