Guest post by Conor O’Flynn of O’Flynn Medical.

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly taken a profound toll on businesses as well as society in general. Thankfully, and due in no small part to the medical profession, we are finally emerging from such doldrums. However, it is just as crucial to remember that adapting to a sense of “new normal” may present problems for some sectors. The manufacturing industry is a perfect example. What steps can managers and senior-level stakeholders take in order to ensure a smooth transition? Here, we outline some of the best practices that can be taken to ensure a safe return to work, where all staff members feel protected.

Develop a Safe Work Environment by Following Relevant Guidelines:

All workers need to feel that their health and safety are never taken for granted. This is why management needs to focus upon creating an environment which halts the potential spread of illness. Of course, the first step is to adhere to all local recommendations and guidelines. It could still be necessary to embrace a more proactive stance through strategies including (but not always limited to):

  • Determining whether certain duties (such as sales and marketing) can be performed remotely.
  • Discouraging human contact when possible.
  • Reducing the number of workers per shift.
  • Conducting a full-depth Covid-19 decontamination of the premise.
  • Offering PPE (personal protection equipment) to all staff members at no charge.

Employees who remain comfortable within a manufacturing setting are more likely to perform at peak levels while remaining confident that management appreciates their safety concerns.

Foster a Greater Sense of Communication:

As rightly highlighted in this previous article, COVID innovation often occurs as a direct result of unexpected scenarios. Manufacturers should therefore view the present as an opportunity to enact much-needed changes regarding the ways in which in-house communications take place. This is when the power of human resources will come into play.

In the past, employee concerns or grievances would often slip through the proverbial “cracks” and never be presented to management. This resulted in frustrating work scenarios and lower efficiency rates. Management should therefore coordinate with HR so that an effective “chain of collaboration” is created. In the event that a worker voices a valid concern, this information can be channelled up to the appropriate department.

Unique On-Site Sterilisation Options:

The issue of safety was discussed in a previous section and this notion deserves even further attention. Certain environments can be more prone to the transmission of germs and other hazardous particulate matter than others. This is often the case when referring to industries involved with the hands-on manufacturing of products. While social distancing measures and PPE are indeed important, these may not always be sufficient.

One innovative approach involves the use of whole-room disinfection systems such as Steriafe Pro. Not only are these able to remove pathogens from the air, but they are also capable of dealing with surfaces associated with human contact. Not only are these systems easy to operate, but they are often extremely cost-effective options when compared to the logistics involved with rigorous third-party cleaning services.

Embrace the Notion of Accelerated Change:

We are all aware that the global pandemic has ushered in many changes throughout the manufacturing sector. However, it is important to note that the majority of these changes already existed. The main takeaway point here involves the fact that they are now occurring at a breakneck pace. Managers will therefore need to become comfortable with rapid in-house modifications. One example of this mentality involves making even more data-driven decisions when compared to the past. There are nonetheless a handful of additional recommendations which should be adopted such as:

  • Using streamlined software in order to speed up inline production capacity.
  • Ensuring consistently high levels of quality assurance.
  • Encouraging employees to augment their existing skill sets.
  • Leveraging more scalable solutions so that changing production demands can be met without enduring any downtime.
  • Appreciating the power of IoT (Internet of things) in order to clarify all interdepartmental communications.

While all of these strategies have previously existed in one form or another, now is the time when they should be implemented without delay.

The Employee-First Approach:

photo by Kateryna Babaieva via Pexels

A recent survey conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) found that a staggering 41 per cent of all manufacturers consider a downturn in productivity to represent the greatest medium-term threat to their operations. While it is indeed true that many systems are becoming automated, employees still represent the lynchpins of any successful business. This is why management should make it a point to address COVID-related employee concerns. Three common examples include:

  • Formulating a plan in the event that a worker tests positive.
  • Educating workers about any changes that have taken place within the post-COVID work environment.
  • Providing supplemental support (such as childcare services or more robust health insurance policies).

The business will therefore be more capable of dealing with any issues as they happen to arise.
The Post-COVID World is Here to Stay:

Ultimately, the term “business as usual” is no longer relevant within the manufacturing sector. It is essential that management appreciates the challenges that await as well as the numerous opportunities for future growth. Being able to adopt this double-edged mindset is the best way to ensure the safety of all employees and the continued success of the company itself.

Author Bio: This article was written by Conor O’Flynn of O’Flynn Medical. Conor has worked in the healthcare industry for over two decades and has recently been involved in advising businesses with information on correctly adhering to COVID-19 guidelines.