Tech Data global CEO Rich Hume: IT channel is ‘enabling the world’ to work from home

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Tech Data global CEO Rich Hume: IT channel is ‘enabling the world’ to work from home
Tech Data CEO Rich Hume. Image courtesy of Tech Data

As much as the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare gaps in our nation’s health care system, it has also highlighted resilience and nimbleness of the channel as it martials partners across the IT industry to help shift the country’s work from the office, to the home. Distribution is taking center stage in this fight, as MSPs and VARs scramble to keep companies connected to their customers, even as employees are increasingly home bound.

“If we didn’t have the ability to have our logistic centers enabled, the entire distribution network, not just Tech Data, wouldn’t be meeting that need and I think it would be harder for companies to shift their work to remote,” Tech Data CEO Rich Hume told CRN. “I think we’re playing a vital role right now.”

The $37 billion distribution juggernaut is unleashing its full might to keep employees healthy, to keep the boxes and trucks moving, and to put hardware into the hands of those who need it.

“We’ve taken multiple measures to help protect them,” Hume said. “Number one is we’re doing temperature screening. Number two is we’ve optimized our work schedule, whereby we have no overlap between shifts so they aren’t exposed to any more people than they need to be. We have all the hygiene and sanitary capabilities installed that are required. We are extremely safe about who is allowed in the facility and who is not. So taking all of those measures to make sure we protect those who are helping the world to be sustained in this new environment of remote work.”

Since joining Tech Data, Hume has overseen several major changes in the company, including Tech Data's 2017 $2.6 billion acquisition of Avnet Technology Solutions. That acquisition gave Tech Data, which at the time was a traditional broadline distributor, access to advanced technology from Avnet, one of the industry's largest value-added distributors. It also gave Tech Data a presence in the Asia-Pacific market.

Prior to joining Tech Data, Hume was a 30-plus-year company veteran at IBM where he held roles including general manager and COO of Global Technology Services and general manager of its Europe business. Hume honed his channel chops as general manager of IBM's global business partners between 2008 and 2012, where he focused on channel initiatives for IBM's business partner channel.

What are you seeing in terms of demand in the market?

“The customer demand in the industry is changing based around an enlarged requirement around remote work. So what you’ll see is, the industry is seeing higher demand for PC ecosystem products and networking products, along with the appropriate licenses to support that shift towards remote work.

As it relates to Tech Data, we talked in the past, that we pride ourselves on having the broadest end-to-end portfolio in the market and in times like this, it serves us well because we do have the broadest line-card within the distribution industry. With that broad line card, not only do we have top-shelf engagements with each one of our vendor partners, but we also have the assortment or the ability, in the event supply gets a little bit short, for our customers to move around the portfolio in order to support their customer’s needs.”

Given what happened to manufacturing in China, what are you telling partners about the supply of goods?

“We all know that parts of the supply chain come out of China. I would say, if you were to roll back a year or 18 months ago, some supply chains were repositioned because of the tariff situation, so the overall concentration was steadily coming down through time. Be that as it may, there’s still a requirement around China, and we all know there was a period of time around which that manufacturing capability was limited as the country combated COVID-19.

The question we often times get is ‘How is that gap in the supply chain made up?’

The reality is that number one, you have inventories on hand that protect you for a period of time. The second piece is, as we read they have ramped up their manufacturing and things are getting back to closer to normal as we move through time. I would anticipate that there will be shortages, or outages, but I think based on the inventory on hand, the inventory that was on the water, the fact that they’re ramping manufacturing back up will hopefully help to minimize some of those impacts.

This is an industry statement: customer demand is high, P.C. ecosystem products. Tech Data having the benefit of the broadest portfolio in the market, allows us to have excellent relationships with our vendors. People are working to optimize across all the different elements of the supply chain.

Then, in terms of shortages, do we see them as short-lived or a sign of things to come? That will all depend on how this virus ebbs and flows. If things follow the trail of China, where it appears as if they have peaked, and then they’ve found a way to mitigate the risk, things will return to normalcy. If there’s a different trend with the virus, you could find yourself with shortages, but right now I think there will be shortages, but they will be manageable. Hopefully, things will return to normal out in the not too distant timeframe.

How are you managing your own workforce?

“Where its possible for a colleague to work at home, they’ve been directed to work at home. Just generally speaking the overwhelming number of office colleagues are equipped to be able to work from home such that they can be safe, and at the same time be productive. Think of it as, all of our office colleagues at Tech Data are working from home.

As it relates to our logistics centers. Our logistic centers are up and running and operational. I truly believe that for the industry, the logistics centers are quite critical because it is meeting the needs of helping the world enable remote work. If we didn’t have the ability to have our logistic centers enabled, the entire distribution network, not just Tech Data, then we wouldn’t be meeting that vital need and I think it would be harder for companies to shift their work to remote. I think we’re playing a vital role right now.

For those workers who can’t work from home, how are you keeping them safe?

“For those who are in the logistics center, we’ve taken multiple measures to help protect them. Number one is we’re doing temperature screenings. Number two is we’ve optimized our work schedule, whereby we have no overlap between shifts so they aren’t exposed to any more people than they need to be. We have all the hygiene and sanitary capabilities installed that are required. We are extremely safe about who is allowed in the facility and who is not. So taking all of those measures to make sure we protect those who are helping the world to be sustained in this new environment of remote work.”

Are you seeing any challenges to keeping the trucks running, and moving good domestically?

“We’ve heard that, that might emerge or be the case in the not too distant future, but there haven’t been any material issues we haven’t been able to deal with … To be candid, the supply chain can be healthy, but if we have major challenges as it relates to business closure or if we ever run into the event that the logistics network becomes challenged, the health of the entire food chain is vital. One break in it can cause disruption.

What about protecting the product itself from carrying the virus?

In the event that we become aware of a colleague that might be tested positive, then there’s a whole protocol that is stood up by CDC, which not only distribution, but the entire transportation network must follow. We are taking all of the hygienic and sanitary precautions that are necessary. In the event that we were to be faced with such a situation, we would follow the CDC protocol strictly.

What is the message to partners as they navigate this uncertainty?

For the entire ecosystem, vendors distributors, resellers, partners, system integrators, we’re all working diligently to make sure that first and foremost we protect our colleagues and we protect the entire ecosystem, that’s job number one.

Job number two is, it’s becoming very clear that our IT ecosystem is a vital link to enable companies to continue with work from home efforts. Vendors, distribution, and resellers are enabling the world to be able to do that. Third is the community becomes very small and tight when crisis emerges. We turn to one another with any challenges and issues and hope to resolve them. I would tell you, my experience to date.

I would encourage any part of the ecosystem to reach out. If Tech Data can assist in any way, we’re happy to help.

This article originally appeared at crn.com

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