As global industry continues to recover from and adapt to a world transformed by the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns, and supply chain crises, the importance of optimising the way a business functions has never been greater. Such unprecedented events often throw up challenges that require equally unprecedented solutions, some of which can be provided through the use of breakthrough technology in emerging areas such as IoT (Internet of Things) and remote monitoring.

Back in 2020 gasworld hosted its first Bandwidth in Your Business webinar, a three-part series that endeavoured to explore the transformation of the global business climate in a world blighted by uncertainty. 

Returning to a theme, gasworld’s first webinar of 2022, Bandwidth in Your Business: Reloaded, sponsored by Anova, featured guests Thierry Malleret, Joint Founder and Managing Partner at Monthly Barometer, Art Anderson, Managing Principal at AH Anderson Consulting, and Kevin Lynch, Senior Vice-President of Industrial Gases at Anova. Hosts Rob Cockerill, Global Managing Editor and Tom Dee, Broadcast Journalist, aim to unpack lessons learnt from lockdowns and discuss the technologies that could further boost the bandwidth in our businesses. 

“As I said back in June 2020, how we live, work and do business has been transformed, and we’re still being forced to rethink how we do business. Over the next hour, we’re going to unpack what lessons we’ve learnt from lockdowns, whether we truly have realised the bandwidth in our businesses, and the technologies at our disposal – and where we can go from here as both an industry and its stakeholders,” began Cockerill in his introduction. 

Getting the webinar underway was Thierry Malleret. Holding two MA’s in Economics and History, as well as a PhD in Economics, Malleret also has decades of experience in investment banking as Chief Economist at Alfa-Bank and as Director and Economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. 

In addition to having a three-year spell in the Prime Minister’s office in Paris, he also held a director position at the World Economic Forum (WEF) for eight years. 

“In 2007, Thierry founded Monthly Barometer, a monthly newsletter covering society, geopolitics, economics, technology and the environment. Here’s what he said when we caught up with him early this week to find out about the societal, human and business lessons to take from the great Covid reset,” added Dee. 

Thierry Mallaret and the great Covid reset 

Having co-authored the popular book entitled, ‘Covid-19 and the Great Reset’ alongside Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Klaus Schwab, Mallaret is well-qualified when it comes to discussing the impact of the pandemic upon global industry.

Referring to the concept of a Great Reset as a metaphor, he said, “The Great Reset means that when you face such a systemic, broad, sudden shock, you should take it as an advantage to push forward the measures that ought to be implemented to make the world more resilient, more equitable and more sustainable.” 

“We’ve been talking about this for years and years and years, now is the time to do it.” 

When asked by Cockerill if industry has taken the opportunity for change presented by the pandemic, Mallaret was optimistic, stating that the framework in which humanity operates as a species is evolving in a ‘radically different’ manner. 

“If you look at the world through the lens of five big macro categories, if you take economics first, you exclusive the environment, and society, health and environment. Since you realise that each of these major macro blocks is evolving in a radically different manner and it’s a systemic fashion on all of them,” he said. 

Mallaret mentioned five macro categories fundamental to humanity that are currently evolving. The categories include: 

  •  Geopolitics
  •  Economics
  •  Environment
  •  Society
  •  Technology

How these major aspects of our daily lives evolve is connected to their ability to adapt to sudden changes, like those presented by the pandemic. 

He explained, “Climate change is going to affect economy, it’s going to affect geopolitics, it’s going to affect society, it’s going to affect the way in which we respond to change.” 

“So the point I’m trying to make is that we are in the midst of a very radical sudden change and therefore have to adapt to it. The question is, are we moving fast enough? And well, it depends on everybody’s point of view.” 

When asked about how business has evolved during the incipient stages of the ‘Great Reset’, Mallaret suggested that different industries have been affected in different ways.

“Every single industry has been affected by COVID in a different manner. However, some of the challenges that we’ve been facing and we’ve been addressing the past 18 months point to two very distinctive features that are going to affect every single industry in the years to come.”

These features include digitisation, which, for example, allows workers to work remotely, something that has revolutionised office-based work in the past year and a half, and also the increased focus on wellness.

“COVID has again made it very clear that well being is a very key component of productivity. Issue workforce is not one you are not. You’re unlikely to succeed as a as a company. And because of the pandemic, we’ve realised how important, how critical well being is,” he said.

Moving onto the topic of the economic reset, Cockerill asked if the reset will be based around more value creation, decentralisation, resource security and sustainability.

Mallaret responded, “Absolutely. It’s going. It’s happening. It’s going to develop further. It’s going to be multifaceted.

“So we don’t have the time to enter into the details. But I think from a macro point of view, the main thing that the reset is going to take is that the very famous divergence between emerging markets and mature economies that we’ve been talking about for years and years and years and may not happen because emerging countries and from two markets have been hit incredibly hard by the pandemic.”

Kevin Lynch on lessons learned from lockdowns 

With over 20 years of leadership experience in the industrial gases business, Lynch is well-versed in all aspects of the sector. When asked about the lessons learned from lockdowns within IG, Lynch was vocal in his criticism of the way lockdowns were handled. 

“You can’t lock down a society and turn off because of the economy and think that won’t be a massive disruption with serious negative effects on people’s lives. The economy is what sustains human life, it’s not an optional add-on,” he said. 

Despite this, he also suggested that lockdowns exposed the fallacy of the notion that we can run a global economy on a ‘Just-In-Time’ basis while shipping goods from low cost economies.

“It’s a fact that the U.S., relies on parts from Vietnam, Malaysia, China and Mexico, all to come together in the U.S. for assembly. That means every one of those countries needs to be operating efficiently at the same time and transit needs to be totally efficient, so all that can come together in one place.”

The continuation of rolling lockdowns caused shipping bottlenecks, resulting in a cascade of supply interruptions causing havoc in the global supply chain. 

Echoing the point about divergence made by Mallaret, Lynch suggested that a more likely scenario is the move away from risky investments in less developed economies and a ‘very strong’ movement for relocating supply closer to the end markets, an option deemed more expensive but also more secure. 

Moving onto the topic of remote monitoring, Cockerill asked if the past two years has seen an increase in interest for Anova’s remote monitoring solutions.

“We definitely have. We’re a private company so we don’t talk a lot about our financials. I mean, I can say that we’ve definitely seen an uptick. We’ve had record shipments.”

“It’s almost shocking that that there have been and still are quite a few hospital oxygen tanks that that are unmonitored. You know, there’s been a lot of catching up in that area and even in the U.S., you know, there is a move towards it.”

Art Anderson discusses adaptation and digital technology 

Experienced in all areas of business consulting, Anderson’s expertise lies in the provision of strategic advice and insights and analysis garnered through a 30-year career, most of which was spent with Air Products. 

Cockerill began by asking Anderson to elucidate on how he thinks industry has adapted to a new climate in business and operations over the past two years. 

Stating that the industry has done well, all things considered, he was keen to emphasise the importance of resilience.

I think when you look back at the pandemic, it was very clear that resilience was really the difference between companies staying in business and not. And I think we’ve all seen businesses go out of business and those that have stayed. I mean, there was some level of resilience,” he said.

Having spoken to various companies over the past year, Anderson added that the establishment of more holistic plans have helped businesses ensure greater adaptation and preparedness.

He explained, “Earlier in the year, we had an article where we got to work with some contributors to talk about resilience and ‘how do you actually make that more holistic’? So we engaged a company called AIG. They came in and shared a lot of lessons learnt around what are the critical success factors were the components of a more holistic plan and shared a lot of lessons learnt from the industry and outside of the industry.”

Staying on the theme of adaptability, Dee asked if countries that adapted early in the pandemic were now reaping the rewards.

Anderson cited Canada and South Korea as specific countries that, in his first-hand experience, were better prepared than others.

“I think Canada actually did fairly well. I think South Korea has done fairly well as well. Those are two countries where I actually have some connections and I have maybe a little bit more knowledge in terms of how they were doing things,” he said.

Wrapping up the webinar, Cockerill ended with a final question focusing on the rise in digital technology. With digitisation being an almost necessary aspect of industry when it comes to added resilience, could digitisation be implemented into the roots of the industry for many years to come?

“I’d say absolutely. Digitalisation has been around for a while, right? I mean, it’s been a bit of a slow roll. It’s been around for 10, 15 years. And it started back with the remote operations of ASUs (air separation units) and then gradually got into the supply chain components of the supply chain. It’s moved into maybe some advanced analytics and e-commerce, etc. And now you have even all the fancy stuff with industrial IoT. It’s all growth, right?

Anderson suggested that, with costs of technology having decreased over the past several years, digitisation has become more affordable.

“So now companies are investing in that. And, you know, I think as long as customers still desire more connexion with their suppliers, I mean, that points to the that continue to grow and grow and grow for the foreseeable future.”

To watch the full webinar and to register for future webinars, click here.