The disruption created by the COVID-19 pandemic stressed the entire manufacturing sector.  For the most part, manufacturers responded to those challenges quickly and responsibly.  Now that every state has begun reopening, the manufacturing sector will once again be called on to lead.  Manufacturers which respond well to those challenges will thrive in the months ahead.

Six Essential Questions

Every manufacturer should answer six essential questions.  How manufacturers answer those questions will depend on the needs of each business, local conditions on the ground, and the response of employees and customers.

In this first of two posts on planning for the return to business, I will focus on the first two of the critical six questions which manufacturers may wish to ask themselves as part of their plan to return to business.

Does the Manufacturer Have a Reopening Plan

“Poor planning ensures poor performance.”  To successfully manage the reopening process, every business may wish to create a written reopening plan.  One way to create such a plan is to form a committee.  Members of the committee can include one or more business leaders (who know the customer base), human resources leaders (who understand the workforce), facilities or site leaders (who understand the each physical location where the business operates), information technology leaders (who understand the systems required and their limitations, for example with respect to disinfecting them), and security and safety leaders (who understand physical security and occupational health and safety concerns).  Using her or his own expertise, each team member can review every aspect of the plan – identifying and addressing plan “gaps.”  While in writing, the plan must be flexible.  Task one leader to monitor government, OSHA, CDC and state guidance and alert the team to developments requiring plan modifications.

Can the Manufacturer Reopen?

Whether an essential business or not, each state government controls the timing and extent of reopening.  Failure to comply with government requirements may result in the loss of a business license and a complex, time-consuming, appeal process.  In some cases, if the business has been operating as an essential business, state-specific “Sector Guidance” may impose dramatic new restrictions which the business previously did not have to meet.  Further, if the business can reopen or expand under the state’s rules, some thought should be given to whether it should reopen.  It may make little sense to “open up” the business if customers and employees remain wary of engaging on a broad basis.  For some, waiting until public confidence returns could be the better strategy.

In the next post, I will focus on the next four questions which every manufacturer may wish to ask as part of its reopening plan.