Manufacturers of essential goods must continue to operate throughout the current COVID-19 pandemic. As the health of employees is a top priority, many factories already have implemented excellent hygiene standards, including routine hand-washing procedures and standards procedures for cleaning work surfaces and machinery.
But the nature of COVID-19 requires factories to go beyond normal safety and hygiene practices. What is needed now are preventive measures to avoid infections as much as possible. This includes physical distancing and new forms of shop-floor organization that limit equipment sharing. Also, in case of employees have been hit by COVID-19, organizations must be able to trace contacts of infected people to contain further spread. Production disruptions due to missing people must be avoided. In many cases, that means that new approaches for shift planning need to be implemented.
But how exactly are companies supposed to implement such measures in short times?
We have put together a list of four tips on how to implement safe work routines in the era of COVID-19. As WORKERBASE provides an agile production system that helps companies to move fast with mobile devices, we focus on tips that can be implemented in only a few days with the help of smartphones and tablets.
The underlying principle of all measures is effective communication. Ensure that all employees understand that preventive measures are important. Communication is key and can be organized effectively with the use of digital tools. Make sure mobile devices are available to everyone and implement safe and effective communication channels. By using platforms such as WORKERBASE you can create channels for communication in a short time. Also, the platform allows you to realize on-demand and on-the-job tutorial, to e.g. train employees on using the right hygiene and cleaning routines. Such tutorials do not have to be produced centrally. Empower your people and let them create educational material on their own! With mobile devices, people can create and share instructions (e.g. short video snippets) while working on the shopfloor and share it with co-workers. This multiplies the wisdom of experienced colleagues and can help to onboard new workers in a short time. And by making training a team effort, you increase motivation and at the same time broaden the skill base of your organization. As a result, you cross-train employees to perform essential functions so the workplace can operate even if key employees are absent.
To prevent infections, it is an absolute necessity to limit human interactions as much as possible. The key idea here is to separate team processes into individual tasks wherever possible. By transforming paper-based processes with human interaction into fully digital workflows without face-to-face interaction you can reduce the number of people working together at any given time. For example, during shift handovers, avoid personal meetings by using digital checklists on personal mobile devices and assign all open items automatically to employees working in the next shift. The WORKERBASE platform includes a skill-based delegation mechanism for the efficient handover of tasks to the employees who can finish a job - without human interaction. The same principle applies to all required coordination tasks during shifts. For example, material management very often includes interaction between several employees. By using digital workflows on mobile devices, such interactions can become contact-less. Operators at certain workstations order material through digital interfaces and people in the warehouse get orders on their smartphones.
By organizing shifts differently you can reduce the number of people working nearby at any given time. Staggered shifts may sound difficult to organize, but with the help of digital tools for scheduling and coordination, you can set up this in an efficient way. Especially in usually concentrated factory areas such as manual packing lines you can reduce human interactions by digitally coordinating all required tasks and thus limit any unnecessary crossover. The WORKERBASE platform allows to dynamically assign tasks to people and locations. With this concept, you can easily implement working zones and restrict access to zones that are non-essential for certain functions.
By tracing people’s contacts you allow for containment actions in case of an outbreak. This requires the tracking of all human interactions. You can use mobile devices to track interactions of people and their locations, either implicitly, e.g. with Bluetooth beacons or explicitly, by asking workers to log their interactions and locations. While using paper forms for documenting all meetings is tedious, the use of digital tools can speed this up tremendously. An efficient method is to ask people to scan barcodes of other people and locations with their devices. For example, the WORKERBASE app provides a profile function with individual barcodes for each user. When interacting with colleagues, workers only need to scan each other's barcode to log their interaction in the system. In combination with implicit location data provided by sensors such as Bluetooth beacons, this becomes a powerful dataset for tracing people's interaction. As this sounds like a data-privacy nightmare, the WORKERBASE software allows you to customize the tracking levels and uses anonymization features to comply with data privacy regulations.
We at WORKERBASE understand it is a challenging time for all factory workers as they continue to provide essential products in times of high uncertainty and fear. We have created a comprehensive Safe Work App package to support you in the best way we can - please contact us in case you are interested. Stay Healthy!