Reseller News

How local distributors are keeping the lights on amid COVID-19

Products continue to flow despite Alert Level 4 restrictions
  • Leon Spencer (New Zealand Reseller News)
  • 30 March, 2020 16:40

As with businesses in just about every industry vertical, distributors are facing unprecedented conditions within which to operate, but the disruptions haven’t stopped those in the local market from keeping things moving for partners.

On 25 March, the government applied its Alert Level 4 restrictions to the country, meaning New Zealanders not working in essential services must stay at home and stop all interactions with others outside of their own households. 

The government said the restrictions were likely to remain in place for a number of weeks.

Regardless, distributors in New Zealand appear to be finding ways to continue servicing partners while keeping workers and business associates safe during the ongoing crisis.

Exclusive Networks’ New Zealand operation, for example, moved to order extra stock earlier than usual to help get the local channel through the immediate impact of the restrictions arising from the government’s moves to stem the spread of coronavirus in the country.

“Exclusive Networks NZ will continue to operate as usual with all the NZ team working remotely,” Exclusive Networks New Zealand and Pacific Islands country manager Jeff Clynes told Reseller News

“We are still offering regular shipping which will be consolidated to a bulk shipment of outwards goods once a week and more urgent deliveries for essential businesses or MSPs [managed service providers] can be fulfilled outside of this as required.

“I took the proactive step of placing an exceptionally large amount of stock earlier than needed as I anticipated the need for additional devices to be required, this will help see us and our partners through any logistics challenges by holding stock in our warehouse in Rosedale instead of having to wait for deliveries from vendors overseas factories,” he added.

Moreover, the company has shifted all of its external meetings to virtual mode and will be delivering all training virtually as well, something that, according to Clynes, it has been looking at offering before this situation to provide technical coverage to more remote parts of NZ and those outside of the main centres.  

“The NZ team also meets daily for a video call to discuss any issues from the previous day and cover any new issues that may arise,” Clynes said. “We are doing everything we can to support our partners locally and across the Pacific and prioritising orders for crucial essential services.”

Not only has Exclusive Networks put its business continuity plan (BCP) in place, it has also been actively providing solution bundles for those who are now working remotely to help ensure workers are kept safe from cyber-attacks and are able to still access corporate systems at home.

One of the other ways the distributor is trying to make things as easy as possible for partners amid the current disruptions caused by COVID-19 is by waiving the restocking fees for any cancelled orders, with partners and customers able to redirect shipments to home addresses where offices are shut.

“We are focused on helping our partners with any cash flow issues as the next few months are expected to be challenging for the industry,” Clynes said.

Sektor subsidiary Duo, meanwhile, has been able to escape the worst of the disruption thanks, in part, to its portfolio mix, along with new staffing arrangements to keep employees safe amid the current measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.

From Ross’ perspective, part of the credit goes to Duo’s vendor partners, many of which are offering heavily discounted or limited free offers to help out businesses navigate a work landscape that currently features an escalation of cyber security attacks and changing threat vectors aimed at targeting a remote workforce or under-resourced and stretched essential services.

“At Duo we are fortunate that the majority of our cyber security products and services are software or people resourcing, so although we, like everyone, are experiencing some challenges and delays with some hardware orders, the majority of our pipeline has not been disrupted,” Duo general manager Kendra Ross told Reseller News

According to Ross, the company’s main challenges have been managing the increased demand for its cyber security solutions, managing vendors who are now not so busy and want to run webinars or sales calls, along with the top priority of looking after the health and wellbeing of its staff and families.  

“Many staff were remote prior to the level 3 then 4 alert announcements,” Ross said. “Duo and Sektor are designated as suppliers to essential services. So, with some radical health and safety process changes to protect our greatly reduced warehouse staff and couriers, our warehouse can receive and ship critical supplies to our customers in health, government, telco, finance and retail (supermarkets).”

For its part, Westcon-Comstor is meeting the challenge with its workforce largely working from home and supply operating at full capacity while virtual training is being used to replace face-to-face sessions. 

“We have all our workforce, working from home on a day to day with our warehouse and logistics facilities open and operating as normal under all the precautions required to ensure their safety,” Westcon-Comstor New Zealand managing director Dave Rosenberg told Reseller News. “They are working in two shifts.

“With regards to supply we are operating at 100 per cent under the government and morale requirements of ensuring essential services are operating.

“In addition we have lifted our virtual training, enablement and sales to ensure all our partners are able to maximise this time of working from home.

“Our team is doing well, we are having regular touch points discussions and have been supporting them through this unprecedented event,” he added.

Chillisoft, meanwhile, is confident of its ability to continue uninterrupted supply despite the disruptions caused by the current crisis, with CEO Alex Teh telling Reseller News that the company is “very well prepared”. 

“We are fortunate that a lot of our business is software and not hardware based,” Teh said. “For many years we’ve provided electronic, 24/7 instant self-service software licencing for our channel so in that respect nothing much has changed. 

“All our staff are now working from their homes and we actually still delivered a scheduled technical training workshop this week using remote collaborative technologies,” he added.

Unsurprisingly, with organisations working to handle a suddenly distributed workforce, Chillisoft, like Duo, has seen increased demand for several of its cyber security offerings, with a particular interest in solutions that enhance security for remote working.

“Information technology and services is an essential supply and unfortunately cyber security is even more important at this time as cyber criminals are actively trying to exploit weaknesses,” Teh said. 

“To help some end-users' urgent needs we’re providing extended trial licence periods and where possible we’re also negotiating monthly software licencing instead of annual to make it easier for customers with cash flow challenges,” he added.

Not only is cloud software distributor Rhipe working to keep its service and support staff in the Philippines working during the Manila lockdown, the company’s broad business continuity plans are keeping all facets of the business in operation.

According to Rhipe CEO Dominic O’Hanlon, Rhipe moved early to establish a work from home policy for its 400-plus direct staff members. Indeed, its employees have long enjoyed the facilities to work remotely, if needed. 

“Rhipe is a born-in-the-cloud, digital-first organisation,” O’Hanlon said. “We activated our business continuity plans early and moved quickly to shift our teams to a work from home environment. 

“Consequently, our operations continue to run as close to normal as possible given the circumstances. 

“As an organisation built on agility and flexibility, we are leveraging our digital collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams across the entire business, while providing support to our partners in driving similar initiatives with their customers,” he added.

Telegistics has also moved to assure partners, customers and vendors that it has a suite of tools to keep its business operating smoothly, no matter where its people are located, amid the restrictions. 

“We are therefore able to maintain our day-to-day operations throughout this lockdown period, supporting our partners’ requirements for goods and services, required by essential businesses as defined by the government,” the company told partners in an email. “In support, we have our logistics, provisioning and services teams on-site to facilitate the pick, configuration, pack, and dispatch as well as provide essential services. 

“In order to safeguard our people as well as business continuity, we have split our operations teams into two shifts. These shifts are running across an extended day with a defined gap in between, to ensure total separation. 

“While we will be making every effort to process and ship essential orders within our standard SLA’s, please note that there may be some delays depending on the size and reduced windows for collection from freight companies,” the company added.

Dicker Data CEO David Dicker said in a post on the company’s website dated 24 March that all of the company’s warehouse and distribution centre functions remained uninterrupted, with Dicker Data open for business and fully operational in both Australia and New Zealand.

“We recognise the potential impact on vendors and partners we work with but be assured, Dicker Data is well placed and with complete business continuity for the channel market throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dicker said.

“As well as our assurance to minimise any possible disruption, our experienced and locally based teams are committed to provide you and your business with our highest standard of service and customer support.

According to Dicker, the company is following strict health guidelines and has set in place a range of precautions to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its people, including the mobilisation of its technical resources and remote working capability.

It is also extending its warehouse operating hours and reorganising its workforce to mitigate risk and avoid potential delays in order fulfillment.

“We are closely monitoring this evolving situation as it unfolds and will continue to proactively adapt our approach according to the advice of the Australian Government Department of Health and Ministry of Health NZ in conjunction with our evolving operational requirements and those of the businesses we work with,” Dicker said.