STAMPING Journal Editor
In mid May, it was hard to predict what would be going on in the manufacturing industry during early June. As states now begin opening up and manufacturers restart operations, I like to believe that the stamping industry will be emerging from the constraints, supply chain disruption, personnel worries, and constant uncertainty that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although many stamping manufacturers shut down during shelter-in-place mandates, those manufacturers deemed “essential” that continued operations may provide a glimpse of how all manufacturers will operate differently post-COVID-19.
Keeping Staff Safe
Good manufacturers operating during the quarantine period went to lengths to try to keep their employees safe. In the plant, some staggered shifts, reduced the number of employees working at the same time, and slowed production to create more separateness for proper social distancing as well as because of reduced demand. Sanitizing became a daily ritual. Face masks were worn in addition to the standard gloves and safety glasses.
Those who could work from home did so. Accommodations may have been made for parents who needed to take care of children whose schools were closed.
The need to communicate virtually became pressing, both with employees and customers.
Keeping Customers Close While Far
People who had never used FaceTime were thrust into video conferencing rooms and other means of distance communicating. Companies updated their system capabilities for a greater use of virtual contact programs to minimize in-person contact without losing touch. One company owner said, “I’m living on Zoom.”
As a parallel to retail curbside service, manufacturers customized delivery options and did more outreach. Companies instructed employees to adhere to CDC guidelines on social distancing during site visits and service calls.
Travel was severely restricted.
Stabilizing Supply Chain, Resources
Some have felt the sting of supply chain disruption and were on the lookout to reduce reliance on one supplier—especially those in “hot spots.” Companies wrote to customers about their many efforts to secure raw materials backups to their backups.
Manufacturing’s Role in Containing Contagion Made a Mark
Manufacturers’ contributions to battling COVID-19 will not be forgotten. For example, Greenheck Fan Co. accelerated the production and delivery of ventilation equipment to meet increased demand at hospitals. It did the same for data centers, which experienced a demand surge because of the many people working from home.
Automakers, stampers, and other industrial companies proved that they were able to nimbly change what they typically manufacture to make a completely different type of product on demand. That should cement reassurance in U.S. manufacturing’s ability to do the same in wartime.
COVID Residuals? What Will Remain?
I suspect that now that videoconferencing and other means of distance-connecting have become prevalent, Zoom-type gatherings will continue. Tasks that can be done without being physically present probably will continue to be done that way. Conversely, stampers have developed a greater awareness of the many tasks and operations that need a physical connection and presence.
Masks and social distancing are likely to remain to some degree. Start times and shifts might continue to be staggered. Cells and workstations will be more zoned to reduce the number of hands touching equipment. Screens, barriers, and floor tape will be used to promote separation. Shared tools will be dropped off rather than handed off. Sanitizing on steroids will continue.
The use of robots and automation is likely to surge. More transactions will occur online.
The number of visitors in a plant will be reduced. Travel is likely to remain more restricted.
Things that may have seemed futuristic or a fantastical, like virtual glasses to perform distance machine maintenance and repairs, may become more mainstream.
Knowing that a handshake can be a contagion passoff, I wonder if we’ll shake hands again.
Finally, those who have felt isolated while working—and not working—separately may now be keenly aware of the human need for social interaction and the preciousness of just being together.