By Tara Gibson - September 8, 2020
The manufacturing industry has been through a tough time recently. Not only have workplace operations been affected by COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing safety measures, transportation issues have resulted in inbound supply chain shortages and outbound supply chain bottlenecks.
On a wider scale, demand for manufactured products has fallen through the floor in certain sectors of the industry (i.e. aviation); while suppliers to the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors are also suffering as their customers experience a decline in demand due to lockdowns, high unemployment rates, and a lack of consumer confidence.
Furthermore, there is a great deal of uncertainty about how long the pandemic will last, and whether it will get any worse before it gets any better. Without the option of remote working, many businesses in the manufacturing industry are unable to make plans for the future - if indeed they have a future once financial stimulus packages come to an end and the inevitable credit squeeze starts.
Possibly one of the best-known examples of a business adapting its operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic was GM, who switched production from automobiles to ventilators and medical-grade protective masks in order to support the healthcare system. Other businesses also redeployed assets to reduce production waste or innovate for a greener planet.
However, workers employed at these manufacturing plants encountered a very different workplace environment and new procedures as they arrived. For example, at GM, every worker had their temperatures taken on arrival at the workplace, were required to sanitize their hands, and wear protective masks throughout their shifts.
GM also changed shift patterns to allow for cleaning between shifts, staggered breaks to minimize social contact, and imposed a one-way system for entering and leaving the building. Some businesses went even further with taking precautions - Unilever and the Coca-Cola Company prohibiting workers from flying during the pandemic, and Honda limiting restroom capacity.
The challenge of communicating revised working practices and updated procedures amid the COVID-19 pandemic is a result of manufacturing plants closing down temporarily and then re-opening when it is safe to do so. During the period when the plants are closed, using technology to maintain contact with most workers is possible, but not with all workers.
Only 81% of the U.S. population owns a smartphone capable of receiving emails or running apps such as Skype and Zoom, and the percentage falls to just above 70% among low paid workers and in rural areas. This means some business may not be able to contact up to 30% of its workforce without calling each one individually - a potentially time-consuming and expensive task.
The challenge is compounded when businesses are re-opening with a limited production workforce while continuing to furlough others. Some workers might not only be unaware of the updated procedures, but also whether or not they are supposed to come to work at all. Failing to address this challenge could result in business disruption - especially if infected employees return to the workplace.
The most cost-efficient way to overcome communication challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic is with a text messaging platform. Even among lower paid workers in rural areas, 95% own a cellphone capable of receiving a text message; and although relying on an “older” technology may feel like taking a step back in time, it is the most effective way of communicating with workers.
A text messaging platform, or mass notification solution, not only helps businesses keep in touch with workers while they are furloughed or self-isolating, it can be used in many different circumstances in the workplace to improve internal communications. For example, text messages can remind workers to maintain social distancing or to sanitize high touch surfaces at the end of their shifts.
A further benefit of a mass notification system is that the communication solution typically supports unlimited database segmentation. This means contacts in the database can be tagged by role, location, or other attribute so businesses can organize staggered breaks between teams, or advise workers by location of a potential close contact with an infected colleague.
Tara is a Marketing Coordinator on the Rave Mobile Safety marketing team. She loves writing about all things K-12, State & Local, Higher Ed, Corporate, and Healthcare, and manages the Rave social media channels. When she's not working, she's taking care of her smiley, shoe eating, Instagram-famous fur baby, Enzo!
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