COVID-19 continues to monopolize the world’s attention, and with good reason. Individuals to families to organizations to entire industries—not to mention our local and federal governments—are struggling with the best response to not only keep the disease at bay, but also keep businesses and the economy productive to support us all as we battle this virus.
Information is moving quickly and this article contains just some of those responses from the companies and organizations in the quality and manufacturing sectors, including those offering help in the broader battle against coronavirus, best practices for keeping operations and employees safe and productive, as well as a list of upcoming events that needed to be cancelled or postponed. Sharing what these other companies and organizations are doing may best inform the approach the rest of us might take.
The Broader Battle
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed an online tool to “improve [a] community’s ability to mitigate, adapt to and recover from hazardous events.” NIST researchers worked with local and state government officials to develop the platform-independent, evaluation-and-comparison web app to help community planners economic and investment decisions such as “whether to build a levee or add green space to reduce flooding in a neighborhood.”
Technology and the Remote Worker
With social distancing and “stay home” or “shelter in place” edicts in place or potentially on the horizon, many companies are directing their employees to continue to, or now start, working from home. Much of the technology we have come to use in the “office setting” is allowing customer service, sales and technical support to remain fully operational from remote or work-from-home sites.
Other companies also continue to tout their web sites to fulfill customer needs and some, such as those that offer training, are making information and classes available via webinars and online meetings.
For instance, Hexagon's Manufacturing Intelligence is offering free offline licensing and remote access for its production and metrology software, as well as additional online learning resources, “to enable efficient home working for manufacturing professionals facing new productivity challenges during the COVID-19 outbreak.”
According to Paolo Guglielmini, president of Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division, “Like many businesses in the manufacturing sector, we have many employees working from home at the moment and we appreciate that giving them the right tools to work remotely is essential to their well-being and success. By offering learning and remote working solutions, I hope we can contribute to maintaining productivity and quality while keeping employees in manufacturing safe.”
A number of companies, including Hexagon, offer software that can provide remote monitoring and analysis of metrology equipment from the shop floor.
Unfortunately, many manufacturers will not be in a position to save their operations in the short-term with remote work or technology. Recently, automotive manufacturer Marelli announced it was temporarily suspended operations in both North America and Europe. As you may be thinking, it might be difficult to practice social distancing in many manufacturing operations. However, one company does have an approach that could help other manufacturers.
Indow, a startup clean-tech manufacturing business, says it “has adapted principles designed to improve manufacturing efficiency to prevent the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus among its employees.”
In response to the early-March COVID-19 outbreak in Seattle, just 170 miles from Indow, the company and its founder and CEO Sam Purdue, created an action plan, which became the “Clean” system, based on principles from lean manufacturing, and developed as a template for others.
According to the company, “the principles of Lean eliminate waste, quality problems, and inefficiencies in manufacturing and other business systems. Clean uses similar methodologies to reduce or eliminate disease transmission vectors in the workplace. The benefits are analogous to social distancing—reduced opportunities for the virus to spread.”
For instance, lean manufacturing includes Visual Factory, and adapted for Clean. In Clean, according to Indow, “the team divided the 20,000 square foot facility into zones and placed brightly colored stickers at high hand traffic ‘touchpoints’ like light switches and doorknobs. Zone captains created a cleaning schedule with every person in the organization covering one shift in each zone. The result: a system that effectively cleans all high touch areas on a regular basis, with responsibility for work distributed across the staff.”
Following another Lean practice of continuous improvement, the Indow template has led to the removal of doorknobs in favor of hooks allowing doors to be opened with forearms, eliminating high-touch disease transmission.
Unable to practice social distancing, having employees work remotely, or a system for removing doorknobs, below is a list of industry shows that, unfortunately, have been cancelled:
- RAPID + TCT in Anaheim, CA, April 20-23
- ASQ World Conference, WCQI, in Columbus, OH, May 3-6
- Control, Stuttgart, Germany, May 5-8
- HxGN LIVE Smart Manufacturing in Novi, MI, May 18-19
- The Vision Show in Boston, MA, June 9-11
Want to share how your company is approaching the coronavirus outbreak? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.