Across Hitachi Rail priority remains constant: the health, safety and well-being of employees and stakeholders. To navigate the challenges initiated by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, company teams have worked to change operations, procedures and safety measures to ensure the continuity of delivering to customers around the world.
Hear from Ulderigo Zona Executive Officer of Hitachi Rail Safety, Health, Environment, Quality, about some of the new processes and solutions brought in across the global rail business.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has severely tested the communities both at work and in personal lives. It happened so quickly; and the company had to act accordingly. I managed a central task force, which then managed an additional 13 localised task forces for core operating regions – we are a truly global brand and with the virus impacting different geographical regions at different times – consolidating our procedures and best-practice activity was the priority. However as well as being a challenge – we saw this as an advantage. We have offices in Beijing and we are present in five continents so the ability to receive information from all over the world was a decisive strength.”
“The commitment was initially aimed at prevention. First we understood that we could not continue to travel the world as we had done – we therefore started by stopping intercontinental travel, and then closing the links even more at a local level, even before it was imposed by law. Each country continued to work with respect for social distancing and we limited the movement of people whilst ensuring business continuity for our global projects. Our role is to move people and goods globally so our businesses could not stop; as soon as it was safe to do so, we worked with our customers to ensure transport operations were not affected.”
“We spent almost two weeks resetting the company, based on what we believed to be the first barrier to spreading the virus: social distance"
“We have redesigned global production layouts, identified crisis areas, introduced shift patterns and expanded smart working capability – a process that we had already started and set up in the “pre-COVID” era and that has been accelerated from this situation. We simply went from one day a week smart working to one hundred percent smart working at home for those who were able.”
“The key to our strategy and ability to be flexible is our employees who are at the heart of everything we do. There has been an excellent response to remote working for personal and family situations constrained by mobility restrictions. It is clear that, from this point, our company will be very different from the one before the pandemic.”
“Digitisation must be embraced even more so we can offer our teams the right tools to work effectively when they cannot be together and communication is essential at the moment – both internally and externally. We want our teams to collaborate more than ever and we are putting in measures to ensure that everyone is supported and doesn’t feel isolated in any way.
“If we work together as one global team and support the communities in which we operate, we know that we will be able to make a real difference to society and use the current situation as a base for improving our lives and future working practices".
Sustainability and Covid-19
Hitachi Rail's Social Innovation business has always set itself the goal of creating technological innovation to improve people's quality of life and achieve a sustainable society, helping to solve global social and environmental issues and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN for 2030.
The COVID-19 emergency in some ways can be seen as the starting point for a new way of thinking. One of the task forces that we are launching is aimed at developing an increasingly integrated and systemic mobility system for all transport needs. We are talking about a mobility project that includes the use of trains, car sharing, personal cars and which, therefore, will also have the task of proposing the use of hybrid cars and increasingly sustainable solutions across our business to support how our own people move.
A sector closely linked to the COVID-19 emergency is that of the production and disposal of personal protection equipment. We want to have a precise and efficient plan that analyses the correct management of waste because today our Group (between Europe and the Middle East alone) consumes around 230,000 surgical masks and around 110,000 FFP2 masks every month. From the point of view of combining the production with the social aspect, Hitachi Rail is analysing a self-production project of protection templates. We do not know how long this emergency will last.
Furthermore, we do not know if one day we will face a similar situation caused by another virus. We are creating the capability to make masks in-house from a social point of view, because in any moment of need we could decide to produce them for third parties who find themselves in difficulty, helping the communities in which we operate. And the intention is not to stop there – at a group level, Hitachi has launched the ‘Make a Difference – Challenge to COVID-19’ project which aims to collect ideas from all over the world to develop useful solutions to address the current situation, adoptable by any company or community.