Expert view: Top tips for manufacturing through a pandemic

Kevin Gates, Managing Director at Neoperl UK, shares his tips for manufacturers dealing with the COVID-19 crisis

Expert view: Top tips for manufacturing through a pandemic

Like all UK businesses, the Neoperl management team’s time has been monopolised by the Coronavirus over the past few months.

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A global company-wide task force and protocol was created early on, which has been constantly updated and referenced against UK Government guidelines, to help the UK production unit develop best practice.

We’ve got the advantage of being part of a global business with manufacturing facilities across the world, so some areas were experiencing this pandemic ahead of the UK and making changes that were then shared across the group.

At Neoperl UK, we have kept the factory open throughout the crisis, as we supply sanitation products to hospitals – meaning we had to find new ways of working early on. Overall creating a safe way of working to ensure staff are protected and customer supply chains unaffected has been our priority.

Here are my top tips that may help others in the industry:

Social distancing, hand-washing & temperature checks

These were early steps, implemented in February, with hand sanitising stations at entrances and clocking-in points. We also increased the frequency of cleaning in all areas with deep cleaning every fortnight.

Thermal imaging cameras were introduced in March allowing staff to measure their temperatures on arrival at work and face coverings too are available should staff request them.

Clear communication

We ensured that regular information was sent out to staff and customers using a range of media. This included the electronic display boards in the factory, group messenger to home based staff, Zoom virtual meetings alongside instructional point of sale and traditional emails.

Health & Safety

We used a H&S approach to give structure when looking at UK government guidelines, assessing the risks and turning them into safe systems of work. Feedback from the workforce helped make the measures practical, while observational auditing monitors how effective the process is to improve on as necessary.

Make risk assessments the bedrock of your Health & Safety management system. Keep controls simple and keep your paperwork up to date – you may well need it.

Safety signage

POS was erected throughout our facilities, giving clear guidance on hazards and what employees should and shouldn’t do.

Staggered break times

Break times are now arranged in shifts allowing rest areas to be used safely with fewer staff using them at any one time.

Home working was introduced early on, where practical, and all recorded within the risk assessment. This immediately lowered the density of people in the office areas, making social distancing much easier.

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Make space

Where possible machinery and equipment were moved and spread out. Touch screens are now used with styluses and in some areas operators have their own key board which they unplug and take with them at the end of their shift. Doors remain open where possible (when they are not firecheck status)