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Lenovo Sets Up Virtual 'War Room' To Allocate PCs For Most-Critical Needs

Lenovo Channel Chief Rob Cato says the company has been focused on prioritizing devices for needs such as hospitals in New York and distance learning around North America.

In a move to boost its agility during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lenovo's Intelligent Devices Group in North America has set up a virtual-meeting "war room" to prioritize PCs for health care facilities, distance learning and other crucial needs, the division's channel chief told CRN.

"We've been able to be agile within the market. So we actually created a war room. Within the last probably three or four weeks, we've had that war room operating every day," said Rob Cato, vice president of North America channels in Lenovo's Intelligent Devices Group.

[Related: Lenovo To Launch 'Partner Stimulus Package' To Aid Solution Provider Cash Flows]

The war room has met virtually over Microsoft Teams to "look at specific partner customer orders that are the most critical, that are going into those parts of the business that will do the most good--whether it's healthcare, whether it's distance learning for schools, whether it's governments that need to continue to operate," Cato said. "Maybe they're supporting the small business loans that are starting to become such a key part of the stimulus package from the government. So there are a lot of things that we're doing through that daily war room to make sure that we're supporting our customers and our partners as best we can."

The widespread shift to work-from-home and distance learning paired with production shutdowns in China earlier this year--all due to the coronavirus outbreak--have led PC demand to significantly outpace supply for Lenovo and other manufacturers. That environment has led to the need for prioritizing inventory on a day-to-day basis, "to make sure [critical needs] get addressed as quickly as possible," Cato said.

"I think it's a good move," said Rick White, co-founder and president of vision21 Solutions, a Gold partner of Lenovo based in Wake Forest, N.C. "Rob sees, 'OK, we've got to put a war room in place. And we've got to allocate supply.' They're not just being reactionary--they're being proactive, and making sure that this war room gets [PC supply] to the communities that really need it."

Among the results of the prioritization effort: Lenovo has worked with partners to supply products to pop-up hospitals in New York City, the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak. Lenovo and partners helped make sure that "as those hospitals were being constructed, that they had the equipment to be able to admit patients and make sure that they were taking care of those patients," Cato said.

Lenovo also helped to supply a company that produces testing equipment for COVID-19, which needed PCs "very quickly to continue to get that testing equipment out," he said.

In another example, Lenovo's team in North Carolina recently mobilized on a weekend to supply an urgent need at a hospital in New York, said Matthew Zielinski, president of Lenovo's North America Intelligent Devices Group.

"We had one of our largest system providers call us on a Friday night, saying that they desperately needed 100 systems by Monday to put into [a New York hospital]. And so we [re-allocated] roughly 100 or so systems that were meant for another Fortune 50 customer that needed them," Zielinski said. "We don't usually have engineers working Friday nights and Saturday mornings. We had a big group of people come into our Whitsett fulfillment facility, rework 100 systems over a period of eight or nine hours, complete all the testing, and get all those products ready to work within the hospital infrastructure. We hired two drivers on a Sunday to get the products to the hospital by Monday morning. So that's a real-time example. But that's happening quite a lot."

K-12 education has been another key priority, with demand surging for student-friendly Chromebooks as learning has moved into the home in school districts across North America.

"The K-12 market is one of the highest demands that we're seeing right now. And I think this is both the school districts that do have additional money available to them, but it's also the states and then the federal government, as they start to roll out the stimulus package. It's the money starting to flow down," Cato said. "And so I think you'll see, both now as well as throughout the rest of the year, that K-12 demand continue. The need for entry-level type products, whether it's Chrome or Windows type products, that demand will probably continue as we go throughout the year."

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