Pella Accelerates Adoption of AR Technology During Pandemic

In the 12th town hall meeting of Manufacturing Leadership Council members, Don Lanke, Director of Engineering at Pella Corporation discussed how the window and door manufacturer is leveraging augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and remote assistance technology in response to the pandemic.

The pandemic forced many Pella employees to work from home, leaving them without access to the 10+ physical plants and equipment that are necessary to their jobs. Because of that, the company looked into cutting edge technologies that can recreate physical environments and interactions for its workers.

For example, if a piece of equipment needs maintenance or reconfiguration that only an expert can provide, Pella needed a way to share the physical environment virtually, in real time, to communicate, exchange information and ultimately resolve the problem.

Their goal was not only to connect physical and virtual environments, but to reduce downtime and impact of quality issues and safety hazards, enhance training and troubleshooting, and reduce travel requirements and costs.

In mid-April, Pella decided to begin trials with two technology platforms:

  • PTC Vuforia Chalk: this remote assistance product uses AR to facilitate collaboration between onsite and offsite workers to maintain and repair products. PTC describes it as a “video call with augmented reality superpowers for industrial settings.”
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist: this solution unites technicians from multiple locations via video calls from Microsoft HoloLens or iOS or Android devices and allows the documentation of repairs through photos and videos that are sharable.

Lanke said they identified these solutions because they didn’t require a lot of training for employees to learn them – and given the pandemic, the sooner they could start using them, the better. He also noted that the technologies could support a wide range of use cases, which he and his team are currently testing out, including:

  • A coatings development project with a supplier: This project would’ve been halted due to COVID-19 travel challenges, but technology allowed Pella to collaborate virtually, in real time with chemists
  • Robotic programming support: Pella automation engineers that are working remotely can connect to the physical environment, for example, they can draw arrows on screen to indicate where to look for problem areas on a machine
  • Commissioning supplier equipment: Another use case that was initially impacted due to travel challenges and rectified with technology
  • Maintenance projects: With Pella’s planners and schedulers working remotely, technology allows them to see equipment virtually and quickly get images of certain features
  • Machine build team: Technology allowed team leaders to seamlessly work from home and continue working on a physical machine

In terms of challenges, Lanke said that although the technologies were easy and quick to deploy, Wi-Fi connectivity was briefly an issue. He said they moved quickly to increase the strength of the Wi-Fi in one of the physical plants to accommodate the technologies.

Going forward, Lanke and his team are testing out the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist solution and exploring how it integrates with Microsoft Teams and Microsoft HoloLens. He believes that the AR, MR and remote assistance technologies will be here to stay, even after the pandemic blows over.

“I 100% believe this is here to stay,” Lanke said. “COVID or no COVID, the ability for technical people and others to interface with one another, to see the situation and annotate back and forth to better understand the problem and get to some options to solve and resolve, it’s always been there, but it’s accelerated now and it’s going to be there after COVID for that very reason.”

He also said he believes these technologies will dramatically reduce travel time and costs as well.

“That’s a business value proposition that stands on its own, long after COVID.”

Learn More from MLC/NAM

For more shared resources to help your manufacturing business in its COVID-19 response efforts, visit the MLC’s online COVID-19 Operations Practices and Shared Resources.

In the meantime, if you have any tips or best practices on how your company is keeping employees safe and/or is acting to minimize business disruption during this time, please share them at [email protected].

IPG Rolls Out COVID-19 Response Playbook

In the Manufacturing Leadership Council’s 12th town hall since COVID-19 began, two leaders from leading tape manufacturer, IPG, shared details of their company’s response plan.

Council members tuned in to hear Jai Sundararaman and JK Perumal, both of IPG’s Business Transformation Office, outline their approach to protect employees, assets and customers as regions begin reopening and recovery from the pandemic continues.

Here are the highlights from their presentation.

Coordinating Key Stakeholders and a Response Framework

For IPG, a company with 3,700 employees and 31 locations (including 27 plants), strong cross-functional communication and collaboration is key to following the processes of their COVID-19 Response Playbook.
Sundararaman said key stakeholders meet periodically in five groups to discuss various topics: COVID process implementation, functional leadership alignment, best practice sharing and lessons learned, executive alignment, and sales, operations and corporate town halls.

The company also has its response plan broken down into four key parts:

  1.  Proactive Communication: Microsoft SharePoint portal to get communications out to employees, including the latest company policies and procedures and updates on federal, state, and local guidelines.
  2. Prevention: Cleaning and sanitization processes as well as social distancing and remote working rules.
  3. Response Plan: How to respond to incidents with minimal interruption and activate ‘ready-to-go’ resources like cleaning kits.
  4. Best Practice Sharing and Technology: Quicker knowledge transfer across locations as well as the evaluation of technologies to manage risk and automate processes.

Communication in All Forms

Since IPG has multiple locations with essential employees still on the job, it’s critical that policies are clearly communicated to employees no matter where they are working.

The SharePoint portal, which gained 9,300 visits in eight weeks, communicates the latest information to employees and acts as the single source of truth. Sundararaman said the portal includes a ‘hot button’ section where workers can quickly see whether an emergency has occurred and how the company is handling it.

Outside of the portal, employees also receive multiple forms of communication on a regular basis, including emails, virtual town halls, memos, videos and more.

Onsite at their facilities, IPG has posted detailed signage with COVID-19 state and federal requirements as well as the same information that appears in SharePoint.

Cleaning and Sanitization Processes

Across its 27 plants, IPG needs to ensure that thorough cleaning and sanitization processes are followed as employees continue to work onsite.

Sundararaman showed a spreadsheet that tracks 60 items that need to be cleaned on a regular basis throughout the facilities. The company bases its cleaning procedures on CDC recommendations, with one- or two-hour cleaning rotations and new centralized cleaning stations. For example, equipment that needs to be cleaned on a regular basis now includes a red sticker indicating that it’s a shared surface and should be wiped down.

Employees are also given written instructions (with step-by-step photos) on how to clean equipment, as well as the necessary supplies.

Social Distancing Policies

Sundararaman said 95%+ of the common areas in their plants have implemented social distancing. The company keeps track of those areas, how frequent they’re used and their risk factors in a detailed spreadsheet. At facilities, they’ve installed plexiglass barriers, screens and curtains between workstations and floor markings to help employees stay six feet apart or more.

Cutting Edge Technologies

Perumal explained how IPG is continuously evaluating new technologies that can help activate their response plan. Some of the solutions they’re considering include:

  • UV/Ozone disinfection using UVC light and ozone to sanitize areas and objects
  • Camera monitoring to assess social distancing performance
  • Social distancing wearables to alert workers when distance is not maintained
  • Touchless entry and exit
  • Temperature monitoring

Learn More from MLC/NAM

The MLC/NAM is arranging additional calls to discuss how manufacturers are dealing with COVID-19. The next town hall will take place on June 16 at 11 am ET. Details on additional calls will be released as they are available.

In the meantime, if you have any tips or best practices on how your company is keeping employees safe and/or is acting to minimize business disruption during this time, please share them at [email protected].

MLC Adopts New Critical Issue to Support COVID-19 Recovery

In late May, members of the Manufacturing Leadership Council and its Board of Governors voted overwhelmingly to adopt a new Interim Critical Issue to help manufacturing companies as they respond and recover from the widespread disruption caused by the coronavirus crisis. Called COVID-19: Manufacturing’s M4.0 Response & Recovery, the MLC’s new Critical Issue will help to drive the Council’s content, research, and event agenda until the end of 2020. The MLC’s current five-subject Critical Issues agenda, under the banner of The Journey to M4.0, remains in place until reviewed at the 2020 MLC Annual Meeting later this year.
New MLC Critical Issue – COVID-19: Manufacturing’s M4.0 Response & Recovery
Widespread disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on manufacturing worldwide. Manufacturing leaders have been forced to radically rethink existing activities from employee safety, to production flexibility, to supply chain resiliency. They have also had to reassess their own leadership approaches and rethink the effectiveness of the corporate cultures they create. The need to accelerate the adoption of M4.0 digital and virtual technologies to support these changes has become critical to the way manufacturers operate, build, and lead their organizations, both today and in the future post-COVID world.
Areas of Focus:

  • Operations: Plants, Production, and Supply. Manufacturing facility and workspace design to improve all working environments, including hygiene, air quality, distance, people flows, and individual protection; flexible, adaptable, automated production lines and processes that strengthen preparedness and respond faster to sudden impacts ; focus on supply chain resiliency to reduce complexity and shorten response times through localized supply networks, strategic inventory, reshoring, and proximity production closer to demand.
  • People: Workforce, Culture, and Leadership. Redefining manufacturing health and safety, including new working practices and procedures to ensure the health and wellbeing of employees, both physical and mental; more collaborative cultures that can succeed in a virtual world; enhanced people development strategies and training methods for the new normal; leadership team involvement and awareness; internal communication policies, feedback loops, and frequency; enhanced business continuity planning and crisis management skills.
  • Technology: Virtual Tools, Digital Automation, and Data. Effective virtual working, conferencing, ecommerce, and product showcasing platforms to support employee, partner, and customer engagement; remote operations technologies including IIoT, AR, and Cloud analytics for monitoring, maintenance, quality, servicing, audits, mentoring, and training; cobots and robotic process automation to maintain production and enterprise productivity; the scope, effectiveness, and security of key data flows, sharing, and exchange; AI and machine learning for predictive insights across supply chains and real-time operational analysis.

For full details of all six elements in the MLC’s newly extended M4.0 Critical Issues agenda, please visit:
To access the MLC’s COVID-19 Operational Resources and Shared Practices, please visit: 

4 Burning Questions from Manufacturing Leaders Amidst the COVID-19 Recovery

In the 11th town hall meeting since COVID-19 began, members of the Manufacturing Leadership Council discussed the latest strategies and burning questions as states are starting to reopen and companies are facing tough decisions when it comes to facilities, employees and health and safety.

Here are 4 questions that are top of mind for manufacturing leaders right now.

1. How can we safely open our physical offices?

As states and counties start reopening, manufacturing leaders are trying to figure out safe ways to allow employees back into their offices. One member from a food manufacturer said his company is not rushing anything when it comes to bringing employees back to the office and they will probably start small. An aerospace executive echoed this same sentiment, sharing that his company still has 80,000 out of 125,000 employees working at home.

In response, another member said his organization is allowing employees to come back to the office if they want to and developing a staggered schedule so there are fewer people in each physical location at the same time. They are also creating alternative office layout plans and rules, including restrictions on the number people in meetings, touchless fixtures in bathrooms, and additional sanitization procedures.

2. What do we do about foreign and domestic travel restrictions?

Several members shared that they’re grappling with how to handle critical projects that involve workers overseas. One executive from an automotive components maker said as European borders open, employees will be able to travel between countries if they have approval from corporate headquarters showing that their travel is essential to the business. However, whether that happens still depends on the country-by-country restrictions, he said.

The aerospace executive said in the U.S., his organization only allows essential travel, such as picking up equipment from a supplier or solving a customer issue, because state-to-state the rules and regulations differ too much.

The member from the food manufacturer said they have travel restrictions on non-essential travel as well but have been using a company plane to send leaders to various plants and provide support for projects. At each plant, the company requires visitors to fill out a form to declare any possible symptoms and report whether they’ve used public transit recently.

3. How do we handle quarantining before/during/after travel?

Not only are travel restrictions a challenge for manufacturing companies, but members on the call also questioned the quarantining guidelines that come along with different states and countries when employees have to travel.

Another manufacturing leader said his company still has employees traveling internationally, but it can be daunting. For travel to Korea, for example, employees are required to take a test in the U.S. and a test when they arrive overseas – and must see a negative result both times. Once overseas, they will go into a government-sponsored quarantine for 14 days before they check into their hotel and begin any work. After finishing work, the employee would return home and be asked to quarantine for another 14-day period.

4. How can virtual technologies help us keep the lights on right now?

The member from the food manufacturer shared that, for the first time, a new production line will be virtually commissioned with the help of a Swiss company. This process, he said, involves virtual support from technicians in Germany using AR and VR technologies and will help the company deal with the European travel restrictions.

Another member from a window and door manufacturing company said they’re exploring remote assist technologies to help plants solve problems virtually from corporate headquarters. For example, workers would be able to see the problem via video, speak with the plant worker in a visually guided manner and work back and forth via annotation to solve the issue.

Learn More from MLC/NAM

The MLC/NAM is arranging additional calls to discuss how manufacturers are dealing with COVID-19. The next town hall will take place on June 2 at 11 am ET. Details on additional calls will be released as they are available.

In the meantime, if you have any tips or best practices on how your company is keeping employees safe and/or is acting to minimize business disruption during this time, please share them at [email protected].

Automotive Manufacturers Outline COVID-19 Guidelines

In the 10th town hall meeting since COVID-19 began, the Manufacturing Leadership Council welcomed two of its members from automotive manufacturers to share how they’ve been planning return to work policies and procedures.

Britt Autry, Vice President of Manufacturing at global automotive supplier DENSO’s Maryville, Tennessee’s facility and Dan Grieshaber, Director of Global Manufacturing Integration at General Motors, spoke about the current state of their manufacturing operations and recovery efforts, as well as the internal communication strategies and health and safety procedures that will enable them to safely bring employees back into the workplace.

Here are 3 highlights from their presentations:

1. Vary the types of communication practices

Autry of DENSO’s Maryville, Tennessee operations shared that his company has moved back to around 50% of production capacity since last week. He outlined specific communication practices that DENSO has been following to keep employees informed of the impact of COVID-19 on their operations.

The DENSO leadership team meets daily to discuss the crisis and shares takeaways from their discussions with employees through a mobile app. The app, updated 2-3 times per week, acts as a newsletter for workers to get access to the latest information as company executives learn and digest it.

The company also brings together employees through WebEx town hall meetings. Executives lead the meetings and typically, 600-800 associates will attend to hear industry updates and plans for restarting work. Autry said they do a survey after each meeting to gather feedback and questions from employees.

2. Leverage manufacturing operations to create PPE

Both Autry and Greishaber of GM said their companies have stepped up and started manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE) both for their employees and as donations for healthcare workers in their areas.
DENSO has produced and donated 60,000 face shields to hospitals and first responders and distributed them to North American employees.

GM is currently making about 2,400 surgical masks per hour (which amounts to about 1.5 million per month), as well as hand sanitizer, face shields and surgical gowns for donation to healthcare organizations in Michigan.

3. Put health and safety resources in the hands of employees

Greishaber of GM said the company is only a few days into restarting its manufacturing operations but has outlined a detailed guide for health and safety for employees, including procedures for entering the facility, keeping objects and people clean, physical distancing and ventilation and handling possible COVID-19 cases. These are some of the key aspects of their playbook:

  • Health and safety go beyond the workplace; GM employees are given guidelines to follow when leaving the office and returning home, including storing face masks in paper bags, disinfecting surfaces at home and avoiding close contact with people in public settings
  • Every GM facility has strict rules for what happens when you enter, including physical distancing, temperature screenings, face masks and signage with safety messaging
  • To ensure people, objects and surfaces remain clean, the company is increasing the frequency of sanitization, providing sanitization stations and promoting handwashing
  • GM is promoting physical distancing and ventilation by recommending that employees remain 6-feet apart whenever possible, keep doors open and use fans increase airflow
  • Office workstations and common areas like break rooms have been redesigned to remove seats, spread out tables and limit the number of people
  • To handle possible COVID-19 cases, GM requires employees to report positive tests immediately (even if they’re working at home) or if they think they might be sick, to take their temperature and speak with their supervisor as soon as possible

MLC/NAM to Hold Additional Calls

The MLC/NAM is arranging additional calls to discuss how manufacturers are dealing with COVID-19. These will be announced as soon as details are available.

In the meantime, if you have any tips or best practices on how your company is keeping employees safe and/or is acting to minimize business disruption during this time, please share them at [email protected].

Manufacturing’s Recovery from COVID-19 Linked to Digital Acumen

As manufacturing leaders continue to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis, the topic of the latest Manufacturing Leadership Council Critical Issues webinar – Digital Acumen: Does Your Leadership Team Have What It Takes? — was especially timely. Three panelists discussed the importance of leadership to recover from the pandemic using the tools of Manufacturing 4.0.

In his opening remarks, MLC co-founder David R. Brousell said that manufacturers that had already begun to implement M4.0 were more prepared to succeed throughout the crisis than those that hadn’t.

“It has become clear that manufacturers that had embraced the digital model prior to the pandemic were in a far better position to adapt to rapidly changing market conditions and in some cases swiftly pivot production to equipment and products needed to fight the pandemic than those companies that had not embraced the model or had not embraced it strongly enough,” he said.

He also cited findings from an MLC survey, where 70% of manufacturing leaders said previous levels of digitization were important to their ability to respond rapidly to the crisis and 46% termed that importance essential. Full results of the survey will be published next month.

Read on for the top 3 highlights from this webinar.

1. Societal impact is a driver of Industry 4.0 and COVID-19 recovery

Even before COVID-19 impacted nearly every aspect of economic and societal activities, many organizations already considered societal impact a key indicator of success.

One of the panelists, Tim Hanley, interim James H. Keyes Dean of the College of Business Administration at Marquette University, cited The Deloitte Industry 4.0 Readiness Survey, which asked executives how they’re enabling their companies to succeed in the age of Industry 4.0. Conducted before COVID-19, the survey is even more relevant now that leaders have relied more heavily on digital strategies to ensure their companies’ survival throughout the pandemic.

The survey found that 34% of executives ranked societal impact as the most important factor to measure success across their companies, higher than any other category, including employee and customer satisfaction. Furthermore, 73% of CXOs reported having changed or developed products or services to generate positive societal impact.

“We see four drivers to success in the world of Industry 4.0,” said Hanley, who is a former Vice Chairman and leader of Deloitte’s industrial products practice. “The first is a real focus on making a societal impact while also creating new revenue streams. Now, in this world of COVID-19…the creation of new revenue streams is increasingly important.”

2. Digital, data and decision making will accelerate business continuity

Companies’ ability to embrace digital technologies and leverage them for better decision making will help to accelerate their recovery from the impact of COVID-19.

Another panelist, Kevin Prouty, group vice president of energy and manufacturing insights at IDC Manufacturing Insights, showed a graph demonstrating how companies will move through the various stages of the crisis from the beginning, to the slow down and recession, to targeted investments and, finally, recovery.

“Companies that are digitally capable are going to move across this [curve] much more quickly,” Prouty said.
Prouty said embracing digital opportunities to facilitate recovery from the pandemic comes down to leadership and sound decision making.

“This is all about what we call resilient decision making,” he said. “That is, the ability to make decisions for your operation that are more tightly linked to your market, but to be able to do it more quickly and more efficiently. And there’s a huge digital component to that.”

He said leaders have two key action items to recover from the crisis and promote digitization across their companies: 1) unite IT and OT to manage the data and support systems that will facilitate better (and faster) decision making; 2) understand where the data is, how you’re managing it, how your organization is using the data.

3. Embracing digital and managing through the crisis require special leadership qualities

The final panelist, Tony Rogers, Ph.D., senior consultant and executive coach, talent solutions at Manpower, outlined how leadership can propel companies to where they want to be in their Industry 4.0 journey, as well as speed up their ability to bounce back from COVID-19.

“The pandemic has accelerated this question for us: how can our leadership shape a culture that is willing and able to adopt new technologies that we need for future manufacturing?” Rogers said.

He outlined four key leadership qualities that executives must learn, embrace, and practice right now:  authority, transparency, empathy, and curiosity.

  • Authority: use authority to provide clear direction on collaboration between both teams and individuals, mobilize everyone to generate solutions, and reward experimenters.
  • Transparency: be transparent about your excitement for the future, what you know (and don’t know) about your companies strategies to adapt, communicate personal areas where you need to grow and change (“I think we’ve seen right now that the leaders who are showing up well and dealing with COVID-19 are being open,” he said.)
  • Empathy: explore others’ views, anticipate, and acknowledge feelings, provide empowerment (It’s so important that right now you dig deep and acknowledge and normalize the hope and dread that people are feeling,” he said. “A crisis is when it’s most important to really uphold this vital aspect of your role as leaders and make a positive difference in peoples’ lives.”)
  • Curiosity: pivot to new opportunities as new information emerges, adapt people’s skills and styles, leverage diverse ways of thinking about products and services, and partner with HR to upskill and hire for learnability.

Rogers concluded by asking attendees to think about one question: What action will you take now to inspire whom, more deeply, efficiently, and authentically?

COVID-19: Two Manufacturers Share Real-World Strategies

During their 9th town hall meeting since COVID-19 began, members of the Manufacturing Leadership Council gathered once again to discuss the latest strategies for dealing with the crisis.

Two manufacturers, The Bradbury Group and Greene, Tweed, joined to share their experiences thus far and speak with council members about what’s worked and what hasn’t when it comes to the health and safety of their employees and workplaces.

Here are 3 best practices that they shared:

1. Continuous meetings and communication

The COVID-19 situation has been everchanging and many manufacturing companies have implemented regular communication and meetings to keep employees informed.

David Cox, CEO of The Bradbury Group, a family-owned manufacturer of metal forming, coil processing, and polyurethane equipment, says his company started planning for COVID-19 in early March and immediately set up an emergency action planning committee, which meets multiple times per week to discuss various issues regarding employee safety, travel, visitor policies, infection prevention, and more.

“We wanted to develop and deploy tools to educate our employees. We wanted to control workplace infection, learn to manage travel and identify risks,” Cox said. “And we wanted an emergency plan for the infection of an employee – if someone at one of our facilities became infected and potentially exposed others. And then we wanted to develop guidelines for visitors in general and workplace requirements, which led to a lot of policy and procedure discussion.”

Cox collaborated with the Bradbury’s director of health and safety to establish weekly briefings to be held by each department leader and sends a weekly companywide communication that summarizes the latest updates on their business and the pandemic.

With 22% of employees now working at home, Bradbury uses Microsoft Office 365, including SharePoint and Teams to stay in contact with employees and facilitate virtual meetings. They have 15-20 minute daily departmental video meetings to keep remote employees engaged and connected. In the physical facilities that remain open, they’ve posted signage around safe hygiene practices and asked for feedback from employees to help keep information up to date.

“We see, going forward, that we’re probably going to have a more remote work environment, more virtual meetings with customers and less travel, and maybe even more flexible work schedules,” Cox said.

2. ‘Return to work’ guidelines

Leaders at Greene, Tweed, a manufacturer of high-performance elastomeric seals, engineered thermoplastic and thermoplastic composite components, have been in ongoing development of ‘return to work’ guidelines for their workforce.

The company’s policy is based on CDC guidelines and will include factors that are important to their business in terms of reopening, as well as any areas where they anticipate problems and how to handle them.

Greene, Tweed facilities are still open, but all non-essential workers are currently working from home. The company anticipates a phased reopening where they’ll start with 25% of workers returning, then 50%, then 75% and so on. However, this approach will depend heavily on the state and local regulations at each Greene, Tweed property.

When non-essential employees begin to reenter the workplace, they’ll be asked to follow the same guidelines as essential workers, such as temperature checks, limits on meetings and face masks.

“As remote employees come back, they’re not used to working in a site with these types of guidelines,” said Frank Travea, Director of Operations at Greene, Tweed. “So, we’re putting in a lot of time and communication and making sure we have good policies in place to ensure that as employees do come back, we’re doing it in a very safe manner.”

3. Travel and visitor policies

An ongoing topic for many council members is how to handle employee and personal travel and visitors during the pandemic.

With the summer months upon us, leaders at The Bradbury Group have discussed how to handle personal travel time. Right now, employees are required to contact the health and safety department to inquire about personal travel, communicate where they’re going and what a return to work process might look like. Any worker that’s spent five or more days outside of a Bradbury facility is required to fill out a form about where they’ve been and any potential symptoms they’re experiencing.

“We’re working through that on a case-by-case basis to give some advice and counsel as to what [employees’] options are,” said Cox.

As far as domestic work travel goes, Bradbury has limited transportation to car travel and requires employees to clean their hotel rooms upon arrival, only eat takeout food or room service, wear face masks and quarantine afterwards depending on the state or local regulations. The company is still evaluating its stance on international travel.

For visitors to their locations, Greene, Tweed has developed a strict policy, requiring approval from three company leaders. The visitor is required to fill out a detailed questionnaire, wear a mask and have their temperature taken upon arrival.

MLC/NAM to Hold Additional Calls

The MLC/NAM is arranging additional calls to discuss how manufacturers are dealing with COVID-19. These will be announced as soon as details are available.

In the meantime, if you have any tips or best practices on how your company is keeping employees safe and/or is acting to minimize business disruption during this time, please share them at [email protected].

4 Priorities for Manufacturing Leaders as the COVID-19 Crisis Continues

Manufacturing Leadership Council members gathered this week for their 8th town hall meeting since the COVID-19 crisis began. Leaders joined the conversation to discuss, several months in, how their companies are handling the pandemic and how it’s impacting their businesses, strategies and employees.
Across different manufacturing sectors and geographies, members said they’re under pressure to make decisions and develop policies to keep their businesses going and their employees safe and healthy. Here are the top 4 highlights from the meeting.

  1. Travel policies

Most companies have curbed employee travel to some extent but participants in the town hall voiced concern over how to handle travel for essential employees. One member said his company didn’t stop travel for field teams until early April, but now he’s being asked to redeploy them.
He’s currently trying to figure out the best ways to protect those employees and so far, has been following the same health and safety procedures as their factory floors (which remain open) and limiting them to travel by car, stay in approved hotels, order food via takeout services such as Uber Eats and practice social distancing.
“We’ve given them safety measures and instructions, but it’s really hard to manage somebody 400 miles away in a hotel room,” he said.
Other members chimed in to say that their companies are only letting employees travel with strict pre-approval processes (such as adding an additional layer of authorization from leadership) and have been replacing in-person meetings with video conferencing tools as much as possible.

  1. In-person events & conferences 

Similar to employee travel, many organizations have cancelled in-person events altogether or replaced them with virtual meetings. However, one member mentioned that for large conferences in the fall such as IMTS (scheduled for September 14-19, 2020), no plans have been changed yet. Held every other year in Chicago, event organizers are still waiting on further information from state and local governments to determine how to proceed.
The member went on to mention that as part of the conference, her organization is still planning to offer tours of their downtown Chicago factory. To ensure health and safety of visitors, they will follow social distancing guidelines and are exploring measures such as automatic doors that can be opened with your forearm, hand sanitizer, directional signage, automatic sign-in via mobile phones and automatic temperature sensors for entering and exiting the building.

  1. Office re-openings 

Another critical topic for attendees of the town hall was office re-openings and how companies will be handling reintegration of employees.
One leader shared that his organization is developing a phased approach based on specific triggers. For example, they may only allow 25% of employees to return to a given office location, but those employees must meet certain criteria, such as living within a 60-mile radius of the building, a higher level of effectiveness in working in the office versus at home, absence of underlying health concerns, and not needing to use public transportation to get to work.
The challenge, he mentioned, is that they’d be integrating those returning into a physical location where critical employees have not stopped working. While the critical employees have grown accustomed to new social distancing protocols, returning employees will require an adjustment period. However, the company is beginning to shift its stance on ‘work at home’ policies for the future.
“There is a very real potential that maybe 10-20% of our workforce never comes back to a formal office setting,” he said. “And when and if they do, it will be either on a rotational basis or some type of shared office arrangement.”

  1. ‘Work at home’ productivity and resources

Companies on the call had various ways of measuring employee productivity for those working at home. While one member steered clear of saying they were monitoring how long employees were logged into their computers, many others spoke up about collaboration and video conferencing tools that have made it easier for their teams to work remotely.
One leader mentioned that his company is using spreadsheets to track how many employees are working in the office versus at home and projects they’re working on, so they can visualize work that’s being completed and plan for the future weeks and months.
Later, a question was raised about whether companies should be paying for home internet and phone service, to which one member shared that after sending employees home with laptops, they realized they needed to increase their internet service to accommodate remote access.
“We spent the last three weeks rewiring the entire place to handle the work from home employees, which is only about six people, so I can’t even imagine what the IT impact would be if you had 600 people,” he said.
MLC/NAM to Hold Additional Calls
The MLC/NAM is arranging additional calls to discuss how manufacturers are dealing with COVID-19. These will be announced as soon as details are available.
In the meantime, if you have any tips or best practices on how your company is keeping employees safe and/or is acting to minimize business disruption during this time, please share them at [email protected].


Quick COVID-19 Resources to Keep You Informed

We know your time is especially limited during the rapidly developing COVID-19 pandemic. To help you stay informed, the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council is launching a weekly series of quick, fact-filled info sheets.
These one-page resources contain tips, checklists and best practices about COVID-19 and how it affects manufacturing. They also include links to additional guidance from the NAM, CDC, OSHA, EPA and other authoritative sources.
The NAM and MLC are committed to helping manufacturers navigate COVID-19 to keep America running while keeping employees safe. For more COVID-19 information specifically for manufacturers, visit or participate in the peer-to-peer discussion forum at

RESOURCE: What Manufacturers are Doing When There is a Confirmed Case of COVID-19

When a manufacturer finds out there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 among someone who was in their facility, what happens next? The CDC has issued guidelines for cleaning and disinfection, such as closing down their workstation and using recommended sanitizing and disinfecting products.
[su_button url=”” style=”soft” background=”#991A1E” size=”4″ radius=”5″ icon=”icon: arrow-circle-o-down” text_shadow=”0px 0px 0px #ffffff”]DOWNLOAD COVID-19 RESOURCE[/su_button]

RESOURCE: 6 Ways to Reduce Employee Anxiety During a Crisis

As shared in recent MLC and NAM webinars, manufacturers are making efforts to ease workers’ anxieties about coming to the workplace. These are six ways they are communicating their commitment to safety while also taking in employee feedback.
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RESOURCE: Report on COVID-19 Hygiene Practices

What measures are manufacturers taking to protect their teams and plants from COVID-19? This infographic details some of the information shared about this topic on recent MLC Town Hall calls, including social distancing, PPE, and added sanitation practices.
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RESOURCE: 5 Ways Manufacturers are Reassuring Essential Employees during COVID-19

With manufacturing on the front lines to the nation’s crisis response efforts, companies are finding it necessary to reassure their employees about safety at work. As shared by member companies in MLC and NAM webinars, this infographic gives details about how manufacturers are easing employee anxieties about coming to work, from more frequent cleaning routines to expanded communication efforts.
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RESOURCE: Social Distancing and Manufacturers

The CDC has recommended six feet of social distancing to minimize the spread of COVID-19. How are manufacturers achieving that on the production floor, in shipping areas, and in offices and break rooms?
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RESOURCE: Pivoting to Produce Critical COVID-19 Supplies

Many manufacturers have reconfigured their operations in order to provide PPE, medical supplies, and other response-critical materials and items. Here are some ideas that other manufacturers have shared about their shift to pandemic response efforts.
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RESOURCE: 5 Considerations Manufacturers Are Making for the Path Ahead

Business closures, supply shortages, and other challenges have forced manufacturers to adapt and respond during the pandemic crisis. As companies make plans for bringing employees back to work, what considerations are they making for ensuring employee safety?
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Manufacturers Offer 4 Tips for Dealing With COVID-19

On a recent conference call held by the Manufacturing Leadership Council (MLC) and its parent, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), leaders from Premio Foods and Trane Technologies discussed tips and tactics for safeguarding workers and strengthening  operations throughout the COVID-19 crisis – no matter how long it lasts.
A survey conducted by the NAM shows that the COVID-19 situation is already impacting daily life for manufacturers: 78% expect a financial impact from the crisis, 53% anticipate a change in operations, and 36% are facing supply chain disruptions.
David R. Brousell, Co-founder, Vice President & Executive Director of MLC, who moderated the  call, said “It is essential that manufacturers continue to take the crisis seriously, be vigilant, and do everything possible to protect their employees and ensure continuity in their business to avoid further disruption.”
The representatives from Premio and Trane recommended four action items manufacturers should consider to address the coronavirus situation.

  1. Prioritize sanitation and prevention

Good sanitation and cleanliness practices are always important and required, particularly for regulated food manufacturers such as Premio. But amid COVID-19, the stakes are much higher.
Eric Fidoten, Premio Foods SVP of operations, who is also a member of the MLC’s Board of Governors, said that his company has upped its sanitation practices across its employee base.
Premio, a maker of specialty Italian sausage products, already follows strict food production guidelines, but also now requires workers to sanitize their hands every 20-30 minutes; cough and sneeze, if they have to, into their elbows; and wear hooded hair nets for extra protection. They’ve also added more staff to sanitize common and high-touch areas on a two-hour cycle.
Trane Technologies’ director of health and safety, Christin Anniannis, also speaking on the call, shared that her organization has put up hand washing and educational posters, added extra sanitizing stations, and instituted rotating lunch break and social distancing practices. The company, which manufactures HVAC and refrigeration systems, is also working on creating isolation rooms for those who show signs of illness.

  1. Increase transparency

During a crisis like COVID-19, company leaders need to ensure that they’re informed of employees or other stakeholders with potential symptoms or conditions, especially given the contagious nature of the illness.
At Premio, employees are now instructed to notify a manager or leader of their symptoms or potential illness as soon as possible and report whether family members or close friends that they’ve been exposed to have been sick. They’ve also developed a “return to work” protocol, so if an employee misses work because of sickness, they’re required to provide documentation for medical release upon their return.
Similarly, Trane has developed a self-assessment for employees and visitors to report their potential symptoms and exposure to medium- or high-risk areas.
Both companies are encouraging employees that display symptoms to work at home, if possible.

  1. Exercise caution with travel and visitors

When it comes to employee travel and visitors, manufacturing companies can’t be too careful. Trane’s senior manager of crisis management and traveler safety, John Preloh, another speaker on the call, said his organization has implemented strict travel guidelines during COVID-19.
Trane employees are now restricted from visiting high-risk areas and non-essential travel is banned.  In addition, Trane has implemented restrictions on meetings of 25 or more people and has asked visitors to fill out a self-assessment prior to their arrival.
Premio has developed similar practices, requiring visitors to report on their condition and recent travel. The company has also arranged a third-party location to interview job candidates.

  1. Overcommunicate with stakeholders

As the tides change seemingly overnight with the coronavirus situation, it’s paramount that all important stakeholders, such as employees, customers, suppliers and visitors, are continuously informed.
Trane, which formed a cross-departmental task force to handle COVID-19, has set up a FAQ page for employees and has sent communications through both email and the company intranet. They also have a portal for employees to download relevant documents and resources.
Premio has daily meetings with stakeholders to stay on track with communication plans and strategize about any new developments.
MLC/NAM to Hold Additional Calls
The MLC/NAM is arranging additional calls to discuss how manufacturers are dealing with COVID-19. These will be announced as soon as details are available.
In the meantime, if you have any tips or best practices on how your company is keeping employees safe and/or is acting to minimize business disruption during this time, please share them at [email protected].

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