Boeing is planning to restart commercial airline production in Seattle. Volvo Cars will resume production in Sweden next week. Meanwhile, Ford is making ventilators and experimenting with wearables to help employees maintain proper “social distancing”. The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, but manufacturers are adapting, adjusting, and innovating in an environment that some are calling the “new normal”. If you are thinking about restarting your manufacturing operations, what do you need to consider?

Some Best Practices at Boeing

Boeing’s airplane assembly operations are considered to be an “essential business”, but the company’s Puget Sound operations stopped after 25 employees tested positive for COVID-19. During the weeks-long shutdown, the aerospace company performed deep cleaning and established new workplace policies. In addition to requiring face coverings, Boeing is providing additional personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees in work areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

The aerospace manufacturer is also implementing staggered start times to reduce the flow of employees at entrances and exits during shift changes. At the start of every shift, voluntary temperature screenings will be available. Once workers are inside the plant, visual controls such as floor markings and signage will help to create physical distance between employees. Movement will also be adjusted for physical distancing, and some employees will continue to work remotely.

Three Ways to Manage and Mitigate Risk

Can your manufacturing company apply any of Boeing’s strategies? As you think about restarting your own operations, how will you mitigate and manage the risk of infection from COVID-19? Hand-washing stations and enhanced cleaning procedures are not enough. Here are three things to think about and some questions to ask yourself and your management team.

#1 Reduce Density

Will you stagger shift start times, implement split shifts, or otherwise reduce the density of workers? Some manufacturers have separated their regular single shift into two or three shifts so that if one employee becomes ill, only that worker’s shift is at risk of infection. Yet this approach can leave you short-staffed for some operations. How will you adjust?

#2 Monitor Health and Wellness

Will you invest in thermometer guns, thermal scanning devices for temperature taking, and then make employee temperature checks voluntary or mandatory? If you plan to scan workers as they pass through your doors, what is proper stand-off distance for the device that you purchased? If someone becomes ill during a shift, can you determine which workers came in contact with the infected employee?

#3 Protect But Perform

Will you issue face masks and face shields to your employees? Will you require other types of PPE in areas where workers must remain in close proximity to perform their jobs? For that matter, what can you do to discourage unnecessary contact? Boeing is using floor markers, a concept you may also see at your local supermarket. Ironically, techniques like this are also ways to reduce manufacturing waste.

How Elasto Proxy Can Help

Elasto Proxy’s manufacturing facility near Montreal, Quebec, Canada is an “essential business” that has remained open throughout the COVID-19 crisis. We have also pivoted during the pandemic to produce face shields and components for isolation boxes. In addition to sharing our own experience with you, our team can suggest specific manufacturing solutions that can help you to manage and mitigate risk.

For example, plans to reduce worker density may leave you with fewer receiving, inventory, and assembly personnel per shift. Elasto Proxy can fabricate your rubber and plastic parts and custom-package them in kits that travel right from your receiving area to your assembly line. Your assemblers will have all of the parts that they need for a build, and Elasto Proxy can even package the parts in order of assembly.

Kitting and custom packaging do more than promote operational efficiency. They can help workers to maintain physical distancing. When an employee leaves the assembly area and looks for parts, that person may come into contact with many other workers. By ordering fabricated, kitted, and custom packaged parts, your company can help to protect its most important asset – your employees.

Are you ready to speak with one of our solutions providers? Talk to our team.

Leave a Reply