Borry Vrieling, eezeetags, at work, at usual, but following new WHO guidelines.

What We’re Made Of is a Q&A series that looks at how companies in the aviation industry are tackling challenges brought on by the COVID–19 pandemic. We’ve had to adapt to changes in where, when and how we work, but we are resilient. If you would like to share your experience, e-mail editor@apex.aero.

Borry Vrieling
Founder and Managing Director, eezeetags
Location: Harmelen, The Netherlands
Not working from home
Date of writing: April 16, 2020

Are you in lockdown right now?
No I am not. Since I own and manage a production company, my presence is needed at the factory. We have implemented all WHO advisory measures on social distancing and hygiene.

How are you trying to maintain “business as usual” or communicating with your team?
We use Microsoft Teams to communicate with our supply chain stakeholders and naturally phone and e-mail still do a perfect job.

Have you or anyone you know been directly affected by COVID-19?
Luckily not so far, neither family, employees, nor customers.

“I don’t think anyone should prepare for a storm like this. It can paralyze you in normal times and take away the focus on business.”

Describe where your business was at the end of 2019. What were your goals/projections for 2020?
At the end of 2019, we grew the eezeetags business by over 60 percent, with 50 million passengers using an eezeetag at a check-in kiosk or self-service bag drop. Our expectation was to double this number by the end of 2020, based upon the new customers we connected with in 2019 and the number of self-service installations planned to be using eezeetags in the pipeline.

Can you share some specific challenges your business has faced as a result of the outbreak? How did you overcome them and how can the industry learn from your experiences?
The eezeetags order stream had come to a complete stop as of the second week of March. However, we also own and operate a generic label converting company with a focus on the chemical industry, logistics and hospital healthcare – this accounts for 65 percent of our total group revenue and we see a rising demand. At the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, and anticipating potential supply chain and long lead time issues, we asked our customers to put in pre-scheduled orders so we can order raw material on time and plan production accordingly. This worked out very well so far.

What’s one thing you would do to better prepare your business to weather a similar storm in the future?
I don’t think anyone should prepare for a storm like this. It can paralyze you in normal times and take away the focus on business. We also cannot expect an employee being locked down with a spouse and two young kids that need assistance while being educated over Zoom to have the same output as would be normal. Simply accept the fact that some things are different in these unprecedented times.

Can you give an example of generosity or kindness displayed by your company or one of your colleagues during this crisis?
Charity as such is not that embedded into the Dutch society, since we have a caring government, funded by fairly high taxes, that mostly take care of the basics. So donating face masks, for instance, is not needed. However, I was really struck by the way my team has adapted to the safety guidelines and cooperated in these difficult times.

Can you describe any new working procedures that you have/will implement in light of new health and safety guidance?
We do not need to adapt our work environment since the standard layout already provides enough spacing. We will probably have meetings in a bigger room and with fewer people. And visits to customers will be far fewer now that we know we can have productive meetings without the need for travel.

Some companies may have been inspired to create new product lines, or redesign existing product or services as a result of the pandemic. How is it driving innovation?
Eezeetags was designed to speed up the passenger journey from curb to gate with self service while creating a positive passenger experience. Airports and airlines were implementing our solution to accommodate the ever growing passenger numbers, which they could never keep up with by building new terminals. It could very well be that after COVID-19, there will be fewer passengers, but not necessarily more terminal footage available per passenger due to the social distancing rules. Therefore, the challenges might be even bigger. And assuming that passengers might or will be obliged to were latex gloves, it’s important to note that eezeetags will not stick to these, since the unique adhesive we use only sticks to itself and nothing else.

What’s one thing that will never be the same again for commercial aviation?
I think after COVID-19, people will be aware of the fact that their travels can have an impact on world health, so they might consider how often they fly. Also, I guess that people will be less comfortable in big crowds, through airports, for example. It will be challenging – but exciting times especially if you like a little bit of disruptiveness.

Read more about the coronavirus impact on the air travel industry, including APEX’s position on the matter, and subscribe to the APEX Daily Experience newsletter to stay up to date.