Someday soon we’ll be going back to work. Some, of course, are already working in manufacturing under the new regime. Many questions lurk for those planning to get moving again.
To find out more, I spoke with Kim Wallace, executive vice president of Hire Dynamics a staffing consulting company focused on the Southeastern US.
She told me that after the first shock of cutting back or closing, companies began reevaluating their workforce and job descriptions. The first order of business was what jobs needed to be maintained and which employees could work from home. Then came the difficult decisions of furloughs and lay offs. Managers would evaluate balancing personnel needs per department. What is driving the frenetic activity? Cash flow. All of who have been in business know that cash is king. Many companies needed to stop the bleeding.
Hire Dynamics provides strategic consulting on workforce issues and was quickly called in to help management develop strategies for a situation no one knew how long would last.
When it’s time to start up, employees have many considerations, all of which have ramifications for the company. In some cases, going back to work could actually mean a pay cut for the employee who is better off financially to stay home. Some have childcare or elder care situations where there is no alternative to their being home to provide that care. Many will be nervous and concerned about returning to work only to become infected by the coronavirus—despite efforts to reduce the risk.
Many people do want to work, though. And companies need to get production going or die.
So, what does it take to start up again? The threat of virus spreading is still real. No one wants to have most of its workforce and its management team home sick with the possibility of several dying.
This takes a strategy. Companies such as Hire Dynamics are there to help companies plan and start up.
Wallace pointed out that most companies are worried about three things: cash flow, culture, and image. Managing cash flow is crucial for all businesses, and especially for small to mid-sized enterprises (SMEs). This calls for phased start up balancing workers with sales. As companies bring back employees and face necessity of bringing in new hires, they need to be mindful both of maintaining their culture and also developing a culture of health practices. Aware of how decisions impact their image in their communities and their industries, companies need to manage the startup well.
Companies cannot afford for the virus to spread throughout the entire management team. They, therefore, stagger management team days at work so that if someone spreads the infection it will not spread to the entire team. Considering production people the first strategy is to adjust shifts so that they do not congregate exiting and entering. If at all possible, have different doors for entering and exiting to keep some separation.
Companies may need help with signage to direct people where and how to enter and leave. They need procedures for temperature screening employees entering for their shifts. Do managers do the screening leaving them at higher risk of infection? Or hire medical technicians?
Another consideration is sanitizing. Perhaps the best strategy is for each shift to sanitize when they arrive at their workstations and then again just before they leave. They will need procedures and training on sanitizing. Note that all this needs to be part of the clock in/clock out procedure. Speaking of company image, management must be cognizant of the impact of decisions unlike a very large company who earned a lot of bad press and congressional scrutiny by doing much of that work off the clock on employee time.
Here are some of the policy and procedure and practical help that Hire Dynamics can provide:
- Break rooms (close? Eat at stations? Other things.)
- Restrooms (block every other sink and toilet stall, etc.)
CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA, Nagoya, Japan) has named Thomas Burke to the new position of Global Strategic Advisor position. Burke founded and led the OPC Foundation to successful industry adoption until late last year. He concurrently holds the roles of Global Director of Industry Standards for Mitsubishi and Director of Strategic Marketing for Iconics.
CLPA promotes the widespread usage of the CC-Link open industrial network family.
Burke’s role is to accelerate the construction of Smart Factories by increasing the reach of CC-Link IE TSN.
CC-Link IE TSN combines the gigabit bandwidth of CC-Link IE with Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) to meet future automation market demands, such as Industry 4.0. This provides flexible integration of Operational Technology (OT) and IT while further strengthening performance and functionality. A comprehensive portfolio of device development options is also ensuring that any vendor can easily add this technology to their product line-up.
The aim is to improve efficiency and reduce time to market for Smart Factories utilizing the IIoT and the products they manufacture. As of April 2020, a year and a half after the announcement of the CC-Link IE TSN specifications, more than 100 partner products have been released or are under development.
Burke’s primary responsibilities include:
- Increasing awareness and adoption of CC-Link IE TSN in the global marketplace;
- Advising CLPA leadership on industry trends, standards, and market strategy;
- Sustaining and increasing the number of CLPA partners from North America;
- Facilitating collaboration with suppliers and end-users to maintain CLPA’s industry leading position;
- Collaboration with other industry standards organizations, focusing on harmonization across industry-standard organizations.
CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) is an international organization founded in 2000 dedicated to the technical development and promotion of the CC-Link open industrial network family. The CLPA’s key technology is CC-Link IE TSN, the world’s first open industrial Ethernet to combine gigabit bandwidth with Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN).
My new office is getting organized. Better than my outside life. Remind me why we moved 200 miles north when I went outside for some exercise in 0.5-in. of snow with some icy patches on the trail. Didn’t do my Fartlek run this morning. But, I am relishing one of my new favorite news sites–Morning Brew. Check it out.
I might have a new office with the getting into a new routine with a new house and neighborhood plus the revised routine due to shelter-in-place. Some things remain the same. Half of my emails deal with “Digital Transformation.”
Sometimes I think we’ve been going down this road for such a long time that no one except the worst of the laggards is not already reaping dividends from digital projects.
Speaking of laggards, let me drift a moment into what must be a gross lack of leadership and management. No, I’m talking about government.
Virginia-based Smithfield Foods announced Sunday that it is closing its pork processing plant in Sioux Falls until further notice after hundreds of employees tested positive for the coronavirus — a step the head of the company warned could hurt the nation’s meat supply.
Here is a statistic—Health officials said Sunday that 293 of the 730 people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in South Dakota work at the plant.
So what does our genius leader say? Is he concerned about the health and safety of his workers for whom he has responsibility? Well, “The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,“ Smithfield president and CEO Kenneth Sullivan said in a statement. “It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running. These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation’s livestock farmers.”
Sounds more like he’s whining than stepping up to the plate taking responsibility and changing the culture and workplace.
Back to the regularly scheduled program—lack of digital transformation.
I read every blog post of Seth Godin and listen to his awesome podcast. Marketing and management along with thinking is his schtick not so much tech. But yesterday, he reached out and touched a sour note for our manufacturing and production leaders.
Try this on:
Some of the shift to digital is unwanted, fraught with risk and lonely.
But in some areas, organizations and leaders are realizing that it’s actually more powerful and efficient.
So why didn’t you do it before?
Because it’s easier to follow.
Because it’s more comfortable to stay where we are.
Waiting to do something because you’re forced to is rarely a positive approach to growth or leadership. Abrupt shifts against our will may cause change, but they’re inefficient and destabilizing.
Next time, take the lead. Not because you have to, but because you can.
Be like Seth. Take the lead—because you can.
There is no escaping discussing the effects of the Coronavirus / covid-19 / SARS-CoV-2 infection and disease. Almost everyone in the world is affected in one way or another.
The meme of the week seems to be working from home advice. The Rework podcast lately is a two-part Q&A with Basecamp leaders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. Basecamp has always had a remote work culture and this podcast captures the excitement. I’ve been working at home for more than 25 years. Almost all of the advice I’ve heard will get you on the right track. If you have questions, you can comment or send me a note. I’ve convinced a few companies of the benefits of remote workers.
So, whenever anything happens, pundits crawl out of their burrows and speculate about what all this means for the future. “Everything has changed. Nothing will ever be the same,” constitutes their collective mantra.
The truth is that every day something happens that changes the way we live, work, or think. Sometimes just a little thing; sometimes a bigger thing. Will this crisis change the way we work and live? Probably a little. But I bet we return to handshakes and hugs when things pass over. It’s a natural urge for most cultures. Probably the same for our supply chains. And our health care systems. In other words, we seldom learn and apply from a previous situation in order to prepare for the next one.
It’s like travel. “We’ll never fly again. Either it will be a virtual meeting or we’ll drive.” I’ve heard that one. But as soon as the crisis passes, we’ll rediscover the value of the face-to-face meeting.
I’m seeing one conference after another announce moving to a virtual meeting format. There have been many technologies used for virtual conferences over the past 20 years. I’ve even participated in one or two. Tried to listen to a few. These are tough. It’s hard to set aside 2-3 days while you’re still in the office to devote the time to a computer screen whether listening to a keynote or to a panel. I can last through a half-hour presentation. More time than that is difficult for me.
It has gotten to the point for me that when I go to a conference most of the value comes from 1-to-1 discussions and casual conversations in the hallways, coffee shops, and bars. Perhaps there is a speaker at a session I’d like to hear. Sometimes a keynote is excellent. I mostly do not like the panel format, but there are times when it is a worthwhile discussion rather than four 5-minute presentations (that run over time) followed by routine questions. The virtual conference is a poor substitute.
Culture, fashion, experiences seem to be described over time more like sine waves than straight lines up and to the right. Or, I prefer the model that French Jesuit paleontologist, philosopher, and priest Pierre Teilhard devised-a spiral looping upward each trip around similar to the last stage yet building on it to a new reality. Things are the same, yet different.
In a few weeks, we will all be back at work—but with cleaner hands. And perhaps a better appreciation for how we spread germs and viruses.
Have you heard “digital transformation” until your ears ring? Every supplier, every analyst, every consultant promises to take you on the digital transformation journey.
Pause and reflect. Aren’t you already using many digital tools in your business and production processes?
Are marketers and gurus trying to induce panic in you with FOMO (fear of missing out). These days we have plenty of people inducing panic and fear with health concerns. Do we need to add to that with fear that when production returns we will be left in the dust by the digital few?
What I have seen as I tour manufacturing and process plants is a triumph of good leadership using sound management and judicious application of technology to solve problems that improves the business. And treats people well at the same time.
In my own journey, I learned about the importance of sound data from the ground up. And working with people to improve processes. Later, I learned about computer applications and digital technology as I implemented an early MES system that improved processes and life for inventory control and cost accounting. These savings paid for the system. And we had barely tapped the potential.
Then as a quality assurance manager I studied W. Edwards Deming and and the work behind the Toyota Production System pioneered by Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda, Japanese industrial engineers, who developed the system between 1948 and 1975.
What we learned was good leaders working with all people involved identified and solved problems adding digital technologies into their tool set as they helped solve problems.
The worst thing was when engineers wanted to apply technology just because it was new and cool. It has been several years since I’ve seen or heard of “over automation”—at least until Elon Musk blamed his Tesla production problems on it.
People like me who are not beholden to a particular supplier or type of solution can help find the way that works for what your culture and problem require. It’s important to consider both. Trying to change everything at the same time is a recipe for certain disaster.
As we sort through the sickness mess we’re in now, we also need to remember that startups after a prolonged shutdown never go smoothly. Machine problems that were previously hidden by continuous running suddenly demand immediate attention. People take some time to return to speed and focus.
If you are still in production or trying to develop a product or process specifically for this outbreak, remember that it is hard for you and all your employees and contractors to maintain focus when fear and worry linger in the recesses of their minds. Anti-stress breaks and encouragement for nutrition and sleep help build the immune system and keep them in the race.
And rather than focus on social media negativity and panic, check out some of the positive sources for information such as Peter Diamondis.
Stay safe, stay healthy, stay focused on solving problems.
Gasp! Signs of common sense begin to pervade the discussion of digitalization and its cousins–connected (everything?), digital twin, cyber-physical, and so forth. Meaning that it’s all about leadership.
Suppliers constantly develop or enhance technologies within products. But I’m betting that just about all of you already have more digital data than you know what to do with. I’m betting most of you already have some products and connectivity–and have had for 15 years or longer.
What is always lacking is the will, the ingenuity, the, yes, leadership, to use all of this to its most beneficial effect.
Leadership doesn’t just appoint someone to head an exploratory team. It sets vision and expectations about how a new business model can send the company on a growth and success trajectory.
Leadership sees data as an asset and asks how it can be used to further goals of profitability, process uptime, improved quality, faster time to market, better/faster customer service, supply chain smoothing, and more.
Leadership organizes and motivates people to forge new paths into the economy.
Simply compiling digital data is a waste of time and resources. Leadership treats it as a foundation for success.