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Supply Chain News: More Changes Coming to Manufacturing as a Result of Virus, as VW Enacts 100 New Practices


The Key Question: Will They Last?

April 21, 2020
SCDigest Editorial Staff

As part of our on-going coverage of the supply chain impact of the Coronavirus, SCDigest has published several articles on what is happening already in manufacturing.

Some of those changes are rather basic. For example, New Jersey sausage maker Premio Foods said it has stepped up expectations about changing out protective clothing and gloves, so that workers cycle through them more quickly.

Supply Chain Digest Says...

Volkswagen will use buffer periods between changing shifts to allow one group of workers to leave before the next shift comes in, to minimize human contact.

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Senior vice president of operations Eric Fidoten added that "We have our employees sanitize their hands, then sanitize the glove itself - and do all this more frequently than usual. We instructed people to cover their entire head except eyes and forehead. Where we don't mandate safety glasses, we now encourage our associates to use them." (See Sausage Maker Premio Foods Details Steps to Keep Customers and Workers Safe from Virus.)

We've also reported that changes are already being made in many Chinese factories, especially ones producing consumer electronics such as cell phones.

We references an article in the UK's The Economist magazine that said "At a phone factory in Guangdong province, though, changes in layout are immediately apparent. Workers no longer cluster around each step of the assembly process in dense U-shaped cells; instead they are spread out, increasing their safety at the expense of some speed."

Checking the temperature of workers as they enter factories has become standard practice now in China and increasingly in the US.

Contract manufacturer Foxxcon says it is also using chest X-rays looking for workers that have COV-19 disease and that is has been a key tool to keeping workers safe from infection in the plant.

But there will be many more changes coming, many of them already being put into action.

For instance, automaker Ford said last week that it is testing wearable social-distancing devices. A small group of volunteers at a Ford factory in Plymouth, Michigan, are trying out watch-like wearables that vibrate when employees come within six feet of each other.

Then there is Germany's Volkswagen, which is planning to open a number of its factories in Europe this week.

As part of that, factory workers have been given a new employee manual with 100 changes in practices designed to minimize the risk of coronavirus infections.

(Article Continued Below)



The changes begin before workers leave their dwellings. Workers will be asked to take their temperatures from home each morning. To eliminate crowded changing rooms inside the plant, employees will have to put on their shop clothes at home before coming to work. Cafeterias will be closed, so workers will have to bring their own lunches, which they can eat at their workstation while practicing social distancing.

In addition, Volkswagen will use buffer periods between changing shifts to allow one group of workers to leave before the next shift comes in, to minimize human contact. Workers will enter the buildings in a single file, keeping 6 feet of space between them.

The changes are so extensive that unions say staff will need extra time to become themselves with the new practices. "We have never developed, built or sold cars in these conditions," Bernd Osterloh, head of Volkswagen's powerful works council, said in a statement.

The real question in the end: Will these changes be permanent, or fade away as the virus threat at some point disappears? Any one's guess for now.

Anything to add on how the virus crisis is and will impact manufacturing? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.


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