At Treetown Tech, we’ve kind of become masters of adaptation. Product development can be messy, and sometimes it feels like failing forward. But with every new setback there is an opportunity to evolve and improve — and that’s how we guide our products from elegant design to tangible reality.
And in March 2020, we — as well as most of the world — faced our biggest challenge ever.
So how did the team in Ann Arbor adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and how is that still evolving at the end of 2021?
We found new ways to communicate
Going remote overnight in March 2020 produced some interesting problem-solving solutions. Many team members took home desks, computers, and tech supplies to create their own mini-labs at home. It was the only way to keep our families, friends, and workforce safe during a frightening and uncertain time.
As we look back 20+ months later, the sudden shift to remote work not only helped us keep our team safe, it also gave rise to a new wave of improved communication and innovation. By introducing new channels for connecting across teams and sharing expertise, we’ve actually given our development processes a boost. Whether they love working remotely, at the office, or with a mix of both; every one of our team members has a way to question, share, and collaborate that suits their comfort level.
We expanded our territory.
While many other businesses were getting rid of their office spaces, we decided to scale up our facilities. In April 2021, we moved into our current 10,000 square foot office and lab space in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Suddenly, we had more elbow room and equipment to build than ever before.
But even after vaccination rates reached a safe level, there were still challenges to be met. The world outside Treetown’s facilities had changed, too. And one of the biggest and nastiest new troubles was a little something called…
…the supply chain.
We grew a third eye.
Not literally, of course.
One of the biggest hits to operations as a result of the pandemic was its effect on the supply chain. Suddenly, getting the hard materials needed to prototype in time is a crapshoot — and not a particularly fun one.
Instead of purchasing the old way, we decided to adapt a more proactive buying approach. Now we keep a close and constant watch on the market so we can seize sourcing opportunities where we find them, and continue prototyping quickly for our partners. In especially hard-to-find supply chain spaces (cough — microchips — cough) we’ve changed our project process to procure the material first, and then proceed with detailed design adapted to available parts.
It’s not the ideal way of buying, and we’d rather not do it forever. But for now, it’s a minor adaptation we can use until things get back to “normal” or the next challenge presents itself.
The next iteration.
So, what do we look like with these new adaptations?
More voices are being heard within the company, and more wild-but-just-might-work ideas are being shared. And now that we’re in-person again and working in our incredible new facilities, we’re discovering that this wide avenue for communicating ideas is helping us innovate faster and more successfully than ever before.