Dive Industry Stakeholders | Scuba & COVID-19

Challenges Caused by The COVID-19 Pandemic Helped Diving Gear Producers to Improve Their Efficiency

How two European scuba diving gear manufacturers turned a negative (the pandemic) into a positive.

Production of Closed-Circuit Rebreathers at Divesoft in the Czech Republic
Production of Closed-Circuit Rebreathers at Divesoft in the Czech Republic

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COVID-19 had an impact on nearly every industry. One might assume diving-oriented businesses would be in a category of those hit the hardest. However, sometimes a company’s ability to adapt to a new climate brings about surprising results. See how diving equipment companies, Nautec and Divesoft, overcame the odds when faced with the challenges brought about by the pandemic.

Most companies are part of a supply chain and depend, to a certain extent, on their partners and suppliers for successful operation. Various factors can impact or disrupt the supply chain — a worldwide pandemic is certainly one of those. Simply remaining functional and effective presented an entirely different kind of challenge for many companies.

Nautec: A Berlin-based Scuba Gear Manufacturer

For one such company, Nautec, a Berlin-based producer of premium valves for rebreathers, this was the case. At the onset of the pandemic, Nautec anticipated being forced to reduce working hours due to external factors, such as unpredictable changes in schedules and delivery dates of their long-time galvanizers. At the same time, shipping companies were increasingly overwhelmed with orders which affected every level of the supply chain.

These scheduling constraints were not the only challenges Nautec was faced with. Another concern surfaced when a British manufacturer placed a large order for protective equipment at the same time Nautec was confronted with a significant increase in the price of raw materials, namely, the price of copper had risen by 62%. These unexpected changes made it impossible to stick to the original prices Nautec had calculated for their customers in 2021.

Dr. Höller, Head of Administration at Nautec, explained:

“Given the use of complex manufacturing processes and premium materials, forecasting is always very difficult regardless of unpredictable factors such as a pandemic. Normally, we set very tight tolerances regarding the dimensions of key components during construction and strictly adhere to the specifications of DIN-Standards for NAUTEC Valves. To guarantee perfect function and safety, every single NAUTEC-Valve is tested in a water bath after its final assembly, with the designated operating pressure for the product (230 or 300 bar). We naturally strive to keep our products at an affordable price level for the average recreational diver, so the current circumstances have made pricing concerns all the more challenging.”

Dr. Höller, Head of Administration at Nautec
Dr. Höller, Head of Administration at Nautec
Dr. Beatrice Höller, Nautec

Additionally, two major economic events complicated the situation from an administrative standpoint: Brexit and the temporary reduction of consumer tax for the second half of the year in Germany, which was intended to boost the country’s economic growth.

Nautec stresses, in addition to other factors, the importance of interpersonal relationships.

“In times of a pandemic outbreak that is marked by severe governmental regulations, limitations of individual freedom and contact restrictions, the quality of personal relations plays a significant role in our daily lives, including work,” explained Dr. Höller.

Not all, however, has been doom and gloom during the pandemic; in some cases, it was quite the opposite. For instance, Nautec predicted a massive decline in orders for the first half of 2020. But that never happened. In fact, Nautec was able to employ an additional employee to keep up with the increasing demand for their valves and manifolds; build production capacity; and purchase two more machines. This allowed the company to improve the efficiency of its processes, including reducing machine set-up times by 50% and also minimizing scraps.

Measuring the Thread Tolerance with a Slide Gauge at Nautec in Germany
Measuring the Thread Tolerance with a Slide Gauge at Nautec in Germany

There have even been additions to the Nautec distributor family, including Graham Blackmore, a professional rebreather diver in the UK, and Ross Mcphee in Australia, who specializes in diving equipment service and repair.

Divesoft: A Czech Dive Equipment Manufacturer

The pandemic presented similar obstacles for Divesoft, a Czech diving equipment producer specializing in hi-tech products designed especially for top technical and cave divers.

Fortunately, Divesoft did not have to face larger personnel-related issues (apart from a handful of employees staying at home due to positive COVID tests or to take care of their children), and this was mostly owed to the proactive measures taken by the company, including dividing the team into smaller units, wearing face masks, gloves and using disinfectant. As soon as COVID-19 tests were available, Divesoft started using PCR and antibody tests to test their employees, each test once per week.

However, in terms of production, with the supply chain disrupted, Divesoft had to find substitute suppliers for materials and device components due to a market shortage of motherboard chips, packaging material, and certain production materials. Finding a substitute supplier requires extra time since it is necessary to test the substitutes, which affects the entire supply chain and schedule. Fortunately, all of this was done within a few weeks, which allowed production to continue as planned. According to Divesoft executives, the situation forced the company to create larger reserves of materials and spare components.

Jakub Slama, Head of Divesoft Marketing
Jakub Slama, Divesoft

Additionally, though all diving events and exhibitions were canceled or postponed due to the pandemic, the Divesoft team still managed to stay in touch with the diving community through various other avenues.

Jakub Slama, Head of Divesoft Marketing, described how they used the time they would otherwise have spent at diving exhibitions:

“We created and shared interesting online content such as instructional videos about our products and detailed usage, fruitful discussions about current topics (e.g. bailout CCR or mCCR vs. eCCR), helpful diving hints such as getting back in the water after a long break or traveling with a CCR, and live-streamed interviews with renowned diving personalities on the Divesoft Facebook page.”

This is a way how Divesoft was able to keep fellow divers in the swim of things during COVID. All of these efforts generated positive feedback from divers around the world who appreciated the opportunity to extend their knowledge and remain connected with their favorite diving celebrities and friends.

Testing of a CCR Rebreather at Divesoft
Testing of a CCR Rebreather at Divesoft

Overall, although the pandemic hit most industries hard, it also provided an opportunity for companies to improve production and uncover ways to be more effective, efficient, and creative. Implementing time and cost-effective processes and maximizing safety precautions allowed both Nautec and Divesoft to not only continue their production processes, but also, in some cases, expand the size of their manufacturing by demonstrating flexibility and adaptability as well as build better connections between their brand and clientele.

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News & editorials for the scuba diving industry. Scuba diving market data & statistics. Business analysis. Innovation-fueled strategies for growth. Dive store management. Your career as a dive professional.