Containing a crisis: One region’s response to Covid-19

London / 28 July 2020

When faced with a global health challenge, the Siemens Gamesa Service organization’s Northern Europe / Middle East region looked inward for solutions.

As with most sectors, the Covid-19 pandemic has critically impacted power generation as a whole. For essential workers like wind service technicians, however, stopping work was never an option. The quest to find innovative ways to keep the lights on inspired one region to pull together and collectively determine a way forward.
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Controlling the uncontrollable
“We control the bits we can of the uncontrollable,” states Dennis Thorlund Elsberg, Head of Quality Management and Health, Safety & Environment for the Northern Europe/Middle East region. “Despite the initial shock when the virus first landed, I’m happy to report that we’re fully in containment mode now and are even beginning to formulate plans for what comes next, a new normal.”

According to Dennis, this enviable position was only achieved because people throughout the region collaborated to overcome the barriers erected by the virus, as well as those existing within the organization itself. “The crisis has forced us to self-reflect and adopt new ways of working, including several suggested by colleagues on the front line at our wind farms,” he relates.
The Covid-19 pandemic has critically impacted power generation
An open approach
In particular, the region leveraged the power of internal social media to confront workplace realities upended by the pandemic’s arrival. Weekly updates from the heads of coronavirus-related work streams – covering critical areas like Business Continuity, Workforce Protection, and Supply Chain Stability – were shared with the entire organization via open Yammer posts. Employees were invited to pose questions and provide feedback on these updates via the platform, offering a real-time intelligence flow detailing on-the-ground conditions for the deployed workforce, as well as a space to collect the perspectives of other stakeholders within the organization.
The exceptional transparency enabled by the medium was reinforced by management decisions that predated the pandemic. “We have four sayings in our regional organization: Talk without fear, Listen well, Question it, and Offer praise,” explains Dennis. “These principles, which served us well in normal times, have proven to be absolutely critical during this crisis,” he declares.

Ideally, this ongoing online conversation between management and workforce acts as a kind of virtuous feedback loop: managers suggest a way forward, front-line workers who feel confident that their voices will be heard suggest changes, and this feedback is reflected in the next wave of leadership directives. The process serves to unite the organization in an authentic way and generates trust as a byproduct.
Caring for each other
For office-based employees currently working from home full time due to the coronavirus, Yammer and videoconferencing platforms like Skype offer a convenient way to connect and share. “Sometimes you can hear the stress in people’s voices, especially those who have young children at home all the time,” recounts Dennis. “When you’re teleworking, it’s easy to roll out of bed in the morning and get straight to work – sometimes people even forget to take breaks during the workday. To help those feeling overwhelmed or isolated, we’ve created virtual coffee breaks over Skype, where people can just hop on if they feel like catching up with office mates on non-work related topics,” he says, underscoring the company-wide push to offset the effects of the crisis on employees’ wellbeing, incorporating attention to their physical and mental health.
Because employees are accustomed to feeling listened to and cared for, directives can frequently be replaced by open-ended prompts: someone asks for a better way to improve hygiene to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at sites, and employees contribute Yammer videos of innovative hand washing stations created from materials readily available at remote turbines. Inspired employees have even enlisted their families to create humorous homegrown videos to spread awareness of new safe work practices like social distancing.
Technical innovation

The crisis has accelerated technical innovations within the region as well. “Accessibility to the turbines is not what it was before the pandemic,” admits Dennis. “We can’t send an army of experts out to the wind farms, and we have to be selective about the activities we perform on site, due to the volume of pandemic protocols.” This affects preventative maintenance in particular, which relies on product quality inspections inside the turbines, focusing on their mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic systems. Though these inspections may not be deemed critical, they are still important and require the involvement of trained specialists.

To work around Covid-imposed constraints, the region has developed a new remote inspection program. On-site technicians use cameras to provide video feeds for review by a “super inspector” located far away, who then delivers remediation steps to the technicians in real time. “This is an innovation that we’ll probably keep even after the coronavirus crisis has subsided,” Dennis says. “We can cover a lot more turbines using this approach, which allows us to ensure a higher level of service by virtually introducing Quality Technicians on site.”

Around the globe, the public health pandemic has pushed organizations to evolve and adapt. 

Ongoing online conversation acts as a kind of virtuous feedback loop
In the case of Siemens Gamesa’s Northern Europe / Middle East region, it has motivated teams at every level to push beyond their comfort zones and try out new approaches that enable the company to provide customers with the same level of world-class care.
Bringing out the best in Britain
Part of Siemens Gamesa’s Northern Europe / Middle East region, the UK Service organization has creatively responded to the fight against Covid-19 by sponsoring e-bikes for critical workers in Newcastle to ensure that they can still get to work safely in light of coronavirus-related restrictions on public transportation use. In addition, it has donated about 500 face shields to help protect critical care workers in hospitals from infection.


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