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Supply Chain News: Manufacturers Sharing Tips for Safe Operations with Virus Crises


One CEO has Nightmares about Unwiped Surfaces in Plant

May 6, 2020
SCDigest Editorial Staff

Since the virus crisis broke, SCDigest has reported several times on steps manufacturers are taking to protect consumers and workers – though as can be seen from developments at meat packing plants, protecting employees can be a real challenged.

Practices and procedures of all kinds will undergo dramatic change. When Volkswagen recently re-opened some of its Europeans factories, shop floor employees were given a manual with 100 new requirements for workers to adopt.

Supply Chain Digest Says...

Kelly says that he woke up one night gripped with anxiety about unwiped handrails, lockers, doorknobs.

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The changes in practice at VW 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.

Now, as a large number of states are re-opening up parts of their economies, including factories closed because they were making "non-essential" products, plants they have stayed open are sharing their learnings with manufacturers coming back on-line.

The Wall Street Journal reports that in New York, for example, a company called Indium has shared practices that include shifting employee schedules, so that more people are working on a second and third shift. Anyone who can work remotely is doing so, and access to buildings is tightly controlled. Employee temperatures are taken upon entry, and workers are required to sign a personal pledge committing to safe practices both inside the workplace and at home.

"We restructured the whole factory, basically," Indium president Ross Berntson told the Journal "If we couldn’t separate people because the layout wouldn’t allow it, we either gave them personal protective gear or put up barrier walls. So, there’s plastic hanging at different places."

Two Indium factory employees tested positive for the virus several weeks ago and were immediately quarantined at home. There was no secondary transmission on site, which the company believes validate its procedures.

Various state rules may require some of the types of actions Indium is taking, such as temperature checks for employees entering a building. But changing layouts and material flows are obviously much bigger undertakings – and can have cost impacts as well.

(Article Continued Below)



Meanwhile, in Northern California, Kevin Kelly, chief executive at Emerald Packaging, a manufacturer of plastic wraps and bags for fruits and vegetables, is determined to make operations as safe as possible for its 250 employees.

To that end, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, the company banned gatherings of more than five people, and six-foot-minimum physical distancing was required. If larger meetings were required, they would be held outdoors.

Lunch and breaks were staggered, no more than five employees at a time. Tables were spread apart.

A two-level sanitizing protocol was announced, one for employees, one for equipment. The print shop was already stocked with isopropyl alcohol. It was diluted, put in spray bottles, and handed out for each desktop and factory workstation.

A new hand-washing protocol was implemented: arrive at work, wash hands, punch in on the time clock, and wash hands. Use alcohol spray to wipe down high-contact workstation areas at the beginning and end of each shift, even though someone had just done that too.

Kelly says that he woke up one night gripped with anxiety about unwiped handrails, lockers, doorknobs. Two cleaners were quickly hired for each shift to do nothing but keep surfaces clean.

And Kelly made it crystal clear that if workers felt sick, they were to stay home.

Many employees also started to work from home – a big challenge for employees used to running back and forth to the factory to see how things are going. But Emerald made it worked.

Companies will probably more than happy to discuss practice and challenges – sharing such insight between manufacturers will be key to minimizing the virus impact.

Any reaction to company's sharing virus practices? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.


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