[IN THE NEWS] “Covid-19: A good time to reflect on strategy”

20 August 2020

Laurent Mogno, chairman of the ECT Group, spoke to Franck Boittiaux of ConstructionCayola.com

This discussion was an opportunity for the ECT chairman to give an initial financial assessment of lockdown and social distancing measures, and to explain the business’s approach to paperless and online communications with its customers in the construction & public works sector.

What are the consequences, especially in financial terms, of the health crisis and lockdown on the activities of your business, and the way you relate to your customers ?

“The consequences have been significant. We shut down all our sites from 17 and 18 March, while we set up new working procedures so as to safeguard the health of our and our customers’ workforces. We took about a week to re-open three sites, from 24 March, well spread across the Île-de-France in the 77, 91 and 95 départements. These sites seem well suited to ‘no contact’ working, and have adequate reception capacity, given that the ECT model consists of receiving soil excavated by construction and public works operators and offering solutions within a short travel distance.”

What steps did you have to take during lockdown ?

“Wherever possible, we shifted workers to teleworking, and set up strict procedures for the operational sites, with absolute ‘no contact’ working, in other words without using paper vouchers, without contact between members of our workforce or with customers, and with no shared equipment, whether that’s a computer keyboard or a bulldozer ! ”

How long do you think it will be before you can get back to a normal level of working, or even to get back to the 2019 level ?

“Probably not before September, and we will continue to monitor the situation thereafter because of the effects of Covid-19 and the municipal elections, so that we don’t experience a drop-off in 2021 arising from a lack of construction works, given that the various sectors involved are focussing very much on events unfolding today, and in particular on additional costs and the drop in productivity. Negotiations between the project supervisors and the construction and public works businesses on these subjects are complex and continually updated. As far as we are concerned, we have decided to absorb the costs arising from the new procedures.”

How has this period been for you? Has it given you an opportunity to think about possible reorganisations? Or changes to working methods ?

“It has been an opportunity to accelerate the process of going fully paperless, which was already at an advanced stage. We’re finalising our IT solution, which will be operational at the beginning of June and which will have an effect on productivity. It has also been a good time for reassessing the strategy of the business, especially in terms of the environment and biodiversity, because on 22 May the European Union published a roadmap which, in particular, promotes urban nature via the creation of plans for an ecological approach to urban and near-urban spaces in communes with more than 20,000 inhabitants, by the end of 2021. It’s a very interesting development for us, because its goal is the landscaping of spaces like those we make. Mankind needs nature in the city !”

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