There has been no handbook for the COVID-19 crisis, and there is no single solution for factories and distribution centers when returning to work. And for some, it’s not a return at all. Employees in sectors such as food distribution and medical supplies have spent the last few months working harder than ever, while braving the unknown and adapting continually to a stressful situation.
Social distancing, access, sanitation, local regulations and more — virtually every aspect of the business model needs to be rethought to ensure the safety of employees and prevent a new wave of the virus. This means executing health and safety plans and considering opportunities for what comes next.
Above all else, leaders must put humans at the center of any plans, and lead with empathy, humility and respect.
You can think about this for your supply chain in two phases: physical return to work and work reimagined.
Physical return to work: visibility, transparency, speed, accountability
During the pandemic, there has been increased scrutiny and pressure on certain industries’ factories and distribution centers to continue making and delivering food, medical supplies, cleaning supplies and other everyday items safely.
But for those that have not been operating at all, or only at partial strength, a physical return is not as simple as opening the company doors. Putting people front and center means first considering the safety, security and well-being of returning employees, whether they are plant floor supervisors, machine operators, warehouse workers or forklift and truck drivers.
EY Global Advanced Manufacturing Sector Leader Jerry Gootee says, “Production plants face unique hurdles, as working from home is not an option for workers on the factory floor. For them, social distancing can be difficult or even impossible to maintain.”
There will be new supply chain processes and new considerations; there is no more business as usual. Instead, businesses need to focus on seeing operations through a future-back lens (e.g., using tomorrow’s models to guide today’s actions) and building resilience into their operations as they do it.