Marlin Steel Wire Products (Baltimore, MD) has modified its manufacturing practices over the last few weeks.

Drew Greenblatt, president of Marlin Steel Wire Products LLC, explains that employees now wipe down their stations every two hours, every two hours someone wipes down every handle in the plant, and if anyone sneezes or coughs, they are sent home on sick leave. For any face to face meetings, staff remain seven feet apart. For all-company meetings, they spread out in a larger space to allow this. Office staff are telecommuting. They’ve also asked clients about their schedules and making sure everything is going as planned.

Greenblatt said he’s looked to the CDC for guidance and followed those guidelines, or in some cases, a stricter approach. Greenblatt is on the National Association of Manufacturers board, and said NAM has been doing a good job advocating for manufacturers during this time.  

Kimberlee A. Humphrey, the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) president and CEO, said organizations are reaching out to AME with concerns. The biggest constraint they’ve heard is the supply chain. Previously there were issues with the Chinese suppliers, but now demand in the U.S. and other countries has slowed.

 “Organizations are reaching out for two reasons,” she said. “A lot of them have shut down, or have very limited manufacturing. Second, we’re starting to hear some chatter asking how do we reshore.”

This has escalated in the past few weeks, she says. Recently a company told her that if they didn’t practice lean, they would not have been able to be as agile during this time.

Other companies have adjusted by shifting schedules to minimize employee contact. Humphrey said one company told her they are switching from one shift to three, and staggering employees so they are not so close together.

For those employees who are working from home, Humphrey encourages more webinars, training and virtual learning so they are ready to bring new ideas to the company when they return. This could include ways to improve use of social media, or just other ways to collaborate, she says. She’s noticed that companies doing lean seem to be more prepared right now as opposed to companies who may not have solid systems in place.

Glenn Marshall, Newport News Shipbuilding Career Pathways (retired), is on the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) Management Team initiative for leading a “Manufacturing Renaissance” and a member of the Job Creators Network. He agrees with Humphrey that manufacturers should take advantage of the possibilities of virtual training while they may not be at the office.

“There’s a lot of things that manufacturers can do during this time,” says Marshall.