COVID-19 has had a major impact on the chemicals industry. Some areas, like transportation, have been hit hard, while those in pharmaceuticals, food additives and disinfectants have seen record outbound volumes.

Chemical companies are working overtime to minimize supply chain disruption as the coronavirus spreads across the world. Some have had to ramp up production of critical chemical supplies and healthcare products such as sanitizers. All are battling to keep their supply chains moving in these uncertain times.

Working with unreliable demand forecasts and rapidly triggering homeworking have added to the pressure chemical companies are under. It has become clear that a strong technological framework is essential to carry on business in these unprecedented circumstances.

Retaining productivity with remote workforce

This chemical multinational took immediate action when it saw that countries were preparing to lock down to control COVID-19. It reached out to Orange Business Services to ensure its workforce could remain connected and productive while working from home.

The multinational knew that it would not have the remote capacity to support all its employees working from home unless it put contingency plans into action fast. Before COVID-19, the multinational had 10,750 people remote working. It now needed to get 27,750 telecommuting in a very aggressive timeframe.

This was a complex exercise in which Orange Business Services had to install and configure additional hardware to satisfy the increase in demand. The multinational was already using Mobile SSL and had Cisco ASA firewalls in place. Orange needed to configure the existing firewalls to allow remote SSL VPN users, while adding another firewall for additional capacity – all in under a week.

Such was the height of the emergency, the Orange team had to drive the additional firewall appliance across one European country and install it over the weekend. The firewall in Asia was moved from active mode to load balancing to satisfy telecommuting requirements in the region. Both required field interventions, which had to be carefully coordinated to comply with lockdown regulations. In the U.S., the customer carried out their own firewall adaptations. Fortunately, a bandwidth upgrade had been made for the customer prior to the pandemic, and Orange is monitoring it to see if any additional bandwidth will be required. At present, it is coping with user demand.

Users dial in on the private VPN to access business applications, such as Microsoft 365 and bespoke accounting and logistics applications. So far, there has been no degradation in user experience, and the move from office to remote working has been relatively seamless.

Keeping critical supply chains running

Enabling a continuous supply of chemicals to satisfy the needs of a global pandemic is a huge task for the chemicals industry. Never has a robust infrastructure been more important in managing supply chains via a remote workforce.

Instigating this large homeworking initiative in such a short timeframe would not have been possible without the one-team approach from Orange and its customer. They are continuously working together across time zones to ensure that remote workers are securely connected. This ensures they are capable of doing their jobs from home to minimize the supply chain disruption of critical chemicals.

27,750
knowledge workers telecommuting within a very aggressive timeframe

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