Running our Corporate Research & Innovation Centre during the pandemic
By Vanessa Delair
Water Management Technologies Team Leader / R&D Engineer
Our Corporate Research & Innovation Centre (CRI) in France is a dynamic force that supports Aliaxis in bringing optimised solutions to our customers around the world. The research we conduct to develop new technologies and techniques for Aliaxis products never stops. So when the coronavirus pandemic forced France into lockdown in mid-March, our activities risked coming to an abrupt halt.
With little time to spare, we had to identify our priority projects and find a way to keep them running while respecting national guidelines and ensuring everyone’s safety. Once we established a list of priority projects, we selected three team members to monitor them. Each team member took a turn spending a few hours at the CRI each day performing these tasks, which local authorities permitted.
Having successfully found a solution to keep our research running, we then turned our attention to the people of the CRI. Many of us began working remotely by the end of March, so we set up a weekly Virtual Café where we could connect, plan our next steps and check in on each other.
As lockdown rules gradually relaxed throughout April and May, we were able to increase the number of employees allowed in the CRI, and did so while following physical distancing and relevant hygiene procedures. We also established a schedule to monitor the status of each co-worker, which involved a lot of memorable selfies!
With even more people allowed on-site in June, we were able to start replacing our Virtual Café sessions with some in-person meetings, including a brainstorming session organized in a park to maintain physical distancing. The entire team was able to be on-site together for the first time in July, so we celebrated with a team picnic.
Since then, we have continued to adapt our workplace to conform to the French Government’s latest safety guidelines. This has involved working in rotation and limiting the number of people allowed in the laboratory at once, wearing facemasks and practicing physical distancing, and using Plexiglas as an extra barrier wherever needed.
Looking back at the entire process, I’m happy we found a way to keep our projects going in a time of uncertainty, all while taking care of each other along the way. Like much of the research conducted at the CRI, our team found a way to overcome challenges with innovation and collaboration.
Aliaxis is a global leader in advanced plastic piping systems for building, infrastructure, industrial and agriculture applications. The company provides communities around the world with sustainable innovative solutions for water and energy, leading the industry in a way that anticipates the rapidly evolving needs of its customers and of society. With a global workforce of about 16,000 employees, Aliaxis offers specific solutions that meet our customers’ most demanding needs across the globe. Aliaxis is active through leading local brands and operating in over 45 countries, combining local solutions with global innovation and operational excellence. The company is privately owned, with its global headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
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