By Richard Nave, Sr. Consultant at The Luminous Group
What does machining a bolt, completing an order at a drive-through window and effectively managing the return of your employees have in common? In most manufacturing companies, we look at each of them as a “process”. The tools that we use to manage every other process in our business can be applied to creating a safe return to work for our employees, customers and visitors.
In the case of managing your workforce’s return to work, health and safety needs to be scrutinized, put under the microscope … so to speak. To protect your employees, customers and even the future of your business, we all want to get it right. And as the they say, ‘you have only one chance to get it right the first time.’
This process-based approach will enable a successful relaunch after this extended pause. If done in a haphazard fashion, it will be physically dangerous, and will not comply with CDC best practices, state guidelines and federal recommendations. Additionally, it risks creating a perception that a company is putting profits ahead of safety. If your restart is conducted with a transparent process with consideration of best practices, your employees with feel safe and sooner adapt forward to the ‘new normal’.
Think back to the goodwill created in 1982 by Johnson & Johnson when they properly handled the Tylenol tampering issue. While not the result of malicious product tampering, the COVID-19 situation poses an opportunity for company leaders to proactively prevent any deterioration in employee engagement and even advance the relationship between management and employees, and create a positive public perception.
Process Drives Predictability
Let’s consider a straightforward process for a company or manufacturing plant to restart after Stay-at-Home orders. The starting point is a known or estimated return-to-work date, and the end point is a key milestone, we’ll call “Safe Return to Work.” At a very high level, the four main process steps could be described here.
At each of these steps, tools exist to help you get the required actions and behaviors ‘right the first time’ – or at least minimize the chance things will go wrong. The Luminous group has created a checklist to help ensure that your return policy covers all the pertinent aspects in each functional area of your organization. This is available at no cost online.
To effectively track and verify the Implementation phase we have partnered with a great Michigan company, 123Go in Ann Arbor. They have created a simple to use, low-code and low-cost app (after all it is 2020, there is an app for everything!). This app can be used to track your implementation of the return to work, have employees log their daily health check before they leave for work, and numerous other tools for a safe restart. You’ll find details online.
As with any new policy or procedure, employees will have to be trained. Your COVID-19 return to work training should be started even before employees return and continue with updates and reminders at daily meetings. Your training should be documented to ensure everyone, including visitors to your location, are informed of safety expectations – another feature of the 123Go COVID app.
Sustain the Gain
As your situation evolves it is vital to make sure vigilance is maintained. A natural system for this is a Layered Process Audit (LPA). If you are not familiar with LPA, we have great articles online that will provide an overview and tips. The key element is that your employees should know that more people are checking safety items beyond the Safety Officer, because we all care about safety.
As we all get ready to return to work, it is essential that we listen to all employees, many of whom may have concerns. These concerns must be heard and considered with appropriate responses. Following a defined back to work process will help establish trust and peace of mind. Think back to that class in college when you learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If a person does not feel safe, they cannot focus on their work. An employee that is not concentrating on their work is potentially a safety risk and will not bring value to your organization. A structured back-to-work process will help everyone understand the care and concern that is being applied to keep all safe as employees return to work.
Learn more about more ways to restart your business, including working with The Luminous Group, by checking out the MMA's MFG Tools for Safe & Productive Operations.
About the Business:
The Luminous Group works with Engineering, Manufacturing and Quality leaders when they are 1) Frustrated by unexpected or repeat quality issues; 2) Under pressure to reduce costs associated with poor quality; 3) Spending too little time (or too much time) on their internal quality audits; and 4) Concerned with a lack of leadership or skills for problem solving and continuous improvement. Their services include work team facilitation, management coaching and training workshops in a wide variety of topics.
About the Author:
Richard Nave is a Senior Consultant and Facilitator with The Luminous Group. Having more than 20 years of experience in Product Development, Program Management and Manufacturing Management, Rich has a proven record of success in bringing new technical knowledge to clients. Combining his mechanical engineering background with his broad knowledge of the global automotive industry, Rich has a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.