Skip to Content

Restarting manufacturing operations in the post-COVID world

Chiranth Ramaswamy

The COVID pandemic has significantly decreased demand and disrupted the supply chains of manufacturers. As organizations look to ramp up production, they will need to completely revamp operating procedures. Health and safety – a key pillar of manufacturing – have taken on a whole new meaning in the current pandemic.

Manufacturers now need to adopt new procedures across all areas of operations, whether on the shop floor, in the break room, or even offsite. They require new sanitization routines, contact-less procedures, and to monitor temperature and other symptoms as well as monitor travel history or potential virus exposure for their crews. On-site workers need to change their behavior to include enhanced use of personal protective equipment (PPE), strict social distancing, restricted movements, and altered team structures, including predetermined pod structures with little intermingling. Additionally, operations managers need to conduct contact tracing if a crewmember falls sick.

Business impact of changing operation procedures

This new normal for manufacturing operations will have some implications for the business. It will mean that productivity on the shop floor will take a significant hit as shift sizes reduce and overlapping shift handovers are eliminated. Safety-related costs will also increase with manufacturers having to invest in increased training, new signage, more extensive sanitizing and cleaning routines, and so on. Additionally, the risk profiles of companies will be re-evaluated by the capital markets, and manufacturers with more automation (and therefore less risk) will be poised to receive favorable treatment.

Strategies that companies need to adopt now

While greater factory automation is a strategy that manufacturers will need to embrace in the long-term, short-term operational procedures focused on social distancing, contactless interactions, and contact tracing need to be adopted immediately. Digital tools built around mobile technologies, wearables, and analytics, coupled with training and behavior-modification exercises, can help manufacturers adapt quickly.  These are some actions that manufacturers can take now:

  • Create a digital employee and visitor system that captures self-declarations and transactional data, like employee temperatures. Simple analytics and alerting can reduce the impact of common human errors.
  • Leverage mobile apps that enable centralized and peer-to-peer communication while maintaining a history of contacts leveraging Bluetooth or GPS, depending on indoor or outdoor locations. They can also provide cues for safe behavior and offer insights to offset productivity challenges
  • Enable Bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacons on personnel to ensure that social distancing norms aren’t violated. When set up in the plant, they provide zoning and exact indoor positioning, which also enables full contact tracing if needed.
  • Use analytics from swipe systems or turnstiles in order to carry out contact tracing. Image analytics running on security camera footage can also be used for social distancing.
  • Ensure the privacy of all employees by securing systems and using features like redaction and anonymization.

Taking the next step

By taking these steps today, manufacturers can significantly reduce the risk of plant closure by ensuring distancing guidelines are met and speeding up accurate contact tracing. These approaches will help maintain productivity and must be implemented right away. In this current pandemic, manufacturers must take to heart the adage “perfect must not be allowed to become the enemy of good.”

Capgemini has vast experience in building and deploying solutions for worker safety, leveraging wearables, IoT sensors, and mobile devices. These solutions are at the forefront of ensuring productivity and safety to the manufacturing, energy, utilities, and chemical industries, and have been expanded to meet the needs of the current pandemic.