From what it looks like, COVID-19 is not going to disappear in a hurry. It will go on for longer period. No one knows how long. But, to me it looks like at least another One year to 18 months there will be restrictions. If not the lock down. Till the time we have a Vaccine, we may not be able to get away from these restrictions. Indian Manufacturing has to reopen. Closing it for too long will have serious impact on the Economy and the People of India.
We need to find new methods of working that will minimize / eliminate the risk. Let us look at some of these methods.
Work from Home
Probably all the functions below have to work from home with probably once / twice a week trip to office depending on need.
b) Vendor Development
g) Part of HR
Better connectivity has to be provided by the Companies to the Employees to work from home. In many cases there may be a need to provide a Laptop / Desktop to work from home. If the Employee is having a machine at work, it has to be shifted to the home of the employee.
A Small cubicle has to be quickly designed of probably 5x4 = 20 Sqft that can house all that is needed for the employee to work from home. To the extent possible the Company may shift the stuff available at work. If need be the company has to get some things made. Many of the Employees may not have an office chair at home. They should not start developing new physical ailments coming from working ‘somehow’.
There may have to be some routines for taking the Documents from /to the Workplace. This may have to happen once in a day/ week as appropriate.
Speed up the Digital Drive: It would be good for companies to push for the Digital Drive that they may have been thinking for long. This is the time that you can go document free in your office. Prioritize that project.
Companies have to be ready for drop in Productivity at least in the first few weeks. A ‘Productivity team’ has to be constituted that will continuously look for improvements possible in the new way of working.
There will be a demand for many more Internet connections. ACT / Dongles from various service providers will have to spruce up to handle this higher demand.
Field Visits / Customer Visits
The Sales team / Purchase team may have to visit the Field. First of all these visits have to be restricted to the bare minimum.
It will be good for companies to appoint Resident Representatives quickly in all major cities where they have Customers/ Vendors. These Resident Reps should do the travelling to the Customers/Vendors. This will minimize the Train / Air travels. Allow these Resident Reps to work for other companies also if one Company cannot fill up the time of one Rep. This can be decided on case to case basis.
The Vendors will have to be encouraged to set up the Video conferencing facilities as needed. Probably companies like Cisco have to get ready for a bigger demand for their products.
This is very crucial to maintain the Productivity. Otherwise there can be many frustrations.
Vendor Digital Connect: This is again the right time to connect all your Vendors and start getting crucial information thru the net. You have to think of connecting your Suppliers and Critical machines in Supplier place in such a manner that you would get much more data than you had been getting earlier. This should make the Remote management much easier.
The Core functions like Production / Quality / Process Engineering / Product Engineering/ Stores have to work from the Factory. But as we have asked a good number of people to work from home, there will be much more place at work.
The seating of all Staff has to be modified to ensure Physical distancing. Government / Companies have to formulate Physical distancing norms. The seating has to adhere to these norms.
Every Company has to formulate a list of new Behaviors that the team has to practice. Some Behaviors may be as follows:
- No Hand Shake. Practice Namaste.
- Monitoring the Body temperature at the gate as well as at the Canteen entry/Exit points.
- No Staff meetings. The meetings have to be from their Desks only using a meeting tool.
- Staggered Lunch / Breaks to avoid crowding.
- Mandatory usage of hand sanitizer every hour.
- If there are Manufacturing Processes that require crowding, the processes have to be re-engineered quickly. Eg. If Assembly lines are designed to keep the operators very close, now you may think of pushing stations away a bit to ensure Physical distancing.
- It has to be mandated that everyone in the Shop floor will wear Face masks and Gloves that will be discarded every shift.
- An Initial Sanitizing process has to be introduced at every line / every station.
- Shop floor PA system has to be used to good effect for the Shift beginning / ending meetings. This is to avoid crowding of people at one place.
Every Contact point between Two people has to be thought of and it has to be de-risked. Companies that are certified for ISO 14000 would know the ‘Hazard identification and Risk assessment study’ HIRA Study. The HIRA Study has to be taken to entirely a new level.
It is easy to make several rules within the organization. But the weakness of Indian Teams is adherence to the Rules.
The fear of the invisible Virus is a good motivator for following Rules. But every Company has to put in place a close monitoring system to avoid violations. Willful or otherwise.
A Company can start with a Small Cross functional team whose only job is to ensure the Hygiene rules are being followed.
Digitalize the Hygiene Rule Monitoring
After understanding the problems in following rules and improving the system, a Company can consider going for a Video analytics software that can detect the violations of the Hygiene rules of a Company through CC TV Video.
With the help of Video analytics, it is possible to monitor the Rule following by the teams.
Indian Companies have not been focusing on the Training. Now it is mandatory for the Companies to take Training of its’ staff more seriously. They have to improve the Productivity of staff to make up for the possible drop in Productivity due to new Hygiene practices.
This Training also has to be done remotely as far as possible as getting Employees in to one room is not advisable.
Companies have to go for E-Learning practices sooner than later on.
Extended Responsibility of Companies
Companies will have to take the responsibility of avoiding the crowding of Public places by their employees.
Companies will have to pick up their employees right from their doorsteps to ensure they do not crowd the public transport system.
It would be good to have the Companies tie up with Grocers and Vegetable suppliers to let employees buy these essentials right at the Factory and take them home.
Many Companies provide accommodation to the Migrant labor. This has to be continued even when the Business is down and for next 18 months no company should discontinue any Migrant labor.
Companies should take up a focus on Wellness of Employees by supporting them with activities like Yoga, Zumba and other practices. This will ensure that the Employees are in good Physical and Mental health.
Government may mandate this and ask this internal initiative to be linked to ‘Banega Swasth India’ campaign.
Government needs to support the Manufacturing Companies by way of Direct benefits that would put Cash in the hands of Companies to bear all this additional expenditure. The Companies can be given a Target to improve their efficiencies to cover the additional expenditure in ‘x’ months.
Government will not be able to sustain the subsidies forever.
Every Company has to find its’ own set of practices. But following the Physical distancing norms of the Government / Company should be the goal all of us chase.
Without this, the Companies will start suffering badly. It is in our interest to ensure the Industry is in good health so that it can support the society at large.
Digitalization and Industry 4.0 can come to the aid of the Indian Manufacturing in all these efforts.
Definitely this way of working will add more hardship and expense to your company. But I suspect , you may not have much choice.
Carona may not be the last virus to hit us. We have to prepare for Bio warfare anyway. The time has come!
Are you Working on your Safe Re-opening Plans?