2020 / 09 / 15

Business un-usual: Resilience in the face of a pandemic.

Jennifer Yuen

Early 2020 was certainly unforgettable for many of us in Asia. Around that time, the COVID-19 (known then as the Wuhan virus, or simply coronavirus) caseload was already spiraling out of control in Wuhan, the city where the virus was first detected at a seafood market. Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, was locked down by the Chinese government on January 23rd. Our company’s management mobile group chat was abuzz non-stop about the situation in China, especially in and around our facilities. It was the Spring break where many Chinese traditionally return to their hometowns and many businesses remain shut for the celebration. No one knew exactly how widespread the disease had affected populations beyond Wuhan, but somehow we knew that we have to plan for the worst.

The ASE crisis management mechanism was immediately triggered. We established a special task force and developed an advanced data management system to coordinate COVID-19 measures across all ASE locations.  Each factory had set up a ‘command room’ to deploy the company’s business continuity plan across the entire organization. Appointed personnel were actively communicating with local authorities to keep lockstep with the situation, as well as to implement measures based on the governments’ advisories. During that time, the situation in China was especially intense, as the disease continues to spread to other cities.

Our top priority was to ensure the safety of our employees. With this in mind, our procurement teams became very busy scouting for essential personal protective equipment, especially surgical masks. Masks were suddenly in high demand and the price correspondingly shot up. Our facilities outside China also rallied to help our colleagues secure 3-ply masks.

ASE mask factory
Mask-wearing reduces the spread of viral particles from asymptomatic carriers and plays a key role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. ASE has invested in the production of high-quality surgical masks at ASE Kaohsiung. 

ASE medical grade masks have received certification from Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare.
  – protecting the health of our employees
  – ensuring easy access to masks

ASESG reusable masks
At ASE Singapore, employees are provided custom designed ASE-logo reusable masks. The fabric masks are made from high quality material and each has an insert for filters that retain their efficacy after repeated washes.

To ensure that customers are kept abreast of the developments and to minimize any disruptions, we posted daily updates on each facility on our official website during the height of the pandemic. In parallel, individual sites kept their respective customers updated frequently and drew up contingency plans to mitigate impact to customers.

Importantly, we all recognized the need to play our part to prevent the spread of the disease. Temperature checks, travel history and health declaration became mandatory for all employees and visitors to ASE premises. Social distancing emerged as a new buzz phrase, but it is proving an effective preventive measure. Thanks to modern technology, we were able to conduct video and conference calls with colleagues, customers and suppliers with little disruption to business.

In the months of March and April, many countries worldwide imposed some sort of lockdowns as the outbreak worsened outside China. As a result, many of our offices rolled out ‘work from home’ schemes, as well as alternate team work arrangements to minimize large group gatherings. Today, our operations in Asia have returned to normalcy. Our US and Europe colleagues, however, are still requested to work from home until the situation improves.

The pandemic has caused huge disruptions and forced us to rethink how we work, interact, and socialize. For now, we’re all staying put where we are, and hopefully spending quality time with family while keeping ourselves healthy, both physically and mentally. Until we find a vaccine or a cure, we have to embrace the new norm as best as we can.

Wash your hands
Wear a mask
Widen your space