A Look Back: The Resilience of Ryder in 2020
Eric Winkler, Founder and Chairman of Ryder Industries, Reviews the Year
In the face of the greatest epidemic of the last century, resilient companies have done well. After the initial peak of the COVID-19 pandemic subsided, Ryder Industries was part of the first wave of companies allowed to reopen, resuming regular operations and customer service in March. The “regular operations” were subject to strict rules, which were then progressively relaxed. Now, you will see no masks, barriers or distancing on either of our campuses in China. In fact, in 2020, not a single employee has been infected in any location, and Ryder sales have grown.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted an interesting difference in social behaviour between Confucian and Western cultures (in mainland China or Japan or Taiwan or South Korea) – all these very different societies have had outstanding successes in limiting the pandemic. Europe has suffered massively, differing by degree across its many different nations, and the Western hemisphere has suffered massively too. Intriguingly, though, Australia and New Zealand have done an excellent job at managing this crisis.
The Ryder people-culture carried us through, with solid mutual trust and a powerful sense of “we are in this together”. Families were supportive, rearranging their childcare to accommodate schedules. Some people had been marooned during the Chinese New Year visits to their own relatives, thousands of kilometres away – it took up to two months for the last of them to return. However, the results of our annual survey showed the upbeat Ryder spirit still holding firm.
External confirmation of this success came from both Western and Chinese sources. In the West, the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) certified Ryder’s conformance to its ESG standards. The city government of Ryder’s inland plant designated Ryder its outstanding company of the year for its treatment of its employees.
People like to progress, to sense that life is getting better for them, that they are getting smarter, wiser and more effective at their work. Ryder has supported this with extensive training throughout this challenging year, and by keeping them up to date and showing both respect and concern for their well-being.
One particular focus has been communication skills, this starts from self-knowledge and understanding of one’s interlocutor, then through language skills to the establishment of a common platform, then on to the many small skills of the art of conversation. In a videoconference, this becomes substantially more difficult, so the training is commensurately more important. Over the past year, Ryder have provided courses to hundreds of our employees, and our customers have remarked on how forthright and effective communication with Ryder has been.
Technology is always top of mind in our industry. In preparation for 2021, Ryder’s engineers have automated over 100 workstations, with the twin benefits of cost reduction and quality improvement. Robot stations have been built and debugged, processes rethought, and a coordinating computer system installed. This will reduce downtime and ease preventive maintenance.
Ground-breaking for our new buildings: with a power shovel and a multidisciplinary team of professionals
In September, Ryder broke ground on its new factory buildings – these are expected to house production starting in early 2022. The new buildings will double the workshop floor area, providing plenty of room for growing customer demand. In 2013, Ryder opened phase 1, pioneering a number of environmentally friendly technologies. We revisited these innovations in depth, and they will be installed in improved form in phase 2, and at the same time the existing systems will be upgraded to the new state of the art. Ryder does this because it is simply the right thing to do. We are happy that our customers agree with this view, and happy they commit to it.
Lastly, tariffs – these have not been a big issue in 2020 – many US exemptions are continuing to run, and a solution that we set up in Southeast Asia found few takers, once customers had analysed the costs and benefits to them. As we approach 2021, we expect to ramp up this solution gently, and continue our resilient ways.