NAMA Webinar ‘Navigating The New Landscape Of OCS’ Emphasizes Communication And Ingenuity

June 26, 2020

Office coffee service (OCS) operators face operational challenges as their customers’ locations reopen. In “Navigating the new landscape of OCS,” a webinar NAMA held June 25, several panelists discussed challenges in supply chain and the importance of innovation.

Case study: Capitol Coffee

Ben Brunson, president of Capitol Coffee, and Charles Brunson, the company’s chief bean officer, described how their company has weathered the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Capitol Coffee, which operates in North Carolina and South Carolina, had to reduce its staff by 75% due to the loss of about 80% of its sales revenue, Ben Brunson said. Customers’ locations in the area are reopening, but only about 10% of employees are coming into the workplace, Charles added.

Capitol Coffee is participating in the Paycheck Protection Program, following CDC guidelines, posting manufacturers’ recommendations on how to clean equipment, providing sanitizing products for break rooms and using personal protective equipment, among other measures.

Charles Brunson has noticed that a lot of manufacturers that were providing staples for their business have focused on grocery instead of away from home items in response to consumer trends. When his company saw these supply chain issues, they adjusted operations.

“We’ve done a lot of SKU rationalization – we might have had 20 chips; now we have 17 or 16,” Charles Brunson said. “If you do that across your entire product selection, it really improves the efficiency and allows us to get back to normal.”

Supply chain has been “kind of a moving target” for their company, Ben Brunson said. While the company is at about 60% of its operation in South Carolina, it’s below 30% in North Carolina.

“I don’t know who’s right or wrong. I hope we’re all healthy coming out of this,” Ben Brunson said. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”

Communication and opportunities

Open, transparent conversation continues to be key to good customer service for all parties in the supply chain, from suppliers to operators to customers, and it will help address logistical challenges, said Michael Schwartz, director of field sales and equipment at Nestlé Coffee Partners. Understanding the level and nature of the impact on service helps customers manage expectations.

“What’s the new normal look like? In what ways can your business help with these improvements or upgrades?” Schwartz remarked.

Ben White, NAMA’s director of education and training, remarked that he’s heard many stories of companies that are doing well, and some of those are thriving.

“I encourage everyone on the call to think out and up and in terms of opportunities,” White said. “What around us has fallen apart? Where can we look to see what is taking that equal and opposite reaction and growing, and how can we take advantage of that? What do they need? What can we get to them? One thing about this business is, we are in the last mile distribution business.”

James Lowther, VP of OCS and filtration service at DS Services, said that as customers are balancing safety and getting back to business, his company has focused on making the business agile to keep up with the changes in the marketplace. The ability of the company’s teams to stay close to the industry and the company’s partners — to listen and engage — is paramount.

“I know for us as providers, it’s challenging because we have big workforces. But the more we train and keep both consumers and our associates informed, I think the better off we’re going to be — and the more respected we’ll be in the industry — and customers will accept us a lot quicker,” Lowther said. “It gives us a great opportunity to build a standard. We are the standard for safety. We are the standard for execution. And we’re going to going to do a good job. And we care about you, our associates and your associates.”

About 130 people attended the webinar, which is part of NAMA’s Listening & Learning Series. Learn more about its other webinars here.

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