What are the effective ways to manage manufacturing operations during COVID?
- Prioritize worker safety and well-being
- Maintain clear two-way communication to build trust and collaboration
- Manage supply and demand disruptions to ensure business continuity
- Leverage digital capabilities
Given that the newer COVID-19 variants, like the Delta and Omicron, are driving up cases worldwide, the pandemic is expected to continuously disrupt business operations with severe negative implications for economies as a whole.
Some companies have closed up shops and laid-off workers. But if your company manufactures and/or distributes goods, you may need to operate at full capacity during the crisis. To date, manufacturers have focused their efforts on keeping operations stable. However, there is a pressing need to address concerns about workforce health and safety, supply and demand shocks, and business continuity.
In this article are four effective ways to manage manufacturing operations during COVID. Following these tips will not only help in maintaining productivity and protecting workforce safety but also help in gaining a competitive advantage once the economy rebounds post-pandemic.
Prioritize Worker Safety and Well-Being
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a rise in staffing shortages. Absenteeism due to catching the coronavirus disease and a number of quarantine restrictions are some of the most common problems being experienced by manufacturing companies today. These factors are bound to compromise operational productivity until business owners adopt a “worker-first” mentality.
Unlike other industry staff, frontline manufacturing workers cannot take their tasks to the safety of their homes. They need to be on-site to process goods. During these unprecedented times, business owners must prioritize the safety of their employees, supporting their health needs as much as possible. To achieve this, manufacturers can adopt the following comprehensive set of health policies and guidelines:
- No mask, no entry policy
- Contactless health declaration forms and temperature checks
- Enhanced sanitation and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces (e.g. workstations, door handles, tools, electronics, vehicles, machines)
- Provision of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Frequent and proper handwashing for at least 20 seconds
- Physical distancing
- If feeling unwell, inform the management as soon as possible and isolate
The Department of Health (DOH) recommends that companies provide alternative working arrangements to mitigate infection risks. It is known that the coronavirus disease spreads through tiny respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, and breathes. You have likely seen that other companies work from home to ensure the safety of their employees.
For as long as the COVID-19 is transmissible, manufacturing companies should minimize contact between workers. Anyone not required to be on-site can adapt to work-from-home settings. For manufacturing staff who must stay on-site, consider scheduling skeleton crews to enforce physical distancing. For positive cases of COVID-19, establish protocols for thorough disinfection, isolation, and contacting local health authorities for swab testing.
Protecting workers’ mental health should also be prioritized to avoid burnouts and dwindling operational productivity. Address your plan for flexible working hours, carpool options, and paid sick leaves. These measures can be integrated into the company’s standard procedures to transition to the new normal.
Maintain Clear Two-Way Communication To Build Trust and Collaboration
Ramping up internal communications is crucial in building employee trust and improving collaboration. Inform the manufacturing workforce of the company’s evolving knowledge of the crisis and what steps are being taken to protect everyone. Encourage open dialogue with employees at all levels. This is the key to building workforce confidence. When your employees know their well-being is being prioritized, you can boost worker satisfaction and operational productivity.
Manage Supply and Demand Disruptions To Ensure Business Continuity
The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in supply and demand shocks with both raw materials and end products experiencing slowdowns in exportation and importation. With this, manufacturing operations may have stagnant production volumes. In addition, consumer purchasing attitudes have changed with many choosing to purchase only essentials.
For manufacturing companies, the best strategy to achieve growth during COVID despite the supply and demand disruptions is to find out what the market needs at the moment and devise product feasibility based on demographics and geographies. Address opportunities for hypergrowth with essential products like face masks, hand sanitizers, canned goods, respirators, and PPE. You can also verify if your main suppliers can accommodate your delivery lead times. If not, search for other suppliers that can meet your needs better.
Leverage Digital Capabilities
Leveraging digital capabilities is an effective way to build manufacturing resilience during COVID-19. This is true for a wide range of functions such as supply and demand analysis, labor identification and flexible scheduling, remote work capabilities, supply and warehouse aligning, and even robotics.
Manufacturers with digital capabilities will be able to respond better to COVID-19 disruptions.
Whether you are operating in the light or heavy manufacturing industry, it is inevitable to face the disruptions caused by the pandemic. During these unprecedented times, building agility and resilience is crucial. Follow these effective ways to manage manufacturing operations during COVID.
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