COVID-19

4 Priorities for Manufacturing Leaders as the COVID-19 Crisis Continues

Manufacturing Leadership Council members gathered this week for their 8th town hall meeting since the COVID-19 crisis began. Leaders joined the conversation to discuss, several months in, how their companies are handling the pandemic and how it’s impacting their businesses, strategies and employees.
Across different manufacturing sectors and geographies, members said they’re under pressure to make decisions and develop policies to keep their businesses going and their employees safe and healthy. Here are the top 4 highlights from the meeting.

  1. Travel policies

Most companies have curbed employee travel to some extent but participants in the town hall voiced concern over how to handle travel for essential employees. One member said his company didn’t stop travel for field teams until early April, but now he’s being asked to redeploy them.
He’s currently trying to figure out the best ways to protect those employees and so far, has been following the same health and safety procedures as their factory floors (which remain open) and limiting them to travel by car, stay in approved hotels, order food via takeout services such as Uber Eats and practice social distancing.
“We’ve given them safety measures and instructions, but it’s really hard to manage somebody 400 miles away in a hotel room,” he said.
Other members chimed in to say that their companies are only letting employees travel with strict pre-approval processes (such as adding an additional layer of authorization from leadership) and have been replacing in-person meetings with video conferencing tools as much as possible.

  1. In-person events & conferences 

Similar to employee travel, many organizations have cancelled in-person events altogether or replaced them with virtual meetings. However, one member mentioned that for large conferences in the fall such as IMTS (scheduled for September 14-19, 2020), no plans have been changed yet. Held every other year in Chicago, event organizers are still waiting on further information from state and local governments to determine how to proceed.
The member went on to mention that as part of the conference, her organization is still planning to offer tours of their downtown Chicago factory. To ensure health and safety of visitors, they will follow social distancing guidelines and are exploring measures such as automatic doors that can be opened with your forearm, hand sanitizer, directional signage, automatic sign-in via mobile phones and automatic temperature sensors for entering and exiting the building.

  1. Office re-openings 

Another critical topic for attendees of the town hall was office re-openings and how companies will be handling reintegration of employees.
One leader shared that his organization is developing a phased approach based on specific triggers. For example, they may only allow 25% of employees to return to a given office location, but those employees must meet certain criteria, such as living within a 60-mile radius of the building, a higher level of effectiveness in working in the office versus at home, absence of underlying health concerns, and not needing to use public transportation to get to work.
The challenge, he mentioned, is that they’d be integrating those returning into a physical location where critical employees have not stopped working. While the critical employees have grown accustomed to new social distancing protocols, returning employees will require an adjustment period. However, the company is beginning to shift its stance on ‘work at home’ policies for the future.
“There is a very real potential that maybe 10-20% of our workforce never comes back to a formal office setting,” he said. “And when and if they do, it will be either on a rotational basis or some type of shared office arrangement.”

  1. ‘Work at home’ productivity and resources

Companies on the call had various ways of measuring employee productivity for those working at home. While one member steered clear of saying they were monitoring how long employees were logged into their computers, many others spoke up about collaboration and video conferencing tools that have made it easier for their teams to work remotely.
One leader mentioned that his company is using spreadsheets to track how many employees are working in the office versus at home and projects they’re working on, so they can visualize work that’s being completed and plan for the future weeks and months.
Later, a question was raised about whether companies should be paying for home internet and phone service, to which one member shared that after sending employees home with laptops, they realized they needed to increase their internet service to accommodate remote access.
“We spent the last three weeks rewiring the entire place to handle the work from home employees, which is only about six people, so I can’t even imagine what the IT impact would be if you had 600 people,” he said.
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 [email protected].

MLC COVID-19 RESOURCES

Quick COVID-19 Resources to Keep You Informed

We know your time is especially limited during the rapidly developing COVID-19 pandemic. To help you stay informed, the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council is launching a weekly series of quick, fact-filled info sheets.
These one-page resources contain tips, checklists and best practices about COVID-19 and how it affects manufacturing. They also include links to additional guidance from the NAM, CDC, OSHA, EPA and other authoritative sources.
The NAM and MLC are committed to helping manufacturers navigate COVID-19 to keep America running while keeping employees safe. For more COVID-19 information specifically for manufacturers, visit nam.org/coronavirus or participate in the peer-to-peer discussion forum at manufacturingleadershipcouncil.com/covid-19/.

RESOURCE: What Manufacturers are Doing When There is a Confirmed Case of COVID-19

When a manufacturer finds out there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 among someone who was in their facility, what happens next? The CDC has issued guidelines for cleaning and disinfection, such as closing down their workstation and using recommended sanitizing and disinfecting products.
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RESOURCE: 6 Ways to Reduce Employee Anxiety During a Crisis

As shared in recent MLC and NAM webinars, manufacturers are making efforts to ease workers’ anxieties about coming to the workplace. These are six ways they are communicating their commitment to safety while also taking in employee feedback.
[su_button url=”https://www.manufacturingleadershipcouncil.com/covid-19-resource-infographic-6-ways-to-reduce-employee-anxiety-during-a-crisis/” style=”soft” background=”#991A1E” size=”4″ radius=”5″ icon=”icon: arrow-circle-o-down” text_shadow=”0px 0px 0px #ffffff”]DOWNLOAD COVID-19 RESOURCE[/su_button]

RESOURCE: Report on COVID-19 Hygiene Practices

What measures are manufacturers taking to protect their teams and plants from COVID-19? This infographic details some of the information shared about this topic on recent MLC Town Hall calls, including social distancing, PPE, and added sanitation practices.
[su_button url=”https://www.manufacturingleadershipcouncil.com/resource-covid-19-hygiene-practices-for-manufacturers/” style=”soft” background=”#991A1E” size=”4″ radius=”5″ icon=”icon: arrow-circle-o-down” text_shadow=”0px 0px 0px #ffffff”]DOWNLOAD COVID-19 RESOURCE[/su_button]

RESOURCE: 5 Ways Manufacturers are Reassuring Essential Employees during COVID-19

With manufacturing on the front lines to the nation’s crisis response efforts, companies are finding it necessary to reassure their employees about safety at work. As shared by member companies in MLC and NAM webinars, this infographic gives details about how manufacturers are easing employee anxieties about coming to work, from more frequent cleaning routines to expanded communication efforts.
[su_button url=”https://www.manufacturingleadershipcouncil.com/resource-5-ways-manufacturers-are-reassuring-essential-employees-during-covid-19/” style=”soft” background=”#991A1E” size=”4″ radius=”5″ icon=”icon: arrow-circle-o-down” text_shadow=”0px 0px 0px #ffffff”]DOWNLOAD COVID-19 RESOURCE[/su_button]

RESOURCE: Social Distancing and Manufacturers

The CDC has recommended six feet of social distancing to minimize the spread of COVID-19. How are manufacturers achieving that on the production floor, in shipping areas, and in offices and break rooms?
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RESOURCE: Pivoting to Produce Critical COVID-19 Supplies

Many manufacturers have reconfigured their operations in order to provide PPE, medical supplies, and other response-critical materials and items. Here are some ideas that other manufacturers have shared about their shift to pandemic response efforts.
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RESOURCE: 5 Considerations Manufacturers Are Making for the Path Ahead

Business closures, supply shortages, and other challenges have forced manufacturers to adapt and respond during the pandemic crisis. As companies make plans for bringing employees back to work, what considerations are they making for ensuring employee safety?
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Ideas & Insights

Manufacturers Offer 4 Tips for Dealing With COVID-19

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 [email protected].

ADMINISTRATIVE — Employee Leave and Absenteeism

What types of changes are you making to employee leave policies? How do you accommodate employees who suddenly need to be home with children? Are you putting measures in place to discourage sick employees from reporting to work, or employees who may have been exposed to the virus but have not become sick themselves?

ADMINISTRATIVE — Internal Communications about the Crisis

How frequently are you communicating with employees, and through what means? What can be done to reassure workers during an anxious time? What types of resources are you providing for employees who want more information about coronavirus?

ADMINISTRATIVE — Travel Restrictions

Are corporate travel restrictions causing a slowdown in operations? Have you limited or banned employee personal travel? What is your policy for any employee who has visited a high-risk area? What guidance are you using to determine when it will be safe for employees to travel again?

ADMINISTRATIVE — Remote Work Considerations

How has your IT team responded to setting up remote operations for those who can work from home? What challenges have they encountered? Have you created a formalized work-from-home policy for employees? What types of training have you offered to help employees navigate the transition?

PROTECTION MEASURES — Symptom Check Protocols

Are you taking employees’ temperatures on the work site, and what types of protocols do you follow for this process? Are employees permitted to monitor and log their own symptoms? If an employee presents symptoms, what is protocol for removing the employee from the job site? What is required for an employee to return to work?

PROTECTION MEASURES — Visitors, Contractors, and Vendors

Are you continuing to allow visitors on your work site? What types of restrictions or limits are in place for visitors or workers from other companies (i.e. vendors) at your plant? If you employ contract technical or mechanical staff, are you continuing to do so?

PROTECTION MEASURES — On-Site Protective Measures

Are you enacting social distancing measures? How are they enforced? Have you staggered shifts or breaks to allow more personal space? Have you enacted new cleaning or PPE protocols? Have you limited on-site meetings between employees? How do you handle employees who may have been in contact with the virus through secondary exposure (i.e. through a family member)?

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