Castel Srl: the collaboration of the entire company, crucial to overcome the crisis

Michele Roda

Having production sites in China, in Covid times, had some advantages: it was like being able to look into the future and see from the distance what would have happened in Italy shortly after. This is how Castel, company specialized in the production of components for refrigeration and air conditioning, and based in Pessano con Bornago (MI), could relatively quickly assess the situation, right at the outbreak of the emergency, and realise that it may have turned into something really serious. “It was like a déjà vu! The same measures that were adopted here, initially mild and gradually stricter, at national and regional level, we had already seen in action at our sites in China” says Michele Roda, Castel’s CEO.

Following the ministerial circulars and the Assolombarda’s recommendations, since the end of February, the Company established a Covid Emergency Committee comprising managers and key-staff of the prevention and protection service, representatives of human resources. Union representatives too were involved in the progressive definition of measures, that were eventually institutionalized in the Covid-19 Protocol Committee, once the reference legislative text was published on March 14th. “All decisions that had to be taken according to ministerial decrees and regional ordinances, have always been discussed and eventually enforced in the scope of this Committee. I am very glad to acknowledge that the work conducted within the committee, and hence with all the company representatives, has been and still is extremely positive and constructive. The measures in place received everyone’s approval”.

What kind of measures? For instance, smart working for office employees from the end of February. “It is a way of working that we had never applied or even considered at Castel and, I must admit, that initially gave me worries. Today, after over two months of smart working by all the office staff, the outcome is extremely positive. Not only does everyone manage to do their job, but participation and collaboration are very strong. Through smart working, employees can manage a difficult situation more easily and with less pressure. I am thinking of families with small children or elderly people to take care of. I am sure everyone is happy to have this opportunity”. Among other aspects, smart working helps bringing us closer and, in some way, revealing a bit of our daily life to our colleagues: “It is not uncommon, during a video call, to see the inquisitive face of a child suddenly appear on the screen. These discreet intrusions into someone else’s family space, and the immediate retreats, leave a positive mark: for a moment, they reveal a more intimate and human face of our colleagues which, I am convinced, brings us closer in some way”.

Supply chain issues

Both production and logistics have also shut down: from March 25th, no one was at Castel’s workshops and warehouses. “Castel was not among the ATECO codes that were could continue working, so we shut down the factory. In a similar situation however, we realised how difficult it is to coordinate the activities of the supply chains, blocking someone and allowing other ones to work. Irrespective of the ATECO codes, we are all indispensable in one way or the other: while we were closed, we received requests for components from clients that were active and were taking care of the essential supply chains. Our components are used in these supply chains and as soon as the maintainers ran out of stocks, they have started to press for deliveries”.

Back to normal

This is why, on April 6th, Castel resumed working in derogation for customers who had filed a specific request and that could prove their need. First, only 20% of the workers were in the factory; then the teams gradually increased until May 4th when about 90% of the workers had returned to work. The most vulnerable individuals, either for seniority or because more susceptible to risk, remain at home. In Covid-19 times, producing is not easy: “First of all, we had to reorganise the shifts so that the teams would not cross paths at the shift change. Then we reorganized the workplace, by giving the factory a new lay-out. Finally, we implemented all the rules requested for by prevention: distance, use of PPE, and related behaviour; common rooms were made inaccessible, gatherings banned; we carried out sanitisation, and so on. It was truly a massive reorganization of work and space but now we can work as usual. Obviously, it is not the norm we used to know. From this crisis, we emerge as changed but that’s how it is: we now need to start over and take advantage the whatever positive we gained from this experience”.

Consolidated customers: an added value

Are you worried about your turnover? “Evidently the turnover has shown a negative trend, because we have been closed and everyone’s work has slowed down. But Castel is a very solid company and I truly believe that turnover will follow the notorious V-curve everyone is talking about, that is: what’s been lost, has been lost but we will get back to pre-crisis turnover relatively quickly. I also trust our customers and I am convinced that they will respect their commitments and open payments. They are consolidated customers, that we have known for a long time, the same ones who emerged from the 2008-2009 crisis. In this respect, I am not losing my sleep. We rather need to check our international positioning now, given that we have been closed while internationally others continued to work. I honestly don’t think that two weeks out of operation are sufficient to lose positions, but we are going to verify it”.