The effect on the operational capability within Dints due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been limited but its suppliers, logistics partners and particularly customers have been affected in different ways. Below are three examples of areas that have caused issues and how Dints has adapted its approach.
• Cash Flow. This has been a challenge for many of our customers. Whilst some commodities, such as gold, have very favourable market prices, restrictions on logistics and end buyers have impacted sales. Multiple gold refineries shut initially due to COVID related staff shortages; gold then takes longer to sell and so cash is not available to pay suppliers and release critical supplies. Dints has maintained close contact with the client and flexibility with payment terms has been important to keeping supply flowing. If supplies don’t reach a mine, vehicles aren’t fixed, and production is affected further reducing mine revenue.

• Logistics. In countries with limited air freight flow, passenger planes are critical and without them cargo space and frequency are limited. DHL and other couriers have been critical lifelines but has restrictions which has meant flexible thinking to deliver critical supplies. A good example was a 3.2m drill rod could not be transported by DHL due to dimension restrictions and so a different supplier selling a 2.1m drill rod was identified. The product agreed by the end user and shipped. Dints initially looked at providing a charter air service, but it was quickly apparent that DHL and other air bridges were able to provide. Dints have adapted its logistics providing and consolidation points to meet availability.

• Medical. Mines have focused on trying to prepare for COVID-19 and sustain the business. In many cases this has led to a diversion of funds to ensure that the mines retain working capital and invests in COVID-19 related activities. As a result, Dints has seen large orders on its normal product range reduce but by supplying key COVID-19 related medical equipment, Dints has managed to maintain a good order book.

By adapting to the clients’ needs Dints has been able to maintain momentum created by a good first quarter and in some instances rekindle relationships with old clients.
Dints has a wide base of suppliers and where required has been able to alter its sourcing in reaction to capacity changes although the effect on its main suppliers in North America and Europe has been less damaging than anticipated. New medical supply lines from China have been more challenging but this was expected.
Reaction to the pandemic has not only required considerations of how to manage our client relationships but also managing our internal business.
• Long Term Strategy. With an expected reduction in activity, the company have taken the opportunity to refine its five-year business plan. Revenue over this period will reduce but there is confidence that good use of this time can prepare a stronger business for 2021.

• Working Environment. The company had many elements working remotely already and so going to 100% remote working was not a big shock to the business. The company is not expecting to resume office working for several months to come; the greatest risk is multiple infections within the business at one time causing a significant capacity reduction. The key question now being addressed is understanding what the 2021 working environment for Dints will look like.

• Composition. Dints has not needed to furlough any workers and increase its workforce with a new expeditor started working for Dints in April. The added fixed costs at a time where revenue was expected to fall was weighed up against the benefit of training at a time of decreased activity. Customer service has never been so important as a tool to retaining clients and increasing the team despite the conditions has been the correct decision.
Financing our exports and protecting our working capital was expected to be a significant challenge in March and Dints took several quick steps to de-risk.
• Payment in advance. Critical supplies were requested to be paid in advance. Especially with medical supplies, the pressure on availability was significant and customers understood this requirement.

• Receivables. Working with customers to ensure that the receivables book is up to date has been key. With pressure on working capital ensuring that you are seen as a key supporting actor during this period is critical to being high on their priority list

• Government support schemes. Dints prepared applications for a number of grants from Innovate UK as part of the governments COVID-19 response. Whilst some were, in the end, not judged to be applicable, the application process was a good exercise for the business to define our current position. Others were taken and have provided security to the business. Dints has successfully been approved for a CBILS facility.
The Future
South American clients are only now beginning to enter to worst phases of the virus curve but have already been affected by lockdowns. Clients in Guyana, for example, are not only contending with COVID restrictions but also uncertainly over election results that should have been declared in early March.
African clients have been widely affected by lockdown and travel restrictions but the real effect of the virus in Africa is still uncertain. Governments in some parts of the continent can be relied upon to make abrupt decisions or defer decisions without limit, this can be very damaging to business.
Suppliers have mostly managed to maintain their service, but future waves of the virus may have different impacts. Further uncertainty is to be expected
Dints has had a positive second quarter in the circumstances and maintained profitability. It cannot be guaranteed that this will continue, and it will continue to look for new methods to innovate but keeping close to our clients and providing exemplary customer service is key to staying afloat.