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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].

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