A selection of Greater Manchester manufacturers gave their advice on how to resume production safely as part of a GC Business Growth Hub webinar on business recovery in May.
Speaking in the first of four business recovery webinars organised by GC Business Growth Hub to help prepare leaders for the gradual easing of lockdown, four manufacturing leaders from across the city region explained the approaches they have taken to ensure staff safety and wellbeing.
ATEC Engineering Solutions in Worsley has stayed open throughout lockdown but has split its staff so only half of its employees are working on-site. To maintain social distancing, Managing Director Andrea Hough is employing digital technology:
“When our engineers go out onto the shop floor to an operator to try to resolve a problem, that’s where we were experiencing difficulties [with social distancing]. We’ve tried to use technology a little bit more, so we’ve got body cams so that we can get people to show each other what the problems are from the desk, rather than having an engineer over their shoulder.”
Zoning and isolating
Andrew Peters, Managing Director of Siemens Digital, recommended implementing ‘discrete zoning’ to keep teams and groups of teams apart so that tracking contact is easier if there ends up being a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the business.
Graham Stubbs, Managing Director of Dean Group International Ltd in Irlam, explained that staff who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, or have high risk individuals in their households, were being put into smaller shifts in more isolated areas so that they have less contact with others.
In terms of maintaining hygiene in the factory, government guidance recommends putting sanitising stations in place at all entry and exit points. However, Siemens Digital are going further by giving individual hand gels to staff to minimise the risk of transmitting the virus through the passing of materials. Richard Hagan, Managing Director of Crystal Doors in Rochdale, recommended the simple act of leaving doors open where safe to do so to remove unnecessary contact points. Doors that need to remain closed could be fitted with hands-free devices.
Collaborating over commanding
All four leaders agreed that building a culture of shared responsibility was better than taking a top-down, command-and-control approach. Richard explained:
“It’s a case of supporting each other, talking to each other. Normally in the past, bosses would come out with a new policy and everyone would follow it. Now we’re asking [staff] how they want the policy to be written; what is it that’s going to satisfy [them]? From a leadership point of view, this is the best way forward.”
To maintain a sense of connection between those working in the factory and those working from home, Siemens Digital has organised a daily print-out in the canteen with messages of thanks and support from home workers. At Dean Group International, team members have made a series of short videos of what it is like working on-site for the benefit of others yet to return.
Rewarding and recognising
Rewarding staff for their work in difficult circumstances was also seen as important. Siemens Digital are rewarding staff with vouchers and extra days holiday, while Crystal Doors have issued a wellbeing voucher of £150 for every employee.
“Communicate, communicate, communicate. You have to keep all of your three sections of people - on-site workers, home workers and furlough - in the loop.”
“Involve the team. You’ve got to share this; you can’t do it on your own. It’s a team effort, we’re in it together.”
“Be consistent and calm. Lots of people are looking at you and where there’s worry and anxiety there is a temptation for leaders to move into that area with their behaviour as well. So really be self-aware of your own behaviour.”
“[Communicate with] all of your stakeholders. It’s your customers that you need to be engaging with and your suppliers, it’s absolutely everybody. It’s having that confidence to be telling everybody the same story, all the time, to instil confidence with everybody that you engage with.”