Are You Ready to Restart Production After Covid-19?

By: Margarita Deviakovitch

June 15, 2020

Restarting Production After COVID-19

The sun is shining, coronavirus cases are on the decline and manufacturing companies are restarting production, but are you ready for the new normal? While going back to work may seem daunting, it’s inevitable. In fact, your company may have already started to ease back into full production mode.

Going back to normal isn’t as straightforward as it used to be. While the goal has always been to flatten the curve, the measures implemented during the pandemic have caused drastic repercussions on all spheres of our lives, especially when it comes to business and the manufacturing sector.

Supply Chain & Inventory Management

On top of causing significant strain on our social interactions, the coronavirus is also leaving in its path extensive disruptions to the global supply chain. As a result of dropping demand, shortages are soaring.

To mitigate risk, it’s crucial to follow a couple of steps. First, map out your entire supply chain process from start to finish and identify key strengths and weaknesses. If you’re still using paper work instructions, for example, now is an excellent time to look into alternatives, such as with software that helps you go completely digital.

Then, examine your supply chain to see if there is an opportunity for diversification. As we saw in The Pivotal Role of Knowledge Management during the Pandemic, responding and adapting with speed is critical in a time of crisis. Shining examples of Canadian manufacturing companies switching production during the pandemic include but aren’t limited to Tempur Sealy switching production to protective face shields, Canada Goose making hospital scrubs, Bauer producing personal protective equipment (PPE), and countless more.

Going Lean

Lean Manufacturing ConceptFocusing on quality, efficiency, increased production, and decreased costs, lean manufacturing is unavoidable in the post-coronavirus world. With rising costs as a result of supply chain and inventory issues, now more than ever is the time to start implementing lean principles. While most manufacturers already use lean principles in some form or another, it’s imperative to also start looking at implementing the right combination of technologies to further optimize operations and strive for operational excellence.

The lean methodology is one of the top ways of protecting your company from another world event such as the coronavirus outbreak. Companies who have yet to take steps to go lean are certain to experience inefficiencies and lower productivity as a result of changing demand patterns.

Social Distancing Using IoT

As we covered in Improving Shop Floor Communication with Work Instructions, one of the top ways you can encourage proper hygiene methods on the shop floor is by enabling VKS Pro to display frequent reminders for operators to maintain a safe distance from others, wash their hands regularly, etc. While the summer months have been driving the number of coronavirus down, it’s now even more important to encourage good habits. The more we do it now, the easier it will be the next time a global crisis happens (although fingers crossed it doesn’t, of course!)

Social DistancerBut what about when your operators are still walking around the shop floor? Remembering to always maintain a safe 2-meter distance isn’t always at the forefront of everyone’s minds, especially as we get busy with our tasks and responsibilities. In response to the global pandemic, our sister company CMP developed The Social Distancer, a ready-to-wear device that alerts operators when they are too close to others.

Innovative technologies such as this one are just one example of the kinds of solutions that can be integrated to heighten the sense of security and safety in the workplace in the post-pandemic world.

Continuing to Work from Home

In just a few short months, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything about how we live our lives, from social distancing to avoiding going to work when possible.

This is a vital issue to address for any manufacturing company with an office in the same building as its shop floor employees. Minimizing the spread of any virus through reduced contact is imperative and until a vaccine is developed, it’s worth considering encouraging non-essential workers to continue to work from home as much as possible. Along with mitigating the risk to essential workers, such as shop floor workers, a flexible work schedule also reduces potential insurance and medical costs. Another option is to implement a part-time office/home schedule by encouraging different departments to come into the office on opposing days.

Working from Home

But the fact also remains that despite the push to work from home, not all employers are on-board to continue the practice once the world returns to a new normal. As David Zweig, professor of organizational behavior at the University of Toronto explained to CTV News, many employers simply don’t believe that work-from-home productivity is the same as when employees work from the office.

Zweig also remarked that “in a tremendously short time, we have dropped the wall between work and home life and we have continued to be productive”.

Decontaminating Everything

More than anything, the health and safety of your operators is the top priority. Using floor markers is a quick and easy way to clearly outline where workers should stand or walk. Cleanliness is also critical as every surface needs to be disinfected regularly, especially with cleaners containing at least 70% alcohol.

While all shop floor operators are usually required to sign a list of health and safety regulations, it might be a good idea to send out an updated list that includes mandating that employees stay home if they feel unwell. Regular temperature checks and screening of symptoms should all be implemented as well.

Disinfecting Shop Floor

Given the typically larger layout of shop floors, the potential risk for exposure to viruses is typically low. However, it’s still a good idea to implement personal protective equipment (PPE). At the very least, N95 masks should be worn by everyone.

And Finally, Planning Ahead

While we all knew in the back of our minds that a pandemic of a world event was bound to one day disrupt everything, we certainly never thought that it would happen as fast as it did. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of having a clear and updated plan in motion for any crisis. While it may be tough to plan for any situation, medical experts are still clear that we’re not out of the woods just yet with the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether we get another wave of the disease or are forced to face another situation that has for effect to cripple the world in the same way, it’s important to take the restarting to plan and prepare for another event.

Think about implementing a proactive crisis management team that can initiate clear steps in the event of another global shutdown. Sooner or later what we have gone through will happen again. The key to getting through it this time lies within the preparation you initiate today. If your workers are already using our work instruction software, then it’s as easy as creating a new Guidebook with the steps to follow in the event of another government-mandated shutdown.

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