Covid-19 and Business Operations Now

Social Distance

It’s safe to say Covid-19 and business operations don’t mix. As the world deals with this pandemic, many companies have moved their workforce to stay-at-home protocols, allowing employees the option to work virtually.   But most manufacturers are exempt from these mandates due to the nature of their business. In fact, as vast economic sectors stutter to a near-stop, the world is looking toward manufacturers to step up production and respond to the crisis with quick production of scarce and necessary items.  

The industry has answered this call.  In the last few weeks, additive manufacturers have begun producing ventilator parts, test swabs, and face shields even as whiskey manufacturing plants change over to making sanitizer.  Automotive manufacturers have even changed over some factory machinery so they can provide medical masks and other necessary equipment rather than making automotive parts or cars. 

As our industry deals with these unprecedented changing workplace and economic challenges, many are balancing several different concerns. This includes how to keep employees safe and how to continue meeting existing customer needs while also satisfying the needs of new customers.   How to maintain the economic stability and flexibility necessary for continued business operations while achieving those goals is also a goal. Manufacturers are simply trying to keep their doors open as demand for their products decreases or their supply chain becomes temporarily knotted. Trying to balance this with a temporary revenue loss can be challenging, especially while maintaining regular operations and staffing levels. What should you be doing in the short term as we all work our way through these issues? 

Covid-19 and Business Operations: Customer Outreach

Your customers have enough uncertainty right now; don’t leave them guessing how you’re going to maintain operations.  Soon after the outbreak began in earnest here in the USA, our company updated our website with a banner on every page letting customers know we were maintaining normal working hours. Adedicated page with more information about our supply chain, stock levels, and shipping options backed this up.   Additionally, during our phone interactions or when speaking to customers in person, we have been open about our response to anyone who has expressed concern.  

You may want to consider updating your website with similar important information about how you’re dealing with COVID-19 in your facility and make sure your frontline staff understands how to convey this to customers.   Consistency is important. Don’t worry so much about the scripting.

Don’t Neglect Social Media

Make sure you’re using your social media channels to communicate with your customers and keep them informed of any business operation changes.  This is a great time to record a YouTube video showing how your company is meeting additional day-to-day supply chain issues, to share helpful insights with your customers about disruptions they may not have yet experienced or thought about but need to prepare for, or to give concrete examples of how you’re dealing with COVID-19 workplace challenges like social distancing and loss of essential personnel due to sickness.   Many businesses are facing the same problems; your post may spark a discussion that helps customers who find themselves in similar situations. 

Keep Your Workforce Safe

While most manufacturing personnel need to be on-site to do their job, there are precautions that can be followed to mitigate the risk of sickness.  Kelly LaCour, our office manager here at AX Control, has kept our staff informed through a series of emails outlining CDC recommendations and local and Federal guidelines for keeping the spread of COVID-19 to a minimum.  These guidelines include precautions like:  

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with hot water & soap frequently (This means not only after using the bathroom but after opening boxes, touching desks, handling anything that is shared – tape guns, tools, box cutters, computers, mice/keyboards, etc.)
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Disinfect surfaces frequently using household cleaning spray or wipes 
  • Cover coughs & sneezes with a tissue, and throw the tissue in the trash
  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between yourself and others (Regardless of whether you/they are sick or have symptoms)
  • Stay home, especially if you’re sick

Remote work options

You may also want to consider if any of your staff can work remotely.  In our case, three of our office staff are able and have elected to work from home. Allowing such employees to work from home achieves multiple goals: it reduces the possibility of transmission among all employees since there will be fewer people in your facility, helps your employees maintain healthy families (and thus limits the spread of the virus within the overall population, which should shorten the length of this pandemic) and it helps you to maintain healthy business operations by limiting the possibility of widespread transmission within your facility. 

For more suggestions on how to keep your in-place employees safe during this pandemic, take a look at one of our previous posts that focused on disaster planning but included a section on pandemic planning.

Where To Go For More Help 

On March 6th, the $8.3Bn Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act was signed into law.  At the core of this legislation is a small business disaster loan program, enabling the SBA to offer long-term, low-interest loans to small businesses suffering substantial economic harm stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak.  Loans are usually capped at $2 million and carry a 3.75% interest rate for small businesses (1% lower for non-profit organizations.) Loan proceeds can be used to cover many different business expenses, including real estate payments and other bills, equipment purchases, accounts payable, and even payroll.  Long-term repayments are available with terms up to 30 years. Businesses can apply online here. 

Paycheck Protection Program

Additionally, a second $2.2 trillion economic rescue package was signed into law on Friday, March 27th.  This legislation includes grant payments to small businesses retaining their workforce. Called the Paycheck Protection Program, it offers loans of up to $10 million. Prior payroll averages determine the amount of the loan. Loans should “provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on payroll by providing each small business a loan up to $10 million for payroll and certain other expenses.”

 The SBA will forgive part of the loan (up to 100%) if all employees are retained for up to eight weeks. If you’re struggling with maintaining your workforce now, this may be an excellent option to help bridge the gap until this crisis abates. 

Important details about the Paycheck Protection Program include:

  • The application period begins on April 3rd. You will need to complete an application form.
  • Loan amounts cap out at $10 million. The SBA uses 2 months of average payroll costs, plus 25%, to determine the loan amount.
  • Loan forgiveness is possible. Staff retention rates of 100% for 8 weeks will result in 100% loan forgiveness. However, you must submit a request to have the loan forgiven.

We here at AX Control want to extend our hope for a full recovery to anyone who has been affected by this virus.  These are uncertain and challenging times for everyone. We will do all we can to support our community around the world.  

Do you need secure sourcing options for your legacy industrial automation parts? AX Control can help! Talk to our team today.