Spotlight on Italy with Luca Lastrucci, Powersoft
Spotlight on Italy with Luca Lastrucci, Powersoft
Open Mic – our regular Q&A channel for industry insight
Where are you writing this from?
From the comfort of my office at Powersoft in Scandicci, Firenze, Italy, with a beautiful sun outside.
How has the lockdown affected you, and how has your company reacted to this?
At the time of writing, restrictions have just been eased after two months into the lockdown implemented by the government to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. We followed the decision of our government to limit the circulation and congregation of people, and we took all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our colleagues while continuing to support our customers and partners. We reorganised ourselves by setting up all the tools to enable smart working. This took a few days to configure and make IT tools available to enable new ways of working, and to allow remote accessibility for about 80% of our resources. Some activities unfortunately couldn’t be done via smart working, namely production and after sales repairs. Anyway, we are now operative again. On the production side, generally speaking, temporary disruption of the supply chain from China has created problems, particularly for companies that have sought efficiency with super-lean and just-in-time global supply chains. From our side, we have production sites in Italy, and even with lean production lines, it has allowed us to have almost the entire chain of operations under our control. The procurement of some parts and components from suppliers in China created some difficulties initially, but with important warehouse stocks and the activation of alternative suppliers, it did not create such big problems for us. Powersoft is listed on the Italian stock market and we know that for investors in public companies, even more so from now on, an important element for the evaluation will be the resilience of the production supply chain. For many companies, this will see the "reshoring" of certain activities in Europe and North America.
What are you having to do differently, and could any of this be adopted going forward?
The current Covid-19 pandemic has forced everyone to make at least one big change: social distancing. The difficulty of moving and meeting for public events has and will stimulate other ways of interaction. We’ve started to use tools and methods to stay in contact with our customers. Physical presence is certainly very important, but we will find that in many cases, we perhaps might not need to move. I’m talking of course about the use of videocalls, online support, webinars and online training, and social media marketing and sales campaigns. This will also lead to cost reduction of travel and participation in events. And because we can consider our products “intelligent IoT devices” that can be connected in the cloud to collect data, we’ve started to provide support in the field remotely, directly from ourselves or from third parties. All 32 Powersoft service centres worldwide are connected to the network to centralise all information on product interventions on our cloud for data analysis. We are planning to use augmented reality to support customers and to train our support centres to work remotely, and we are developing tools that make use of artificial intelligence too for this purpose. Covid-19 is also an opportunity for promoting Deva, our multimedia unit which is able to detect the body temperature of employees and visitors entering an office. The ability to provide early symptom detection makes Deva a smart tool for preventing transmission from sick people and screening others who may not know they have a fever. Until long term solutions are provided, one key measure as well as changes to our lives is temperature checks of people entering public and private sites.
Any silver linings?
This event will change social habits and behaviour. All of us would like things to return to normal quickly, but the reality is things will not return to as before in a few weeks or months, if at all. The fear of crowded places and public events will probably remain for a while, perhaps longer. On the other hand, I personally don’t believe that human beings will get used to physical distancing. Humans are born wired for connection - think about a newborn baby and that makes sense. This situation has increased a sense of community, especially in AV industry, and I hope we will be able to keep this sense of community alive after Covid-19.
Are you noticing signs of anything approaching normality?
Well, we should define what normality is first. If you mean the way we used to live before Covid-19, I think it is still too early. And we will probably never go back to way we used to be. Don’t get me wrong, this pandemic will come to an end, and we will be back travelling, going to live events, cinemas and sitting with friends at restaurant tables. It is difficult to say when. What will change the most is the way we are making our time count: to differentiate what is urgent from what is important with an increased sense of shared responsibility. For sure it can teach us to be more human: when the emergency is over, humanity will be more aware of the fragility of life.
What do you predict the rest of the year will look like for the industry? Further ahead, what’s the future going to look like?
It is difficult to say how the business model will change, especially in the AV industry. It will depend on the ability of companies to adapt to social changes by proposing new products and solutions. This will be possible by investing in R&D, and Powersoft has this attitude in its DNA. We will keep doing it. The risk of recession is real, but historical data suggests that the global economy is likely to recover. Crises leave a structural legacy for the global economy. We must take advantage of the emergency to bring about that indispensable change to face the challenges of the future. Powersoft is known for always having an eye on different sectors. We are well known for our audio business, but we’ve always had an eye on other fields, and Deva, which is a perfect fit for the safety and security market, is a demonstration of that.