LIMA — When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, large manufacturers in the area had to quickly shift their focus to keep their doors open safely.
“There was a ton of things we had to change very quickly,” said John Shaver, senior director of manufacturing and plant manager at the Lima Procter & Gamble Plant. “Initially it was how quickly we can put things in place. So we started screening for temperatures. We started having people do a survey when they came into the plant. We set up a hotline for people to call so that they could check if they had symptoms. We did all of that within a few days of the pandemic.”
Shaver was proud of how they were able to do so much in such a short timeframe.
“We were also one of the first sites across P&G that got all those systems in place. We wanted to make sure we were reacting very quickly, based on the feedback we were getting from the medical experts,” Shaver said.
Because of the pandemic, they were able to institute a contactless system.
“We didn’t want people standing right next to each other, handing paper back and forth and talking to each other so we quickly developed some digital solutions where people could do everything. Virtually they could scan documents and see them on computer screens where they could stand far apart. Those things have stuck with us and I don’t anticipate, once the pandemic is over, we’ll ever go back, but it’s really pushed us to learn some of those digital tools. Honestly, we probably could have done it sooner, but we never had that external force to push us toward doing those things,” Shaver said.
Procter & Gamble’s Lima operation was also instrumental in ramping up the supply of hand sanitizer.
“Not only do we support P&G internally, but we also supported the community with hand sanitizer so just understanding that we built in some agile capability and we got to really push it to its limits and see how quickly we can respond to business needs,” Shaver said.
Another large area manufacturer, Crown Equipment, had to quickly pivot to keep its employees safe during the pandemic.
“We started monitoring and making sure we had people social distance. We did away with clocking in because people were standing in line too close together. We modified our break areas to have only two chairs at a table that are facing one another,” said Randy Niekamp, vice president of human resources at Crown.
They also moved machinery to social distance employees and purchased a whole lot of hand sanitizer.
“We’re buying hand sanitizer by the 55-gallon drum. We’ve got about 4,000 employees in the local area. Nationally, we’ve got about 10,000 employees. So, all these things were being done here locally, but also on all of our branch operations around the country,” Niekamp said.
The lessons learned during the pandemic were many, according to Niekamp.
“I think we learned that our people can be much more flexible than we realized and that remote work is working better than we thought it would. We use the Microsoft Teams application and it’s a very effective tool for meetings and I think that’s probably the biggest takeaways,” Niekamp said.
Early on in the pandemic, there were supply chain problems with one of the parts suppliers having to shut down in Mexico.
“We actually had dual tooling built here so we could make the parts here or had the tooling sent up from Mexico so we could make the parts here when they did get shut down for about three weeks,” Niekamp said.
Crown has also been aware of the physical and mental health needs of its employees.
“We’ve done a lot of things to promote our Employee Assistance Program, or EAP. We’ve done a lot to promote telemedicine. We’ve made sure that people have personal protective equipment. We’ve changed our short-term disability benefits to where there’s typically a one-week waiting period (but) if they were off for quarantine, there was no waiting period,” Niekamp said.
Like many businesses, Crown has had employees test positive for COVID-19.
“We’ve had a fair number of cases from around the country. We’ve created an online portal that they can report automatically and then our case managers reach out to them and we do contact tracing and then anybody that’s had close contact, we quarantine them,” Niekamp said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.