Safety has always been a critical factor in manufacturing. Safe manufacturing is efficient manufacturing. Today, in the face of a global pandemic, safety is more important than ever before.
With COVID-19 raging across the country, and every night on the news another story of a facility, business or group not taking safety protocols seriously and being forced to close, health and safety are top of mind with good reason. For a manufacturer who relies on the critical expertise, skills and experience of employees, a single outbreak can bring production to a halt — putting your business and the lives of employees at risk.
What Manufacturing Safety Means
Employee safety is important for any business, but especially for manufacturers.
Manufacturers often work in enclosed spaces where social distancing is difficult. Depending on the work processes and production needs, ventilation can be problematic. Protective gear is often required for the work, which may preclude using a mask.
In addition, many companies’ production requires the specialized expertise of a few employees. An illness that can reduce manpower or limit the availability of key employees can be detrimental, even catastrophic, to production.
Working safely is critical for manufacturers, and COVID-19 is adding more fuel to the fire. Protect your business and reduce the risk. Here are tips for ensuring your facility and employees are safe and healthy, even in these difficult times.
Adjust Protocols and Schedule Training
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies and businesses to adjust their processes and regulations. Social distancing, masks and handwashing are additional steps employees need to take. That is especially true for manufacturing, where workers may be doing physical activities adjacent to each other and well within the 6-foot guidelines.
Implement protocols for employees that focus on the new safety guidelines. Look at social distancing wherever possible. Set mask guidelines and use temperature checks before employees start a shift. Write out the guidelines so there is no doubt what the expectations are. Make sure to take the time to train every employee in following them.
Update your Site Signage
Reinforce your training and safety protocols with site signage.
Take the time to design the signage, and have it professionally produced to ensure you are getting the maximum benefit and keeping employees safe. Identify areas that may be higher risk, like hallways that are frequently in use, or an area that is hot where employees may be tempted to remove their mask. A quick, visual reminder in those areas can keep employees healthy and prevent an outbreak that can stop operations.
Keep PPE on Hand
Depending on the industry and processes, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is often standard for manufacturers. However, COVID-19 presents its own challenges and requires its own equipment. It’s important to take steps to promote health and safety.
Look at keeping convenient hand sanitizer stations around the facility, especially at entrances and areas where employees may come in contact. Make sure you have plenty of sanitizer and a reliable supplier. Have additional masks on hand, so employees have a backup and feel safe at work.
Today, you can purchase personalized masks. Offering approved masks with a company logo is not only safe, it’s good branding and business.
Update Asset Tracking Processes
In manufacturing, one process that can lead to inadvertent employee contact is asset tracking. Sending an employee out with a clipboard and pen to track assets or count inventory is foolish, a waste of labor and potentially costly.
Now more than ever you need to update your asset tracking protocols and processes. Look at using scanning barcodes and RFID chips for production and inventory visibility, without putting employees in harm’s way. The more you can reduce the need for manual tracking, the safer your business.
Many companies are looking at automation, using machines and automatic equipment to manage work or production. By leveraging machines and technology, you can reduce the need for manual labor. You can better enforce social distancing and keep employees safe and healthy.
The industry has been moving toward automation for years, but it has been a slow move as companies are reluctant to change. With heightened risk factors, it’s time to stop waiting and start updating. Companies that have made the move enjoy reduced costs. They also see increased productivity, as workers can move to more important tasks, as well as fewer errors and higher quality.
Consult the Experts
Manufacturing success is based on repeatable processes. This also means that it’s an industry that doesn’t naturally embrace change. Repeatable processes aren’t supportive of new ideas of change. Change can mean risk.
That old way of operating doesn’t work today. Outside forces like the pandemic, increased regulation and market competition are pushing manufacturers to change. Seize that opportunity to look at ways of increasing safety and efficiency. Look at how you can meet a new regulation while reducing the cycle time of operations.
If your business is reluctant to embrace change, then bring in an expert who can help. A trusted outside resource can offer best practices and new ideas that can help take your business to the next level.
A Look at the Future of Manufacturing
New technology and changing markets are always pushing manufacturing to adapt, but many facilities and businesses have been waiting. Many will investigate new ideas or better ways to operate, but end up doing nothing. The status quo is safer, they believe.
In the face of a global pandemic, doing nothing is not an option. With businesses struggling across the world, this is an opportunity for companies that are willing to move forward, embrace new ideas and adapt to overcome challenges.
Any new idea or opportunity must start with creating the safest and healthiest workplace possible, especially in the face of COVID-19. If you have questions or would like to speak with one of our manufacturing experts, then contact GO2 Partners today. We work with many industry leaders, helping them overcome the challenges holding back their businesses and improving efficiency to create stronger companies.
We’re here to help.