The current pandemic has a profound effect on business and is posing significant challenges to manufacturing in particular. The essential nature of consistent manufacturing in the supply chain makes manufacturing facilities and their employees as crucial as any other front line worker.
The challenges are considerable. Frontline manufacturing employees, including those working with industrial coil handling equipment, can’t work from home.
So how are facilities adapting?
Establishing Physical Distancing
As seen in so many other avenues of life these days, physical distancing, personal protective equipment (PPE), and physical barriers are the order of the day.
Many distancing solutions can be solved with simple tape placed on the floor, indicating proper distances employees should maintain. Facilities should also have sensible masking policies in place requiring facemasks, face shields, or both in situations when employees need to work in close proximity. Finally, plexiglass barriers, where applicable, offer an additional layer of security but need to be laid out in such a manner so they don’t prove a safety concern in case of emergency.
When many managers supervised production by walking the floor and interacting with employees, different approaches must be considered with the need for physical distancing.
Video monitoring is an obvious solution to the issue, although cameras and installation costs may prove challenging. Software that can track production and output can often point to any problem areas a line may be experiencing. Monitoring supplies and output can similarly give managers a decent perception of line production.
Each day, there seem to be new developments in how the pandemic is being handled, and what health officials are broadcasting recommendations and requirements. For those reasons, businesses need to stay on top of communicating the latest news and policies to employees.
Most notifications can be accomplished through text messaging and email. Employees are reminded to check their devices each morning for the latest news.
To bolster this, management can also prominently display notices in shared spaces and high traffic areas within the facility.
There is no reason any employee should not be kept up to date on the latest health and workplace policy information.
Employee Health = Business Health
It’s somewhat of a cliche nowadays to refer to employees as a business’s most important asset.
Nonetheless, it’s true.
It won’t matter how streamlined your operation is—without employees being able to come into work and function, there will be no production to speak of. When supply chains break down, businesses and consumers both lose.
A business that responds sensibly to the current health crisis will monitor employee health before they enter the facility, and have a backup continuity plan in place so that should some employees need to be sent home, production doesn’t suffer.
And to discourage employees from coming in while sick just so they don’t miss a paycheck, a business will have to look at what will be more cost-effective in the long run. Should they support employee sick time, or risk an entire facility shutting down, everyone has fallen ill.
Emerging From Crisis
The effects of COVID-19 are likely to remain with us for some time to come. Even with the advent of a vaccine, many of the procedures outlined here could help reduce the effect of “normal” cold and flu season.
And there is always the possibility of another outbreak. COVID-19 has forced businesses to adapt and has reminded everyone of the benefits of being flexible during times of crisis. Similarly, it has encouraged business leaders to think more long-term and forced a re-imagination regarding the nature of work overall.
Challenges remain, but with preparedness and a sense of cooperation, there’s no reason any business can’t manage to come out the other end intact and productive.