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These technologies could hold back business travel indefinitely

It is a sunny morning, and it crisscrosses Eugene, Ore., A place famous for its great outdoors, natural history, and Nike’s birthplace. Standing outside a nondescript industrial site, one story, I talk to Mark Frohnmayer, Arcimoto’s chief executive officer, who makes a three-wheeled electric car that we call a “nice help car.”

Only I’m not in Oregon. Still stuck at home, on the other side of the coast, I rely on – like many of us – a host of ever-growing tools that allow me to do my work remotely. In this, I get a visit to Arcimoto’s industry via FaceTime. Mr. Frohnmayer is holding a “me” with an iPhone, pointing to things, pulling me closer to the finished equipment, parts and cars, and posing my questions. To me, it turns out that it is a good idea to Take an eight-hour flight and stay at the Dow Jones Authorized Discount Hotel for continental breakfast, viz.

This is how Mr Frohnmayer and his team have been providing investors, customers and suppliers with factory visits since the outbreak began. It works well enough that Mr. Frohnmayer wants to keep doing it after the end of the epidemic, because it comes with a loss in production due to travel dates.

Thanks to collaborative cloud-based tools of every definition – not just Zoom – the epidemic has led to the reset of office culture, from individual to remote or integrated. Surprisingly, there was also a reorganization of the staff that almost no one thought could perform their duties remotely, including field service engineers and emergency medical personnel.

While these changes define trends within the post-epidemic workplace, and reflect a new way forward for inter-business relations. Many examples come from the largest craft industry: manufacturing. Workers still have to come from the factory to assemble products, and quality control may require occasional overseas trips, but many other tasks – including hard work, building supportive relationships with customers, and even research and development – unexpectedly and perhaps permanently.

Delta’s chief executive has indicated that business travel will return to 70% of the pre-epidemic rate by 2023. But that other 30% may take longer to recover, now that the definition of “required travel” has changed.

Using FaceTime as a form of telepresence to make factory trips — without the need for fine robots or chunky headsets — is one of the ways Mr. Frohnmayer has shifted his major career from Arcimoto to a desert model. At the meetings, he relied on what he called his FutureCube, a tightly lit, soundless shed in his backyard. He has power from his home, broadband via Starlink satellite internet and, most importantly, not one of the barking dogs that used to interrupt his calls.

Using this office at the back of meetings, including investors, most importantly Arcimoto, despite being publicly traded, is still on the rise.

“The idea was that I would fly across the country for just an hour for lunch to get a business contract. Then the financial industry finds out that you can have face-to-face conversations, and it can be very personal, remotely, “he said.

Arcimoto, which raised more than $ 50 million in stock sales last year and another $ 14 million in 2021, is now designing its next factory, which will be more than 200,000 square meters, compared to the current 34,000-square-foot. -foot.

Clearpath Robotics, based in Kitchener, Ontario, is the parent of Otto Motors, which builds independent robots that help manufacturers and goods companies. Just before the epidemic, Matt Rendall, its chief executive, was raising funds to launch. “My life was on the plane, I was jumping around cities, investors going to investors. But now I have never been on a plane in 14 months. The epidemic has changed the line of what you will need to get on the plane. “

Cleppath has many clients in Japan, where personal contact with customers has been a real necessity, said Mr Rendall. But given the fact that Japan is plagued by an epidemic even earlier than in Europe and the Americas, the culture has shifted rapidly and surprisingly to distant conventions. Not having to plan for about a two-week long trip inland has given Mr Rendall time to think of a business plan. It’s time to dump her and move on.

For businesses that actually do things, there is a limit to how much work can be done remotely. Both Arcimoto and Clearpath continued to use production facilities throughout the epidemic, whenever local laws allowed them to do so, while maintaining social distance between workers. And some of their employees are eager to return to business travel again.

Terry Becker is Arcimoto’s chief executive officer, overseeing procurement, manufacturing, engineering and R&D. Prior to the epidemic, Mr. Becker and his deputies frequently traveled to China, visiting suppliers who make many parts of Arcimoto’s automotive and electrical parts. Such a trip was very important in maintaining the flow of parts at the Arcimoto factory in Eugene, he said. He would inspect the component parts, see how the quality control procedures and methods work in a particular industry. The lack of this trip, he says, has led to problems in the past year: parts that were previously unspecified and unusable.

Despite these challenges, Mr Becker believes that many meetings within and outside his company will remain far behind even after the epidemic. He also thinks that the old phone is being replaced forever.

“People will be drawn to Zoom meetings and in the future, unlike conferences or emails,” says its beauty, because you can share Gantt’s photos, spreadsheets and charts much better. “

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