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Post-COVID world: The ‘New Normal’ Of Manufacturing

The fight against this pandemic is going to be long and manufacturers must support each other to ensure an uninterrupted supply chain.

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The Coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdown has severely disrupted the Indian economy and the manufacturing sector. While the lockdown is imperative to flatten the curve and protect the country’s one billion-plus population, the risks of this prolonged clampdown is expected to have complex ramifications. 

The pandemic, also known to be the infamous black swan of 2020, has hit manufacturers in an unprecedented way. In the history of modern manufacturing, it is for the first time- demand, supply and workforce availability have simultaneously been impacted by the same level of adversity across the global.

In India, while the manufacturing of essential goods has been exempted from the lockdown, forward-thinking states like Karnataka have taken this one step further by allowing local aerospace and defence players to resume operations. This move would protect aerospace manufacturers from extreme disruption and mitigate any implications due to existing delays.

Planning for the new normal

Most of the aerospace and defence manufacturers have resumed operations with a limited workforce and vigilant guidelines. With the well-being of the workforce on the shop floor becoming a key priority for organizations, it is important to exercise extreme caution during this gradual return to normalcy. Companies have also extended their support and have enforced precautions on their partners and vendors across the supply chain to reduce the spread of the virus. 

It is also important to plan for this ‘new normal’ by preparing agile contingency plans. This will help ensure business continuity in case the existing situation deteriorates in the near future.

Protecting your workforce

While the immediate step for manufacturers would ensure a seamless supply chain, the well-being of employees should be at the forefront while making any business-related decisions.

Organizations must create extensive guidelines for employees and stakeholders. This can be distributed as guidebooks to key business heads and factory operators on the shop floor to follow religiously. Workers can be inducted into the new safety and hygiene guidelines with a briefing session when they start their shift. This can be reinforced through visuals elements across the facility.

Manufacturers have restricted entry to facilities to increase their scope of control. As They must immediately build infrastructure to screen employees and visitors on a regular basis. This includes identifying individuals displaying the symptoms as well as screening asymptomatic personnel frequently.

Social distancing is of paramount importance on the shop-floor. Workers must maintain a distance of 1m between each other at all times to significantly reduce their chances of catching the virus from a colleague. While social distancing norms might reduce the speed of overall production, it is necessary to meet the long-term goals of the manufacturer to remain free of infections. 

Additionally, organizations must understand that its employees look up to the leaders to protect their interests and provide direction during this difficult time. While the government has allowed manufacturers to resume operations, the workforce might still be apprehensive of returning to work. These fears associated with health and safety should be acknowledged and addressed by the company by creating a platform for transparent two-way dialogue.

How to prepare effectively for the worst-case scenario of COVID-19 detection?

Despite best efforts, safety and health measures taken by organizations act as precautionary guidelines online. While they must be followed extensively, manufacturers must also be prepared to deal with the worst-case scenario of an employee or worker displaying COVID-19 symptoms.

An action plan for immediate addressal must be created before operations are resumed as this would include next steps, roles and responsibilities and relevant point of contacts. Once the individual is isolated, he can then be tested to confirm suspicions and then take necessary actions. People who work with the individual or who have been in close physical proximity of the affected person must also be quarantined to reduce the impact and spread of the virus.

The country is presently moving towards a staggered exit phase of the lockdown. Considering that aerospace and defence manufacturers have recently resumed operations, other manufacturing companies can learn from other’s experiences to improvise and adopt best practices. The fight against this pandemic is going to be long and manufacturers must support each other to ensure an uninterrupted supply chain.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
COVID-19 manufacturing

Aravind Melligeri

The author is CEO & Chairman, Aequs Aerospace

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