Getting Ready for 2021 - Plan to Improvise!

Dr. Meir Bartur, CEO, Optical Zonu CorporatoionDr. Meir Bartur, CEO
Production of Communication Infrastructure Equipment in the time of Covid.

Optical Zonu is an equipment supplier designing and delivering communication products to the wireless, defense, aerospace and data customers Because we supply the telecommunication infrastructure and defense OZC is an essential business and we were open and at full capacity during 2020 – we did not close the company even for one business day during the corona virus epidemic.

Our products are specifically targeted to solve signal distribution issues via optical fiber-based solutions. Our general product portfolio is large and provides solutions based on advanced technology (internally developed IP). Our wireless distribution products are utilized in venues that requires dense coverage like airports, sport arenas and convention centers.

2021 promises to deliver continued uncertainty in utilization of high-density venues so our customer procurement in un-predictable. Defense budget and priorities are also expected to shift with the new administration. Global trade is shifting with new, or reformulated, multi-nation agreements and lowgrade trade wars. Hence demand for US products in less predictable due to tariffs and post supply chain uncertainties. Such turmoil for a small high-tech company makes structured planning impossible.

So, what can we do to prepare for 2021? How will we be able to distinguish between realistic planning and wishful thinking plans? How can we prepare for unknown market conditions? In the following we will share our approach. Flexible planning seems to offer a more solid concept than improvisation since it implies preparation and conscious choice. In the following we will highlight the key planning steps we have undertaken for 2021. Above all else, we have to ensure that customers, at any level of demand, will be satisfied so we will build a long-term base for future growth without drawing resources that can place the company’s financial situation in jeopardy.

1. Workforce

Safety of the workforce – all measures that will ensure minimal Covid exposure at the factory. We continue our commitment to our employees in an effort to forge loyalty, use low demand period for training and ensure sufficient capacity for production.

Our employees are our strength and the government support via PPP and PPP2 are such that we are keeping the workforce at capacity that will support growth based on 2019 predictions. Some of the technical and R&D functions of the company will be targeted for product optimization, long term improvement and cost reduction designs.
2. Product Positioning – increase the potential customer base.

During 2020 we have put an emphasis on development of resellers and distributors all over the world to increase demand for existing products and designs. Reduction of demands in the US may be compensated by demands from other countries. We also explored US reps to increase the customer base domestically and are using advanced tools to enhance our internal search for new customers.

3. Technology preparedness

Our built-in tools for CRM, MRP and accounting are good enough to sustain us for significant growth. We will work hard to improve our remote working for those employees that can work from home. We will not invest in new infrastructure/tools without a booked demand. If/when we will identify an area that is weak – we may choose to strengthen the tools or training but without incurring extra costs that are not back-up by sales or bookings.

4. Operation foundation.

Build modules and subassemblies that can be used for multiple products, placing these into inventory
when the backlog is lower than production capacity. We have developed critical KPI to ensure that we can identify emerging trends early. Using idle time, we focus on developing and improving processes that can result in faster turnaround and cost reduction. As sales and production increases we are also using this time to enhance software documentation and testability processes.
  • Flexible planning seems to offer a more solid concept than improvisation since it implies preparation and conscious choice.

5. Financial planning.

During uncertain times financial support is usually hard to get. As the old saying goes – get your line of credit when you do not need it. In 2021 the existing relationships built with financial institution over the years are being counted upon to provide stability and fast response for PPP2 and extension of the existing line(s) of credit.

6. Training.

We are currently cross training employees to enhance their flexibility and improve production during peak capacity times. Using this slower period to enable staff to acquire new skills and improve existing skills, will prove beneficial as business increases.

7. Ongoing assessment.

Like any improvising standup comic that assesses her/his success via the audience feedback, we have to stay alert and tuned-in to the market. Management is planning to keep close focus on all sales efforts and customer feedback to ensure that no sales opportunity is missed.
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