Whether your manufacturing activity ramped up for relief and recovery efforts, completely shut down, or remained open in limited capacity, the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the way many manufacturing organizations will function moving forward.

Beyond physical cleaning, manufacturers now have to consider the dynamics of shared manufacturing equipment, assembly line spacing, staggered shifts and necessary business travel, among other unique factors. Protecting the health of employees and mitigating risk to the business becomes a new top priority as our sights turn to reopening.

The challenge is that this is all uncharted territory. Manufacturers haven’t previously managed risks like these. How then to facilitate reopening? While every operation is unique, new technologies are offering signs of hope using critical data to issue alerts when risks are elevated.

Solving for the Data Conundrum

How can manufacturers reduce the risk of employee virus exposure when complete isolation isn’t an option? To return to business, there must be an effort where the infrastructure of work finds ways to make the risk more manageable and therefore improve safety.

Mobile apps, for example, allow employees to self-monitor for symptoms, record temperatures and track general wellbeing. They also offer the ability to track interactions with others in the event they come in close contact with someone who later tests positive or indicates COVID symptoms. Technologies like Bluetooth and radio frequency also lend themselves to proximity tracing using smartphones.

The beauty of this data is that, when aggregated, it begins to tell its own story. It establishes a baseline, highlights trends, and helps identify when risks are elevated.

The challenge with this data is collecting and analyzing significant volumes of it in a way that is wholly useful. Another is being able to leverage it while maintaining complete privacy of data.

Leaning In to Tech

As necessity drives innovation, some technology solutions aim to solve these challenges — data collection, privacy, ongoing risk management, etc. — with artificial intelligence and machine learning. Emerging enterprise SaaS platforms provide proximity monitoring, contact tracing and risk notifications. When paired with complementary apps, these kinds of platforms truly offer full-enterprise risk management.

Features like risk assessment dashboards can offer at-a-glance, real-time data for oversight. These should be designed leveraging anonymized, secured contact tracing data, and that data should never be stored in a centralized database. Instead, it should remain with the individual employee’s device and shared only at their discretion — efficiently collecting critical data while protecting employee privacy.

If risk factors suggest there is reason for concern, the employee can share their data with the employer. Upon doing so, the employer should be prompted with explicit and clear instructions on what to do next, like initiate sanitization protocols and notify other employees of increased exposure risks. The most effective platforms can accomplish this without divulging the identity of any at-risk or positive case to employees outside HR roles.

Implications Beyond Health

Employee health and risk reduction strategies go hand in hand, and they are rightfully the primary discussion about reopening. But there are other benefits to incorporating such technologies as they become available, including reduced liability. But such benefits can only be reaped if an organization is prepared for implementation of this kind of platform.

Training and education become paramount. Employees must not only understand that the technology is in place to facilitate safety for everyone, but they must also understand how to use it properly. Not only that, there will be concerns to quell. Proximity identifiers and Bluetooth trackers have the ability to sound nefarious when not accompanied by transparency and comprehensive plans for privacy.

Having a dedicated leader to oversee the training, education, deployment and management will also help drive success. Often, these risk monitoring platforms are integrated into existing enterprise systems, raising the stakes even more. Having a captain at the helm will guide the initiative on its best course.

Bottom line: Emerging risk management platforms deliver full-enterprise technology solutions for a uniquely “people” problem. But the keys to success are ensuring the platform has clear safeguards in place for personal privacy, and that the organization is dedicated to properly managing the platform.

This is sponsored content from EPSoft.