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A Playbook for Manufacturers Fighting COVID-19

Heath Barnett Head of Business Development Leadec North America
By Heath Barnett Head of Business Development, Leadec North America

When an unanticipated global crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts national economies in a domino-like effect, a rapid response is required to mitigate supply chain disruptions.

The first thing to consider is that the health and safety of staff members must be the first priority when maintaining or reengaging production processes. As there is currently no vaccine proven to prevent novel coronavirus infections, and that it is possible for asymptomatic spread to occur, it’s important to communicate that the best way to prevent the illness is to avoid being exposed to it.

We’re all familiar with prescriptive actions taken to minimize risk, such as social distancing, disinfecting surfaces, wearing masks and frequent handwashing. Many facilities are opting to check temperatures and install Plexiglass partitions between workstations.

Perhaps the most important message to deliver to your staff is this: If you feel sick with a fever, cough or shortness of breath do not go to work. Instead, see your doctor.

It’s also vital for manufacturers to understand these key elements of operating during COVID-19:

  • Flexing maintenance schedules based on wear mitigates risk to staff and customers;
  • Advanced manufacturing environments have an advantage over conventional factories;
  • IoT-enabled facilities can track workers and the demands of manufacturing operations to support value requirements and minimize proximity between workers; and
  • Cloud-based IoT platforms can link experts to the factory floor to provide remote fault diagnosis and guidance, effectively neutralizing the negative impact of a travel ban.

Manufacturers may also need expert assistance. Leadec recently helped a U.S. automotive OEM prepare to operate during the pandemic by providing staffing and support services focused on staff training; executing critical cleaning of machinery; and providing additional staff to address enterprise-wide needs.

The response fell into four major categories:

Inventory, mapping and procurement of appropriate, effective cleaning supplies: We immediately checked inventory and secured products to reduce the threat of spreading the contagion. Initial supplies secured included bulk hand sanitizer, bleaching stations, hand soap, toilet paper, spray bottles and hand wipes. We initiated a green/red metric status for each product and determined the quantities required. Moving quickly, we were able to secure all needed material and ensured sufficient quantities to maintain operations. Maintaining supplies of critical, hard-to-source products was ensured via metal lock boxes to prevent theft or misuse.

Temporary emergency staffing support where needed: More than 300 temporary employees engaged in deep-cleaning processes at the OEM’s multiple locations in North America.

Long-term scope to address emerging threats: The OEM reevaluated full-time equivalent (FTE) needs at 14 sites and identified the need for frequency of cleaning and disinfectants.

Develop and deploy disinfectant toolkit: Our team designed a self-contained kit which was shipped to each site. Each kit included gloves, spray bottles, disinfectant tablets and wipes.

COVID-19 is having a massive impact on the global economy. Manufacturers can help ensure the safety of their staff and maintain production with a thoughtful, strategic approach. Rigorous safety standards, clearly communicated expectations, and the proper material will not only help ensure that production is maintained, but also instill confidence in employees and customers.

Partnering with a staffing company that has a legacy of expertise in manufacturing and a well-trained staff will help companies overcome unforeseen challenges like the current pandemic.

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