Helena Teichrib, AIM Altitude, writes from her home office in Auckland.

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.

Helena Teichrib
Senior Industrial Designer, AIM Altitude
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Day 30 of working from home
Date of writing: April 20, 2020

Where are you writing from?
I am writing this from a desk in my bedroom.

How are you trying to maintain “business as usual” or communicating with your team?
Mostly, we use Microsoft Teams, which has many productivity plug-ins that are especially helpful for this situation. We are used to a lot of remote collaboration with our headquarters in Bournemouth, UK – so this was not all too much of a change for us.

“Being around the engineering team is a core factor when trying to develop or innovate or throw ideas and questions out to all departments; having the freedom to do this is what makes our designs progress.”

What news outlets are you following?
I am following the daily government announcements and a few local news outlets and The Guardian for international news. The APEX Daily Experience newsletter is helpful to stay up to date on aerospace-specific news.

How are you passing time?
I have started many neglected hobbies: sewing, painting and sketching. I eat much better now with more time for cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. Also, my plants look much healthier these days!

Describe where your business was at the end of 2019. What were your goals/projections for 2020?
AIM Altitude was in a good place coming out of 2019. Earlier this year, we were announced as a Crystal Cabin Award finalist in the category of Visionary Concept for our new galley innovation: ARCA. It substantially rethinks meal service, based on trends that we had identified in the industry. The concept better accommodates more personal meal choices in economy, improved waste management with the opportunity for separated recycling and the potential to save weight and space!

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?
Being around the engineering team is a core factor when trying to develop or innovate or throw ideas and questions out to all departments; having the freedom to do this is what makes our designs progress. This element of teamwork has been hit hard but with daily video conferences, we have started to claw some of this normality back. I also think this experience will let us refocus on what is really important and may create new thinking streams we had not considered before.

How prepared was your company to instate remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic? Any tips on how to remain productive under these new circumstances?
My office adapted quickly and had some work-from-home trials before the lockdown was enforced. At times like these you have to keep productive; it can actually be useful to do some of those tasks you never had the time for, like a new research project or learning a new piece of software.

What’s one thing you would do to better prepare your business to weather a similar storm in the future?
We were gearing up for one of our most collaborative and impressive AIX shows to date and then “bang,” borders closed everywhere. You cannot really have a Plan B for something like this, so you need to know how to work around the problem to keep it at bay while still moving forward.

How can we, as an industry, work together and rebound from this unprecedented crisis?
New standards will be enforced and companies like ours will be more aware of the public perception of health when traveling. This will then lead to new ideas to streamline and protect passengers: New antibacterial polymers, hand sanitizers built into units, gesture control doors, social distancing and how that will affect seating LOPAs, etc. Sensors and other products that enable touch-free operation will gain a new focus. This could give an onboard “Internet of things” a whole new push.

Where do you see your company or the industry in one year from now?
One year on from this, we will have refocused and started to find our feet again. This exercise will pull us all together and we will come out the other side stronger and more energized. We are excited to help develop interiors that accommodate a new paradigm of flight.

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.