Group Editor Martin Kauchak provides a “wellness report” during the coronavirus outbreak on two S&T industry members, Frasca International and Mint Software Systems.
CAT readers are well aware of the physical and financial tolls the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exact on the broad civil aviation community. While decreasing airline stock share values, cascading numbers of flight cancellations and like outcomes are still common storylines on the 24/7 news cycle, minimal attention has been paid to the well-being of simulation and training industry members.
To be certain, much like other companies in the broader aerospace and defense sector, the S&T industry members which responded to the author’s editorial invitation are similarly grappling with workforce and related challenges, as they attempt to meet customer expectations.
Workforce issues are at the top of companies’ list of concerns during this COVID-19-era. John Frasca, president of Frasca International, Inc., reported his company continues to be as productive as possible during this time. “We’ve made many changes within our work environment for the safety of our employees. A large percentage of our team is now working from home.” Similarly, Frank Vieira Hugger, director of Sales and Marketing at Mint, recalled that to prevent the spread and protect its communities from the C-19 virus, his company decentralized its operation by mandating social distancing and home office as early as March 12th. “We have also suspended all travel to conferences or sales meetings until further notice,” he emphasized.
These two companies, with very different core competencies, nonetheless had common ground on their concern about meeting their current and prospective customer bases’ expectations. Urbana, Illinois-based Frasca told CAT, his company wants its customers to know that it is able to respond to their needs with product and technical support. He added, “We are continuing to build existing orders and developing new technology for our simulators. We’ve shipped and installed several devices in recent months and we’ve assisted customers and agents in on-location installations.” Similarly, Mint’s Vieira Hugger said that moving to work from home did not significantly impact its operation or customer service capabilities. “Without missing a beat, we achieved 100% business capacity on day one. As a technology company with offices and customers around the globe, we are accustomed to working and collaborating effectively remotely. Our experience with cutting edge technology, including our own Mint TMS [training management system], enabled us to ensure our customers’ training operations continue without the slightest interruption.”
To be certain, the S&T sector is sharing some of the economic pains evident throughout the A&D sector. For its part, Mint has seen a move by its partners to reduce cost and conserve cash, which resulted in a reprioritization of projects, schedule changes, both impacting its bottom line. Vieira Hugger elaborated, “As I stated earlier, we are working with our partners to navigate through these difficult times together. Internally, our team members across all departments are actively working on controlling costs while maintaining exceptional customer service. In this unprecedented global crisis, for us, the call to stand together to overcome is more than a slogan; it is part of the culture we live. Though it is paradoxical, as we combat this pandemic by practicing social distancing, we need to do the exact opposite on the operational and economic front by closely collaborating internally and with our partners.”
The two industry leaders are similarly looking beyond workforce changes and other adjustments to their business models, to move from the current business downturn. Frasca concluded, “We want our customers to know that we are here for them and are continually looking for alternative ways to support them. Our goal is to be ready to meet our customers’ needs when the industry and specifically flight training organizations are up running again.” Vieira Hugger again noted that as a Mint customer is a Mint partner, his company is committed to working diligently with its partners to manage and overcome this unprecedented challenge. The Kiel, Germany-based industry veteran concluded, “On the operational side, for example, crew qualifications are set to expire due to the massive disruption caused by COVID-19 (e.g., social distancing). It does not take a lot of imagination to recognize the resulting training backlog adds further stress to a system stretched to its limits. Therefore, it is encouraging to see regulators around the world (FAA, EASA, ANAC, CASA, CAA, etc.) proactively taking action in working on exemptions to relieve some of the operational pressure our partners are experiencing. That said, these exemptions, once final, will require record-keeping modification to prevent oversight and ensure compliance. MINT’s internal task force of experts keeps a close eye on the regulatory requirements and limitations of the various agencies. Once the exemptions are final, we will consult and assist our partners in taking action efficiently by maximizing the Mint TMS functionalities.”