How to Mitigate COVID-19 Risks in Manufacturing with Work Order Management Software

How to Mitigate COVID-19 Risks in Manufacturing with Work Order Management Software

As COVID-19 has left a global footprint on how organizations do business, the ways to make the workplace safer, standard processes and procedures have to be consistently reviewed, audited, and updated to guarantee the safety of employees and customers, especially in the manufacturing industry.

This blog is intended to provide employers with helpful tips to prevent and control employees' exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) in the manufacturing environment, reduce financial overruns and mitigate the consequences of so-called “black swan” events.

In this post:

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the manufacturing industry
  • Identifying and controlling the risks
  • Five actions to ensure the agility you need in 2021 and beyond
  • Legal duties for businesses and employers responding to Coronavirus disease
  • The asset management toolkit: how to create business value rapidly and intelligently with a work order management software

The challenge of manufacturing maintenance teams now is two-fold: they have to keep assets online and facilities free of COVID-19. To prevent the unintentional spread of the virus, each department of an organization should be involved, especially asset maintenance professionals due to the collaborative nature of their daily duties. 

Unlike plant leaders, frontline manufacturing staff can’t switch to the relative safety of remote work. Therefore general management is looking for ways to operate through the immediate crisis — all while preparing for a potentially much longer period of heightened uncertainty regarding demand and supply, and a lasting need to maintain enhanced hygiene,  and maximized physical distancing.   

That being said, operational changes have to be properly planned, scheduled, and tracked to ensure your plant is both productive and safe. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the manufacturing industry

Global panic concerning a new wave of COVID-19 infections or mutated virus variants tops the list of threats to business recoveries, despite preventive measures and renewed way of doing business. The findings indicate that the virus continues to set the pace for growth plans and risk outlooks, even as most enterprises have moved to fully reopen their economies, and more CFO respondents say financial prospects are improving. 

There are three prior areas to focus on when rebuilding the processes and updating them to the “next normal”: 

  1. Protect the workforce and guarantee its safety: Formalize, standardize and digitize operating procedures, processes, and tools that help keep staff safe. There are dozens of steps and phases that can be brought to digital by means of custom-made enterprise software. Build workforce confidence through effective, two-way communication that responds to employees’ concerns through flexible adaptation.
  2. Identify the risks and mitigate them to ensure business continuity: Plan your initial crisis response beforehand, anticipate potential changes, use advanced analytics to foresee the consequences, and model the way the plant should react well ahead of the fluctuations to enable rapid, fact-based actions. Each group of employees should be aware of the predicted challenges and updates that will be implemented. 
  3. Transform all possible processes to remote: Continue to effectively manage performance at the plant while physical distancing and remote working policies remain in place. Meanwhile, you will get the chance to enhance the business efficiency by going digital and extend the horizons of your organization. 

According to PwC, among the top concerns evoked by COVID-19 we can highlight the following:

  • Financial impact, including effects on results of operations, future periods, liquidity, and capital resources disturb the 71% of respondents 
  • The potential global recession is a pain point for 42%
  • 39% of entrepreneurs are very afraid of the effects on the workforce/reduction in productivity

Identifying and controlling the risks

Manufacturing is definitely one of the cornerstones of the global economy, employing hundreds of thousands of people producing food, textiles, wood, printing, chemicals, metal, machinery, and other goods. Asset maintenance specialists in the manufacturing industry are at risk of being exposed to COVID-19 at their workplace through factors such as:

  • shared handling of products, including raw materials during the manufacturing process
  • interacting with delivery drivers or contractors attending the organization
  • close contact with fellow employees in dynamic, intensive production processes
  • shared handling of plant, equipment, and manufactured goods
  • lots of non-direct employees such as labor hire employees, sales managers, clients, suppliers, and others

While implementing risk mitigation strategies, business owners should consider each group of employees, from those handling deliveries of raw materials through to those involved in producing the final manufactured goods. This long laundry list covers manufacturing, packaging, storage, warehouses, forklift movement, cleaning and maintenance, cafeteria staff, administration, contractors, and their employees who have to come onsite to carry out work for the employer, such as the servicing and maintenance of equipment. 

Recently our team delivered a top-notch enterprise project, providing the full-cycle digital transformation service to optimize the performance of the organization and transform most processes from manual to digital. We developed the enterprise software to align with fast-changing customer’s needs, preventive quarantine measures, and ever-growing market requirements. Run through the Case Study for more. 

Some of the main factors that could contribute to manufacturing employees contracting coronavirus include:

  1. Interaction with suppliers and customers
  2. Taking into account today’s situation, subcontractors and clients will barely insist on visiting the organization voluntarily, but sometimes employees still have close interactions with external clients, such as suppliers providing raw materials for the manufacturing process or other persons not employed by the business, such as sales managers and consultants.

  3. Handling disinfected products and surfaces
  4. Accepting delivery of raw materials, on production lines, during packaging and preparing goods for transportation, some groups of staff have to handle products handled by others.

  5. Common use and maintenance of equipment and raw materials
  6. Unfortunately, it’s totally impossible to provide a personal toolkit for everyone, so more than one person may have contact with equipment during its use or when maintenance is required, for example, shared workstations, trolleys, and forklifts, and machinery operation controls such as handles, levers, and switches.

  7. Distance between employees
  8. In most cases, employees work close to one another on production lines, on the factory floor, and at other locations, such as entrances/exits to the workplace, including gates, doorways, and turnstiles, clocking in/out points, break rooms, locker/changing rooms, showers, and toilets. 

  9. Duration and initial need of close communication
  10. Sometimes, employees have prolonged close interaction with each other, such as on production and packing lines. Continued close interaction with potentially infectious individuals increases the risk of getting infected or transmitting the coronavirus.

Getting Used to “New Normal” and Mitigating the Risks

To eliminate or at least reduce this risk, employers have to so far as reasonably practicable, make every reasonable effort to ensure the safety of employees according to the Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019.

First of all, administrative, corporate, or office workers can work from home, being equipped with the tools required to perform their job smoothly, effectively, and in a manner without risk to their mental and physical health.

To minimize the chances of transmitting coronavirus throughout the workplace employers have been recommended to implement an employee screening process. If someone from the staff experiences any symptoms, has been or has potentially been exposed to someone who has been diagnosed with or is suspected of having coronavirus, he or she should instantly inform the management team.   

It’s commonly known that COVID-19 spreads by people coughing or sneezing, causing airborne droplets to transmit from one person to another. This is why the entrepreneurs should provide free face masks in workplaces, requiring the staff to maintain at least a 1.5m distance between them, customers, and other visitors to the premises to protect them. This includes the factory floor, entry and exit points, toilets and change rooms, lunch and break areas, dining and smoking areas, office areas, and at meetings.

Employers are recommended to increase usual cleaning practices, including at the end of each shift, and comply with cleaning directions issued by the CHO in the manufacturing sector. Business owners ought to ensure frequently touched surfaces including handrails and door handles are cleaned and disinfected with appropriate detergent or disinfectant solutions on a regular basis.

There are some additional rules to avoid handling shared tools and equipment wherever possible and eliminate shared use through providing cleaning products, for example, alcohol spray or solution, where communal tools and equipment are located and make sure all operators thoroughly wash with soap and water or sanitize their hands before and after every use

Special attention has to be paid to ensuring that all parts of tools, plant, and equipment, for example, buttons, switches, levers, handles, and handrails, are wiped down before and after use. Therefore, the shared use of phones, desks, offices, computers, and other devices should also be temporarily avoided, or if it’s not possible - the above-mentioned items should be regularly disinfected.

5 actions to ensure the agility you need in 2021 and beyond

The disruption of manufacturing caused by the pandemic of COVID-19 has severe operational, social, and financial consequences. It is forcing manufacturers to rethink, redesign and rebuild risk management and contingency plans, workforce safety protocols, manufacturing operations, and new ways of working opportunities, all at the same time. From solving the immediate challenges required to keep the business as stable as possible to building a business that is future-proof using new technology solutions, we’ll provide you with 5 key practices to sustain a competitive advantage and accelerate business growth once economies start to rebound.

  • Provide manufacturing ecosystem viability
  • Analyze the impact of demand disruption
  • Ensure workforce safety and productivity
  • Leverage digital capabilities
  • Rebuilt physical production network assets

To build resilience in manufacturing, it’s highly recommended to deploy a digital solution. Its features include but are not limited to, a whole range of functions, such as demand/portfolio analysis, demand/supply scenario analysis, labor/skill identification and scheduling, remote work capabilities, ecosystem relationship collaboration, and network analysis. 

Manufacturers with digital platforms, accessible data, scenario simulation/modeling, advanced network analysis, mobile and remote worker enablement, remote operations centers, ecosystem relationship collaboration, physical automation, robotics, and advanced analytical capabilities will be able to respond more quickly, accurately, and successfully to COVID-19 disruptions. We are already seeing the exceptional speed of standing up remote ways of working within plant and production environments – now is the time to keep accelerating these ideas that have been on the digital plan.

Work Order Management Software in Manufacturing

Simply put, a work order management system is any codified set of procedures that are designed to catalog facilities’ requests and create action plans to keep each production step under control, but it’s only scratching the surface. 

Work order management systems provide business owners with the ability to control and manage their production efficiently at a level of detail best suited to your requirements and ensures all costs, components and built products can be accurately recorded. With the functionality to manage multi-level bills of materials, subcontracted processes, and customised revisions, this software offers a tailored solution that makes controlling stock and working through processes both simple, controlled and massively streamlined.

Key Facts of Work Order Management Software

  • Strike the right balance of speed and accuracy 
  • Manage unlimited processes and levels 
  • Schedule production with a tailor-made planner
  • Scan through works orders with WMS
  • Record all costs and equipment for true profitability 
  • Complex multi-stage builds and sub-assemblies 
  • Flexible set up with multiple revisions and options 
  • Progress visibility of each works order 
  • Complete traceability and audit trail 
  • Build-to-order and meet sales/stock demand 
  • Functionality to handle reverse bill of materials

Work order management software provides the information to keep production moving and orders fulfilled whilst efficiently controlling cost and warehouse space. Working to your needs, its modules ensure component stock is ordered, products manufactured on time, cost-effective quantities are produced, order dates are met and stock levels adjusted accordingly as products are built. Throughout production, the staff is also kept informed of the progress status of each work order. 

Key Features Include 

  • To manufacture report to generate works orders for current sales and stock demand 
  • Create works orders for specific manufactured items or sub-assemblies 
  • Record unlimited processes, as well as set up, clean down, and per-item costs 
  • Record both estimated and actual costs 
  • Simple sub-contracted process management 
  • Absorb product failure costs across batches 
  • Batch edit, split, merge, and transfer works orders 
  • Retain serial/batch numbers and expiry dates
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