For many of us, 2020 will be remembered as the year the pandemic struck, but for Matthews Australasia CEO Mark Dingley, it will forever stand as the year of two viruses: COVID-19, of course, and ransomware.
There were plenty of sleepless nights, but for Mark, the way the entire business came together to deal with these problems in succession brings the most pride and gratitude in his team and its abilities.
It was Friday, 28 February 2021 when the company, which specialises in intelligent product identification and inspection technologies for Australian manufacturers, was hit by ransomware that brought the entire business to a halt.
While it was a terrifying turn of events, Mark describes his team’s response as “phenomenal”. “We were back up and operational within days, but it took months to really get over it,” he tells The CEO Magazine.
Matthews has always had a strong IT focus, but it wasn’t enough to keep the threat actors away. More than 12 months later, the business has implemented a raft of IT software and hardware policy changes, together with a range of online awareness and education strategies and tools for staff to use against the ongoing threat.
With more oversight from the IT steering community, the team keeps a keen eye on its cybersecurity defences to ensure that Matthews remains continually “one step ahead”, supported by annual external cybersecurity specialist audits to keep the business safe.
“I think all industry needs to be aware of the heightened threat of cyberattacks,” Mark says. “Unfortunately, with the level of threats only growing, it may just be a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if ’, so every business needs a plan.” What Mark and his team also took away from the incident was highly adaptable knowledge.
“When COVID-19 struck, we used what we’d learned to implement the necessary business and IT changes to keep going, both for our staff working from home and in the offices in a safe and secure manner Our quick response ensured we maintained day-to-day operations seamlessly for our customers,” he explains.
“This was vital, because while we work across every Australian manufacturing industry, our customers are predominantly food and beverage, and volumes in that sector were increasing as everyone was working out how to actually work through the COVID challenges we all faced.”
The pandemic also provided the impetus to digitise Matthews’ paper-based systems, which happened within two weeks of the initial COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020. “We were already on the path of making the change. COVID-19 just shaved several months off that transformation. I think that was the case with many businesses,” he says.
Keeping at the forefront of technology has long been Mark’s priority. He joined the company 27 years ago with an RMIT University degree in computer science. “The Founder and Owner Lester Nichol very much saw technology as the future of Matthews,” he explains. “He foresaw IT changing our coding and labelling industry.”
Mark was deeply motivated by the company culture and Lester’s vision for the family-owned business, moving through several different roles before arriving at the position of CEO in 2017.
“Many industries did it tough during the intense uncertainty of the pandemic,” he admits. “But from a manufacturing standpoint a lot of innovation and automation came to the fore, helping to keep production lines running in order to feed Australians at home.”
It is this technology around automation that Mark believes is pushing and supporting a resurgence of Australian manufacturing – initiatives such as smart factories and traceability solutions for the supply chain leading right into consumers’ hands.
“It’s all the result of a lot of hard work, and I’m exceptionally proud to lead this team as we continue to do our part for Australian manufacturing.”
“Back in 2009 we developed and launched iDSnet, Australia’s first identification networking and reporting software,” Mark says. “This went on to win the AAPMA Design Award and AUSPACK Best New Product – both highly esteemed industry accolades. And we’ve kept bettering and expanding iDSnet to meet the needs of Australian manufacturing, which I sum up as the three ‘S’s – security, safety and sustainability.
“Matthews and iDSnet have a continuing strong role to play in supporting the growth of manufacturing through enabling smart factories, implementing and enhancing their automation and software capabilities.”
The pandemic prompted concerns over food provenance. “Consumers want to know where their food came from, what its sustainability assertions are, and if it’s even what it claims to be,” Mark points out. “Matthews is well placed to support our customers with cutting-edge tech solutions so they can answer those questions for their customers. Our range of identification and inspection solutions help our customers produce verifiably safe products. Everything we do is about supporting Australian manufacturing.”
Mark is a strong advocate of governmental support for reshoring manufacturing in Australia, including initiatives that encourage modernisation.
“Continuing to support and service our customer base is a focus. A lot of our customers don’t work nine to five, they’re 24/7, so our operations must also be 24/7 in order to support them,” he says.
“The learnings that came from dealing with the two viruses have made our business more robust and digitally connected in a safe way to our customers and our staff who, like everyone else, are working remotely more than ever.
Many have suffered cyberattacks; COVID-19 countless more, although Mark believes that Matthews’ response to both has fast-tracked the company’s momentum. “It’s all the result of a lot of hard work, and I’m exceptionally proud to lead this team as we continue to do our part for Australian manufacturing.”
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