As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, more manufacturers getting back to work. Manufacturing advisor Rachel Baldry outlines the key business planning considerations that will enable you to resume operations safely and intelligently, and how our manufacturing service can help.
After weeks of lockdown, the government is now actively encouraging people back to work where it is safe to do so. In order to get up and running again, manufacturers must now follow strict health and safety guidelines to ensure their workplace remains ‘COVID-19 secure’. But that’s not the only thing that needs attention. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind.
First things first, people must feel safe and supported
Many employees will understandably be feeling nervous about the prospect of returning to work, so you should do everything you can to reassure them that their workplace is safe. The government has developed detailed guidance for factories, which recommends conducting a thorough COVID-19 risk assessment. To ensure buy-in, it’s important that this is done in conjunction with employees and unions and the results are communicated to, and fully understood by, all staff. Advice is available from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), but if you’re not confident with risk assessments, speak to us and we can help. Note that businesses with more than 50 employees are expected to publish their risk assessment on their website. The government has published this notice which you can display in your workplace once the risk assessment has been completed.
In summary, you should follow these key principles:
- All reasonable steps should be taken to help people work from home if they can
- Social distancing must be ensured wherever possible, for example through one-way systems, floor markings, and splitting shifts to reduce the number of people coming into contact with each other
- Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, taking particular care over common touchpoints, and hand washing stations should be in place at entry and exit points.
- Where it is not possible to adhere to social distancing guidelines, consider whether the activity should be carried out at all. If the task is deemed necessary, put further mitigating actions in place such as separating people with screens or barriers, limiting the time of the activity, or arranging workstations so that people can work back-to-back or side-by-side instead of face-to-face.
A great example of best practice has been captured on camera by the BBC in this video.
When it comes to managing shift patterns, be aware of the skills you have at your disposal. A Skills Matrix is a really valuable tool that will help you to spread skills out across shifts. Bear in mind that your most experienced staff may be more likely to be in a higher-risk age bracket and may therefore be more likely to be self-isolating. We can help you if you haven’t produced a Skills Matrix before.
Of course, not everyone is going to want to return to work. Some might be in a high-risk category or have high-risk individuals in their household, some may have childcare responsibilities, and others may rely on public transport and no longer feel safe commuting to work. Treat each case individually and be empathetic to people’s circumstances. If you need HR advice, get in touch with us or make use of Make UK’s HR advice line free trial.
Take care managing remote workers
Remember, those who can work from home should do so. Staff who are office-based or not required on the shop floor should therefore be supported to work remotely, and this will require a different approach to management. Video calling platforms such as Skype and Zoom are fantastic tools to keep us connected, but you still lose a lot of the social interaction that usually takes place in an office environment. Good leadership will be needed to keep the team motivated and prevent silos emerging.
Stay as lean as possible
It’s a good idea to do a full stocktake to identify obsolete stock that can be scrapped or sold. During a crisis it’s tempting to hold a lot of stock, but this can be a dangerous strategy. It may feel safer to begin with, but you’re risking cashflow issues further down the line if orders dry up. Following a lean methodology that balances your supply and demand still applies, even during a crisis.
At the same time, there may be some materials or parts previously considered non-critical that are now in short supply. This crisis has highlighted the vulnerabilities within the supply chain – as the proverb goes: ‘for the want of a nail the kingdom was lost’. Re-evaluate what your critical components are to identify any items you need to hold in greater number.
Staying lean will also help to keep your workplace COVID-19 secure. For example, methods like 5S can help you to keep on top of tool management by minimising sharing and implementing safe storage and cleaning routines. If you’re new to lean, we have experienced practitioners on hand to provide support.
Get talking to customers and suppliers
It goes without saying that there’s likely to have been significant disruption both upstream and downstream in your supply chain. It’s crucial you review your existing orders and determine whether they can, or should, be fulfilled. Don’t assume that previous demand will eventually ‘return to normal’. Some clients may not be the same organisation when they emerge from this crisis, and some may not emerge at all. Speak to your customers – are they currently shutdown or operating at reduced capacity? Have they diversified into different products or services? Can they give an accurate forecast of their demand?
The same applies to your suppliers. When are they planning to re-open? Do you have orders that may not be fulfilled? Now is the time to be looking for alternative or additional suppliers. Collaboration will be crucial to business survival in a post-COVID world, so ongoing communication with your customers and suppliers and is key.
We’re re-designing our services to help you
As we emerge into this brave new world, we’re busy looking at new ways to provide manufacturers with remote one-to-one support. If you need help with any of the issues raised above, contact us and one of our specialist advisors will be in touch. We can work with you to develop a full business improvement plan so that you emerge from this crisis as positively as possible.