Through a challenging time together

The corona pandemic has kept the whole world in suspense and presented us all with new challenges. The Bell Food Group has also had to deal with this unknown situation. Various employees from the whole group share how they dealt with the situation.

Kathrin Faerber Head of Process Engineering (TOP BPM) at Bell in Zell (CH)

«I usually support focus projects as part of TOP BPM, expand 5S, further develop the session structure and support process optimization. My everyday life was changed a lot by Corona: With the increased production volumes, the priorities were clearly to master day-to-day production and to maintain the TOP BPM standard. Therefore, the ongoing projects had to be postponed. So I looked for new areas of work where I could support the company, for example in the implementation of the corona measures. I was able to work on other projects from home.

 I was also happy with my goal planning; this made it easy for me to re-coordinate projects that now had to wait. In the meantime, the situation has calmed down somewhat and I can resume my normal activities.»

Krzysztof Więcław Operations Manager at Bell in Niepołomice (PL)

«When the corona virus appeared in Poland, I had to adapt the management of the company to the new reality. The normal processes in the company were threatened almost overnight. We set up a crisis team and worked together to determine where action was needed to comply with the new regulations and restrictions. Many measures focused on protecting employees and minimizing the risk of spread. This crisis has confirmed to me again that my colleagues are not only successful, but that their commitment to finding optimal solutions is invaluable. I owe it to my team that we will successfully master this difficult time without giving up and always with the solution in mind.»

Stefan Potgeter Head of Central Services at Bell in Seevetal (DE)

«The current situation is an enormous challenge for all of us. After the serious changes regarding the loss of the sausage and convenience factories and the associated reorganization of many departments, this was a test for the entire organization.

Despite the spatial separation with working from home, we are making use of the various technical tools. It turns out that video conferences in particular were being held in a very disciplined manner, and yet everyone still had fun at work. Nevertheless, we very much miss the personal contact with our colleagues.

At the beginning, we also had to get used to the changing conditions in the supply of goods, and to adjust the quantities or to cope with the sometimes extremely fluctuating orders. In close coordination with the production department and the other departments, we mastered the challenge together and have always been able to deliver.

I am particularly proud that, as well as maintaining the day-to-day business, we are also continuing to pursue an extraordinary number of projects, for example in the context of TOP BPM, in product development, in technology, in energy management or in construction projects. This shows how stringently everyone is pursuing the same goal and still bringing in their personal touch!»

Sadat Shaqiri Chairman of the Works Council at Hubers Landhendl in Pfaffstaett (AT)

«The past few months have been a challenge for everyone, both privately and professionally. As a works council member and department head in the cutting department, I regularly ensure that the protective measures are observed. We take our breaks in turns to keep the number of people in the canteen as low as possible.

It is a challenge for the production that production lines must always be staffed. It is therefore extremely important to adhere to the break times. We generally start the first shift one hour earlier in order to avoid any interpersonal contact between the two production shifts. So we all get up one hour earlier – and at 2 pm there is an hour of production downtime.

For some time now, we have all been tested for COVID-19 after vacations and in case of illness to prevent it from being brought into the company. For me as a works council member and employee, it is important that we all help together to fight this virus. We can make it happen. Together.»

From left to right: Ambre Savoy, Nicolas Perret, Modi Ide, Fabrice Perignon, Frédérica Gueissaz from Sylvain & CO in Essert-sous- Champvent

«The corona virus has no chance against us! Thanks to the protective measures, we were able to remain calm during the crisis. Our employer has done everything possible to protect us from this pandemic. 

Our daily work has not changed, but the atmosphere has changed due to social distancing. We all respect the new rules, wear masks and regularly sanitize our hands. The sensitive areas are all regularly disinfected.»

Christine Dehnert Head of the canteen at Süddeutsche Truthahn AG in Ampfing (DE)

«The past few months have been a challenging time. In March, our canteen was immediately closed as a protective measure. However, we knew how to make good use of the «newly gained» time. When there was a sharp increase in the number of orders over the following days, two employees from my team helped out, for example in the packaging and in the cardboard warehouse, in order to be able to cope better with the increased volume. We took care of the regular disinfection of the door handles and the desks in administration and the tables in the communal areas.

When everyone in the company was tested for Corona as a protective measure, the tests took place in the canteen – I was able to support the authorities with the internal organization. We were also able to implement projects for which we had previously not been able to find the time: We restructured the changing rooms and cleaned them from top to bottom. It continued in the canteen.

We also cleaned it from top to bottom and treated it to a new coat of paint. We would normally have hired an external painter for this, but this gave us the opportunity to paint it ourselves and to beautify the canteen. In the interim we didn’t know whether the canteen would open again in the near future and what that would mean for our workplace. But with the new hygiene concept, which I developed with the support of our quality management, we were able to reopen the canteen in July and welcome our colleagues back!»

Sinuhe Hofstetter Plant manager at the Hilcona Taste Factory in Landquart (CH)

«We had an invisible enemy, which became more and more visible from China via Italy to Ticino and changed the employees at the plant. The employees had questions that are usually answered by the family doctor rather than the plant manager. From ’It’s all exaggerated’ to 'I'm afraid that I or my relatives could die from it’, the range of daily opinions varied widely. Thanks to the daily comparison with sales and flexible improvisation of the entire value chain, we at Team Hilcona have been able to work out a goal-oriented solution together with the customers.

With the great commitment of the Hilcona Taste Factory employees, who have adapted to the new general conditions on a daily basis, the additional challenges were mastered extremely well. Thanks to the already high applicable hygiene guidelines in the food industry and the jointly developed additional measures, a high level of safety could be radiated and created. Many individual discussions and the daily presence of the superiors reduced the fear and helped to make the invisible opponent more visible.»

Roland Vrecko TK Production Manager at Bell in Oensingen (CH)

«In the frozen food department, we felt the lockdown very clearly. We had to switch off some of the lines on which, for example, catering goods are produced. With other lines, an enormous additional quantity was added overnight. As a consequence we had to work on Saturdays, for example. The greatest increase in demand was for minced meat products. It was clear to see that people were cooking more at home themselves – and it’s very easy with minced meat. At first, staff were somewhat unsure about how to deal with the situation. Risk groups were another factor. At the beginning it was not easy to guarantee the 2 meter distance rule. Staff handled the situation very well after initial difficulties and were also very flexible.»

Reinhard Gassner Operations manager Eisberg in Marchtrenk (AT)

«Of course, the effects of the corona pandemic are also being felt in Austria, and thus also at our Marchtrenk site. Thanks to the immediate introduction of all the necessary measures and additional safety precautions, we were able to react very quickly to this crisis. We are very pleased not to have a single confirmed case of corona at our site to date, and would like to thank everyone once again for their exemplary compliance with all measures and safety precautions taken.»

Diana Riedel District Manager Food Service Field Service at Hügli in Radolfzell (DE)

«With the beginning of the corona period, a completely new and unusual situation emerged for all of us. For me and my colleagues it was a new challenge to no longer drive to our customers and support them by phone. Through intensive preparation of customer conversations by telephone we were able to maintain customer contact very well, although nothing can replace an on-site visit. Furthermore, we were able to use the time well to work on administrative matters, for example to update customer data or to optimize tour planning in order to come back well prepared after the crisis. In addition, we carried out weekly telcos on a wide variety of topics, such as an Excel refresh. 

Everyone could benefit from these training courses for the time after lockdown. Due to the relaxations, I and my customers are very happy again that we are able to be back on site.»

Gabriela Boldeanu Quality Manager at Eisberg in Pantelimon (RO)

«We have not seen any major changes; after all, we have been working with strict hygiene regulations for a long time. Masks, disposable gloves, special equipment are part of everyday life for us. Of course, we have increased the number of checks at certain points. As far as the common areas, corridors and canteen are concerned, we have increased the number of times we clean items that we used to clean only once a day. We also disinfect door handles, switches, desks, common rooms, microwave and so on. 

For a food manufacturer like Eisberg, product safety is essential. Procedures that are now also known to the public are only a small part of the ’normality’ during this pandemic. Three factors prove to us that what we are doing is right: our customers’ trust, consumer feedback and audits.»

William Pandolfi Shift manager at Ali-Big in Brivio (IT)

«Production management and compliance with social distancing are working very well today. It is a pity that we cannot enjoy the work shoulder to shoulder as before, or have lunch together in a team. So far, these measures have been necessary – and they have worked: So far the company hasn't yet had a single case. When Lombardy, where our company is located, was declared a risk region, we were very much afraid of this unknown virus and its effects. The media provided contradictory information. We immediately started wearing masks, kept our distance and intensified the cleaning in the company with the help of an external company – and we were able to maintain production all the time.»

Roland Kalberer Head of Culinary Arts at Hilcona in Schaan (FL)

«In the kitchen, we were unaccustomed to the numerous restrictions in the workplace, although hygiene has always been part of our everyday life. Especially when cooking and tasting, the obligation to wear a mask has created some strange situations. One thing is clear: you were more conscious, sensitive and focused on the road. Basically, the Swiss government has done a lot well. This also applies to Hilcona and the pandemic management team. Important decisions were made in good time and communicated well. 

However, I am currently struggling with the laissez-faire feeling that prevails in large parts of society. In spite of all the economic challenges, I hope that the few positive aspects of this time will remain and have a lasting effect.»

Patrik Keller Head of PPS / Production Service and Assistant Plant Manager at Hügli in Steinach (CH)

«For me, the corona crisis was and still is an extraordinary, uncertain, but also an interesting time that has required and will continue to require a great deal of organizational skill and flexibility, both professionally and privately. Professionally, I was confronted with challenges in a special way. It became even more important to look at the entire value chain in order to understand and implement customer needs (internally and externally). I also learned a lot of new things, such as using new tools so we could still achieve the goals we had set and to be able to successfully complete projects. I have had positive experiences with Webex. However, for me the interpersonal aspect is very important, and that was somewhat lost in the webcalls and conferences. For me in my position, working from home is not a holistic solution, but for certain tasks it certainly makes sense, as long as the furnishings and environment at home meet the necessary requirements. Since my social obligations (for example, club activities) also ceased during this time, I was able to fully enjoy my free time in the evenings and on weekends with my family or use it for my further training and leisure sports.»

Jaroslaw Korman Sales Manager at Eisberg in Legnica (PL)

«A meeting with the biggest catering customer in Poland had been planned for the last week before the outbreak of the corona crisis. Due to the ban on travel and contact, the meeting has not yet taken place. This shows how badly the catering industry in Poland was hit by the crisis. Sales in the gastronomy sector are also slow to recover. For example, joint projects with Hügli Poland had to be put on hold for the time being. The corona crisis is also affecting our operations: In production, we introduced an hour’s break between shifts to avoid contact between employees. 

Daily temperature measurements, hand sanitization and wearing masks in all areas prolongs and slows down the workflow – and influences productivity. Nor is it that easy for our colleagues in administration. Weeks of working from home with the whole family around you, including small children, makes it difficult to stay focused. Without face-to-face contact, some projects takes longer to move forward. The most important thing, however, is that by following all these measures, all our employees have remained healthy. We all are aware of the consequences of possible illnesses and quarantine in the result, which is already weakened because of the virus. This is the best motivation to continue to implement all the necessary measures so we all remain healthy and survive the crisis.»