Suman Mahalanabis, director of product management for digital software and solutions with Tata Consultancy Services, describes the steps that factories will need to take in order to ensure the health and safety of workers during the pandemic and beyond.
Unlike many office staffers, most factory workers don’t have the option of working remotely. They need to be on the production line, sometimes in proximity to one another. Yet there are a number of steps that factories can take to ensure the health and safety of those workers, says Mahalanabis.
The effort must take into account much more than conditions on the factory floor, he says. It needs to consider virtually every contact a worker makes in the course of a day, at home, during the commute, in contact with outside engineers and suppliers, and on the job. “We need to understand worker safety at a more granular level,” Mahalanabis says. Only then can employees assess who is most prone to the risk of infection, and how they can establish “bio-bubbles” of healthy workers in safe operating zones.
What most businesses can’t afford to do is undertake a radical reconfiguration of the factory space. Instead, they need to place those with relatively low risks in common work spaces.
At the same time, factories must take steps to optimize production levels and machine uptime, even as they prioritize worker safety. They might consider adding shifts with fewer workers in each, as well as determining who really needs to be on the factory floor at any given moment. Some might even be candidates for remote work.
Finally, factories need to embrace automation and digital operations, with the goal of becoming more agile, maintaining productivity and being able to turn out products that are in greatest demand, Mahalanabis says.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.