COVID-19: Best Practices for Manufacturers

Cleaning & Disinfecting Best Practices

Questions to Ask Yourself

How will unemployment changes in Tennessee affect you?

  • The state has made it much easier for an employee who has been laid off to get unemployment, and it has extended those benefits to those who are forced out of work due to coronavirus.
  • Your future rates will likely not go up directly based on the number of people let go in your facility, they will be “mutualized” across all employers. There may be future federal relief so that rates don’t go up too much in the future as well.

Have you communicated with your customers? 

Do not forget to communicate with your customers! You as the CEO might want to step in here to be sure you roll out the red carpet and keep your customers close. In the last recession, those who stopped communicating did not fare well when things got good again. Being there for your customers when things are bad will ensure that you have a loyal customer when things turn around.

Have you invested and updated your cybersecurity?

This now-ubiquitous issue never goes away. There has been a rise in phishing schemes taking advantage of panic-stricken employees.  It never hurts to reinforce the need to respond appropriately to strange emails.

How do you plan to add a personal touch?

  • What are you doing provide accommodations for and comfort to those who are at risk, or those who are fearful of being at risk? What communications are you sending? Are you able to increase the distance your employees need to be near each other? Are you able to make some exceptions for those who may be at risk?

    Working remotely may not be an ideal option for most of you. But if some of your team is remote, you should consider a business license to Zoom, WebEx, Skype, or Microsoft Teams which is likely already loaded or available for download if you use Office365. Click on this article for other thoughts on going remote.
  • You can do A LOT to provide a personal touch that helps calm your employees and shows them you respect their efforts and dedication by; being physically present, talking openly about future plans, not having too many closed door meetings, communicating with your staff every day, making sure you know about your employees’ personal concerns (even if all you can do is be empathetic) and ensuring your managers are keeping up with the emotional state of their direct reports.

  • Oh, and don’t forget that there are some crazy rumors out there.  Stop the spread of misinformation by debunking those for your employees. FEMA has created a Rumor Control Site to help with this.

Will you look for the opportunity in the midst of uncertainty?

We believe that our manufacturers are the foundation of our economy and when we come out the other end of this crisis, we can be stronger than before. We can choose to use any extra time we have to plan, to look for talent now, to increase our roster of A-players later, to start thinking of how to minimize future supply chain disruption through reshoring products, and to plan for 18 months from now when we can again invest in new ways of doing things. There is always a silver lining…even if we have a marathon to get through first. What opportunity is just beyond our reach today that, with your strategic vision, you can aspire to? Maybe today is too soon to think about it, but when the day-to-day crisis management becomes overwhelming, perhaps sitting back to think about the future again is the right thing to do.

What actions inside the plant have others taken to keep coronavirus away?

Some manufacturers locally and around the world are going to great lengths to protect themselves and their employees.  Here are some of the things that others are doing.  Please note that we are giving you the best ideas we have seen to figure out what will work for your company. More details and complete guides can be found herehere, and here.

  • All office teams work remotely (sales team, marketing teams and finance teams as well as back-office). When this isn’t possible, spread out remaining staff as far as possible and hold not in-person meetings – use remote tools even room-to-room.
  • People should keep 6 feet distance when they talk and even some things are being rearranged in the plant to accommodate others working 6 feet from one another if possible.  As this may become the new normal, any steps you take now to spread areas out will likely be good for the future too.
  • Temperature checks before entering the factory gate (use IR scanning thermometer that does not require touching skin or ear temperature with an alcohol swab in between). Note: there are legal implications for this (see here). A person who shows temperature above 99.5 degrees is not allowed to enter.
  • Wearing a masks or other PPE while in the factory (there is a shortage now, so this is not likely useful).
  • All doors are left open or even removed when appropriate to eliminate surfaces.
  • Increase ventilation rates and increase the percentage of outdoor air that circulates into the system
  • Buy all no-touch disposal receptacle or remove lids that require contact to open.
  • Disinfect all touched surfaces between each shift.
  • Eliminate all routine shift hand-off meetings or limit them to just particular people or do them virtually.
  • If you can move from 1 or 2 shifts to 3 shifts and keep each shift with the same people each day, then if one shift is sick the others are protected. This arrangement can also work by have one crew for part of the week and one crew for the other part of the week.  This may also accommodate shifting child care schedules.
  • Stagger shift start/stop times, break times, and lunchtimes to minimize congregations at the time clocks or break areas.
  • Zone the factory and prohibit employees from wandering into zones where they do not need to be to perform their jobs.
  • Isolate key personnel without whom the factory cannot operate (e.g., boiler operators, wastewater treatment engineers, lead electricians, maintenance, etc.) to prevent them from getting ill.
  • Shutdown the plant when production is not needed (even if you ramp on and off on a daily basis). Every bit of time not spent around other people may eliminate the spread of the virus.

Have you disinfected all of the proper areas in your plant?

  • Machine control panels
  • Tow motor and other vehicles
  • Packaging centers
  • Shipping/receiving offices and docks
  • Locker rooms
  • Restrooms
  • Break/lunch rooms
  • Time clocks
  • Administrative offices
  • Air conditioner coils and drip pans
  • Shared computers, telephones and office supplies

All surfaces are not the same, it’s critical to follow the proper procedure for disinfecting based on the type of surface being disinfected.  The specific procedure for disinfecting the variety of surface at your manufacturing facility varies depending upon the type of cleaner you are using (make sure it is EPA registered product against coronavirus and that you leave it on the surface for long enough).  One local companies products are sure to do that if you are concerned:

Have you checked your insurance coverages?

Simply put, consult your lawyer and insurance broker at the same time to see how you are covered for business interruptions or employee issues.This is a complex topic spanning multiple forms of insurance, each potentially with its own (often unclear) definition of what triggers a reimbursable loss (e.g., what if you have to shut down based on exposure versus actual COVID-19 infections?)  Having this discussion now, sets you up to have your proverbial ducks in a row in case you are impacted.

More details here:

Have you modeled your cash position?

  1. Cash is king: Do you know if you have enough? If you come up short, reach out to your bank to try and leverage your line of credit.

  2. Do “zero-based budgeting.” Examine your entire P&L to determine what is essential vs. non-essential. Then look at headcount; who are your A-players? Do whatever you can to keep them, even if they aren’t productive right now. They are impossibly hard to find, so do whatever it takes.

  3. And, if after you leverage your line of credit you still don’t have enough, check out:

    1. SBA’s disaster relief loans (up to $2M) –we have more information we can share if you need it. Start here:  

      1. Low-interest loans of up to $2 million are available for small businesses and private non-profits.
      2. Loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills and have repayment options of up to 30 years. 
      3. Interest rates are 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for private non-profits.
      4. Need help filling out the application? Access these step-by-step instructions



Provided by Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry

The COVID-19 virus could be the single greatest threat to business continuity over the next 12-18 months and has caused us to re-evaluate how we work. Manufacturers are looking for ways to keep employees, customers, suppliers and their communities healthy. Expectations are that this global pandemic could last months, and employers need to develop strategies to protect employees and their ability to conduct business for a sustained period. Manufacturers are coming together to share their best practices. Here is a summary of those best practices. These are not designed to be for every manufacturer but an example that could be adopted/modified for your business:

  1. Meet with all employees and discuss good hygiene habits such as washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitation should occur every 30 minutes. Coughs and sneezes should occur in the elbow and employees need to refrain from touching their eyes, mouth and face. Remind employees of these good habits daily if possible.
  2. Increase hand sanitizers availability throughout the facility with sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol content.
  3. Implement workstation disinfection every work shift. Desks, benches, computers, keyboards, tools, phones, etc., should be cleaned with disinfectant each work shift. For shared workstations the off-going shift wipes down and disinfects their workstation at the end of the shift and then the on-coming shift also wipes down and disinfects the workstation prior to work.
  4. Increase cleaning in “high touch” areas to every 2 hours. These areas are doorknobs, bathrooms and cafeterias/break rooms.
  5. Implement a 6 ft social distance policy wherever possible. No handshakes, fist bumps or any physical touching. Use phones and radios for communicating even when in the same area.
  6. Cancel or postpone any large meetings. Limit meetings to no more than 25 people. These include all Team Member/Town Hall Meetings, Sales conferences, etc. Encourage teleconferences/webinars even if attendees are in the facility.
  7. Close break rooms and cafeterias and have employees bring lunches from home and eat at workstation if possible. If not possible, rotate lunches to reduce the number of employees in the break room/cafeteria at one time. 
  8. Implement a “work-from-home” policy for those positions that can be conducted remotely. Use a conferencing software to keep employees engaged and productive.
  9. Review sick leave and attendance policies. Inform employees to not to come to work if they experience any symptoms or if someone in their household has experienced one or more of the symptoms.
  10. Initiate a ban on travel to all high-risk areas. Restrict all non-essential travel to other areas.
  11. Request employees to voluntarily inform you of personal travel. Any employee traveling to a high-risk area or highly populated area (Disney World, cruises, spring break locations) consider a 14-day leave for employees affected.
  12. Restrict non-essential visitors and cancel tours. Have essential visitors complete a self-assessment questionnaire.
  13. Relocate interview/recruiting efforts to off-site. Explain the “no-handshake” policy to recruits so that they understand your policy. Have candidates complete visitor self-assessment prior to interview.
  14. Prepare an isolation room that is equipped for employees exhibiting symptoms until they can get to a healthcare provider.
  15. Ensure you have proper PPE, gloves, masks, safety glasses for first responders who may have contact with affected employees.
  16. Share your procedures with your supply chain, review their policies and procedures and ensure vendors have a business continuity plan.

If you have someone in your facility that tests positive (diagnosis should remain private):

  1. Isolate individual immediately.
  2. Work with health officials to identify people who may have been in contact with the individual and determine necessary health screening, containment/quarantine of potentially affected individuals.
  3. Complete a deep sanitation of affected employee’s work area before any other employees work in the area.
  4. Require a doctor’s note for return to work.

Keeping employees healthy is not only the right thing to do but also makes good business sense. Absenteeism can rise to 15% - 30% due to sickness, quarantines, family care responsibilities or just plain fear. Managing through will require constant communications and discipline towards your policies. We can manage through this together. Please share other best practices that you are implementing. Stay vigilant and stay healthy.