In the 10th town hall meeting since COVID-19 began, the Manufacturing Leadership Council welcomed two of its members from automotive manufacturers to share how they’ve been planning return to work policies and procedures.

Britt Autry, Vice President of Manufacturing at global automotive supplier DENSO’s Maryville, Tennessee’s facility and Dan Grieshaber, Director of Global Manufacturing Integration at General Motors, spoke about the current state of their manufacturing operations and recovery efforts, as well as the internal communication strategies and health and safety procedures that will enable them to safely bring employees back into the workplace.

Here are 3 highlights from their presentations:

  1. Vary the types of communication practices

Autry of DENSO’s Maryville, Tennessee operations shared that his company has moved back to around 50% of production capacity since last week. He outlined specific communication practices that DENSO has been following to keep employees informed of the impact of COVID-19 on their operations.

The DENSO leadership team meets daily to discuss the crisis and shares takeaways from their discussions with employees through a mobile app. The app, updated 2-3 times per week, acts as a newsletter for workers to get access to the latest information as company executives learn and digest it.

The company also brings together employees through WebEx town hall meetings. Executives lead the meetings and typically, 600-800 associates will attend to hear industry updates and plans for restarting work. Autry said they do a survey after each meeting to gather feedback and questions from employees.

  1. Leverage manufacturing operations to create PPE

Both Autry and Greishaber of GM said their companies have stepped up and started manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE) both for their employees and as donations for healthcare workers in their areas.

DENSO has produced and donated 60,000 face shields to hospitals and first responders and distributed them to North American employees.

GM is currently making about 2,400 surgical masks per hour (which amounts to about 1.5 million per month), as well as hand sanitizer, face shields and surgical gowns for donation to healthcare organizations in Michigan.

  1. Put health and safety resources in the hands of employees

Greishaber of GM said the company is only a few days into restarting its manufacturing operations but has outlined a detailed guide for health and safety for employees, including procedures for entering the facility, keeping objects and people clean, physical distancing and ventilation and handling possible COVID-19 cases. These are some of the key aspects of their playbook:

  • Health and safety go beyond the workplace; GM employees are given guidelines to follow when leaving the office and returning home, including storing face masks in paper bags, disinfecting surfaces at home and avoiding close contact with people in public settings
  • Every GM facility has strict rules for what happens when you enter, including physical distancing, temperature screenings, face masks and signage with safety messaging
  • To ensure people, objects and surfaces remain clean, the company is increasing the frequency of sanitization, providing sanitization stations and promoting handwashing
  • GM is promoting physical distancing and ventilation by recommending that employees remain 6-feet apart whenever possible, keep doors open and use fans increase airflow
  • Office workstations and common areas like break rooms have been redesigned to remove seats, spread out tables and limit the number of people
  • To handle possible COVID-19 cases, GM requires employees to report positive tests immediately (even if they’re working at home) or if they think they might be sick, to take their temperature and speak with their supervisor as soon as possible

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 mlcouncil@nam.org.