In 2018, Barry-Wehmiller acquired our first company in China – K&H Machinery, which is part of our BW Papersystems business.
K&H and BW Papersystems had joined forces on many projects in the corrugated paper packaging industry through the years. With operations in Dongguan, China, and Taiwan, K&H provided us not only a great opportunity to expand our presence in the Asia-Pacific region, but also to grow our people-centric culture with our new team members.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across China and into southeast Asia, Eddie Mun, BW Papersystems’ Managing Director for that region, began frequently updating me on the wellbeing of our team members in the area – 138 in Dongguan and 31 in Taiwan.
Eddie is one of the most kind and humble Truly Human Leaders in our organization. He has a contagious smile and a relentlessly positive presence.
Last week, we recorded a video message from Eddie to share our teammates’ experiences in China and Taiwan with the rest of our organization. But I also thought his words of hope would be encouraging to readers of this blog.
We in the U.S. are just at the beginning of preventative measures taken to slow the spread of the virus. Many states have issued stay-at-home orders as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to climb throughout the country. It is a very uncertain time, not unlike what our team members in China faced a little more than two months ago.
Eddie said the Chinese government abruptly shut the country down on Jan. 23, two days before the Chinese New Year.
“It was a sudden move by the government, caught a lot of people by surprise,” he said.
There were a number of restrictions put into place, Eddie recalled. One of which was that only one person per household could leave their residence once every three days to buy supplies.
“It caught everyone by surprise, but generally, everyone complied,” Eddie said. “That’s why it didn’t take long for things to get back to normal.”
Now, all but two of our team members in Dongguan have returned to work. The two who haven’t are on leave for reasons unrelated to the pandemic. All team members in Taiwan are also back to work and healthy, Eddie said. Our facilities have been shipping equipment since the end of February and the leaders are taking strict care to make sure everyone is safe and protected.
Eddie credited the return to relative normal to the drastic measures taken to stop the spread of the virus. But he said that time is still needed for economic recovery.
“It will take a lot of time for things to (completely) go back to normal,” Eddie said. “It was a very fearful period of time.”
True to Eddie’s positive nature, he is able to see a silver lining in the events of the last three months. Eddie said that the leaders of our operations in Asia were in contact with individual team members on a daily basis.
Over that time, they saw teammates who normally don’t interact with one another share messages of encouragement.
“They feel like they are part of a family who are looking out for each other,” Eddie said.
I couldn’t be more proud of these team members. They are coming out on the other side of a very difficult situation closer than ever.
And this is my hope for all of us who are still struggling with the circumstances we are in. This is my hope for the Barry-Wehmiller family and for all of you – that we will come out of all this closer and stronger than ever.
As I said in my blog last week – we are all essential during this time and we will get through it together. It is so true, now more than ever, that everybody matters.
I encourage you to watch the video above of a Truly Human Leader and my friend, Eddie Munn. I hope his words of positivity and perspective give you comfort.