On a recent conference call held by the Manufacturing Leadership Council (MLC) and its parent, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), leaders from Premio Foods and Trane Technologies discussed tips and tactics for safeguarding workers and strengthening  operations throughout the COVID-19 crisis – no matter how long it lasts.

A survey conducted by the NAM shows that the COVID-19 situation is already impacting daily life for manufacturers: 78% expect a financial impact from the crisis, 53% anticipate a change in operations, and 36% are facing supply chain disruptions.

David R. Brousell, Co-founder, Vice President & Executive Director of MLC, who moderated the  call, said “It is essential that manufacturers continue to take the crisis seriously, be vigilant, and do everything possible to protect their employees and ensure continuity in their business to avoid further disruption.”

The representatives from Premio and Trane recommended four action items manufacturers should consider to address the coronavirus situation.

  1. Prioritize sanitation and prevention

Good sanitation and cleanliness practices are always important and required, particularly for regulated food manufacturers such as Premio. But amid COVID-19, the stakes are much higher.

Eric Fidoten, Premio Foods SVP of operations, who is also a member of the MLC’s Board of Governors, said that his company has upped its sanitation practices across its employee base.

Premio, a maker of specialty Italian sausage products, already follows strict food production guidelines, but also now requires workers to sanitize their hands every 20-30 minutes; cough and sneeze, if they have to, into their elbows; and wear hooded hair nets for extra protection. They’ve also added more staff to sanitize common and high-touch areas on a two-hour cycle.

Trane Technologies’ director of health and safety, Christin Anniannis, also speaking on the call, shared that her organization has put up hand washing and educational posters, added extra sanitizing stations, and instituted rotating lunch break and social distancing practices. The company, which manufactures HVAC and refrigeration systems, is also working on creating isolation rooms for those who show signs of illness.

  1. Increase transparency

During a crisis like COVID-19, company leaders need to ensure that they’re informed of employees or other stakeholders with potential symptoms or conditions, especially given the contagious nature of the illness.

At Premio, employees are now instructed to notify a manager or leader of their symptoms or potential illness as soon as possible and report whether family members or close friends that they’ve been exposed to have been sick. They’ve also developed a “return to work” protocol, so if an employee misses work because of sickness, they’re required to provide documentation for medical release upon their return.

Similarly, Trane has developed a self-assessment for employees and visitors to report their potential symptoms and exposure to medium- or high-risk areas.

Both companies are encouraging employees that display symptoms to work at home, if possible.

  1. Exercise caution with travel and visitors

When it comes to employee travel and visitors, manufacturing companies can’t be too careful. Trane’s senior manager of crisis management and traveler safety, John Preloh, another speaker on the call, said his organization has implemented strict travel guidelines during COVID-19.

Trane employees are now restricted from visiting high-risk areas and non-essential travel is banned.  In addition, Trane has implemented restrictions on meetings of 25 or more people and has asked visitors to fill out a self-assessment prior to their arrival.

Premio has developed similar practices, requiring visitors to report on their condition and recent travel. The company has also arranged a third-party location to interview job candidates.

  1. Overcommunicate with stakeholders

As the tides change seemingly overnight with the coronavirus situation, it’s paramount that all important stakeholders, such as employees, customers, suppliers and visitors, are continuously informed.

Trane, which formed a cross-departmental task force to handle COVID-19, has set up a FAQ page for employees and has sent communications through both email and the company intranet. They also have a portal for employees to download relevant documents and resources.

Premio has daily meetings with stakeholders to stay on track with communication plans and strategize about any new developments.

MLC/NAM to Hold Additional Calls

The MLC/NAM is arranging additional calls to discuss how manufacturers are dealing with COVID-19. These will be announced as soon as details are available.

In the meantime, if you have any tips or best practices on how your company is keeping employees safe and/or is acting to minimize business disruption during this time, please share them at dbrousell@nam.org.