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How Manufacturers Can Cope with COVID-19

Alan Rooks
By Alan Rooks Editor in Chief, Manufacturing Engineering

There’s a big new trend sweeping the world, and not in a good way. The new coronavirus goes by other names, including COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, and SARS-CoV-2, but by any name it is bad news. The world has reacted with varying degrees of alarm, including mass cancellations of meetings, conferences, and sporting events. For example, given the escalating concerns about COVID-19, SME, the publisher of this magazine, decided to postpone the AeroDef Manufacturing conference, which had been scheduled to take place in Forth Worth, Texas, March 16-19.

Clearly, manufacturing is being affected by COVID-19, with supply chains being disrupted, key customers being affected (airlines alone project $113 billion of lost revenue globally), and turmoil in financial markets. So, what to do?

The law firm Goldberg Segalla recently hosted a webinar with tips on how employers can prepare for the new coronavirus from an OSHA and worksite safety perspective. It noted that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires employers to maintain a safe workplace, meaning manufacturers must consider many steps, including:

  • Restricting travel to affected areas,
  • Imposing potential quarantines for employees who have traveled,
  • Permitting leaves of absence and work from home options, and
  • Educating management and employees on practices that can reduce their exposure to viruses.

Goldberg Segalla also noted that employers should review their safety programs and emergency action plans to ensure they include infectious disease protocols and comply with OSHA and health and safety regulations.

Supply chain disruptions will also be a challenge for manufacturers. Danny Thompson, senior vice president of market and product strategy at APEX Analytix, a software and services firm focused on protecting supplier payments, said that in order to maintain key supplier relationships as this crisis continues, manufacturers should:

  • Identify which suppliers and alternate suppliers are located in regions affected by the new coronavirus and determine ways that your company can help your suppliers. This could be early payments on open invoices, alternate supply routes, or a donation to a local cause trying to alleviate the problem.
  • Communicate with all suppliers that you have options to support them. Also, assure your suppliers that if they need to pause current production, the relationship will be there when they are ready.
  • If your supplier says they can continue operating, assess if this is realistic or not. Your supplier may be only hoping they can continue.
  • Determine which alternative vendors can fill in as replacements in order to minimize disruption.

That’s good advice, but even with good planning and good policies, the next few months will be a bumpy ride. Buckle up!

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