The State of Ohio Department of Health’s “Stay at Home Order” to minimize the spread of COVID-19 is expected to remain in effect until May 1, 2020. As an essential business that manufactures and distributes cleaning supplies, as well as fluids to ensure the metalworking industry can produce the necessary components for medical equipment, Master Fluid Solutions is taking necessary steps to ensure we continue to uphold the same standards for product quality and timely delivery even during a time of crisis. However, the safety of our employees is paramount, so we’ve instituted work from home policies and are following OSHA guidelines for staggered shifts. 

But more than that, we’re providing our employees with resources to help them get through the COVID-19 pandemic. As a manufacturing company our scientists and our manufacturing floor workers can’t work from home. However,  we’ve discovered that many of our employees can, including customer service. Fortunately, this technology was already in place as part of our disaster planning.

Providing resources for work from home employees

Working from home isn’t common in the manufacturing industry. A survey found that 53% of employees in the industry have no experience doing so. While no one could be prepared for a global pandemic, we found that much of the same work from home policies we had for a natural disaster or other catastrophe could be used during this time, and we’ve committed to providing extra support for our employees.

We realized that working from home is a challenge during this time. Many of our employees are balancing childcare and home schooling for their children while performing their jobs. As long as the work is done, our employees can take necessary breaks to attend to these and other matters. We’re actually more concerned about our employees over-working, so we encourage them not to check email during off hours so that they don’t feel like they’re always working.

We were already using laptops for the majority of our staff. Employees were able to take them home so that they wouldn’t have to use their personal machines. Every employee working from home is using a company-issued laptop. If they did not have one when these measures went into place we purchased one for them.

We’ve also seen all the stories about shortages in stores. To help out our employees and let them know we’re behind them, we have provided them with toilet paper for at-home use.

Safety for our on-site employees

As mentioned, our manufacturing floor employees and scientists do need to come on-site, as do some of our office staff on occasion. Right now, we also have the added challenge of managing contract construction workers that are making improvements to our Perrysburg facility. We’ve staggered our on-site employees into two groups working 10-hour shifts for three days, followed by four days off. We also sanitize the entire location in between shifts, and provide hand sanitizer, masks, and other personal hygiene and protective equipment, and we monitor employee and contractor temperatures before entering our facility.

Keeping employees informed of developments

One area that we’ve improved on is our internal communications process to make sure all of our employees are informed of new developments. We’ve started sending frequent operational updates to US-based employees as new developments arise. We also send weekly FAQs and a News to Use email with more general information about what’s going on in the company. For employees in other locations, we use technology that’s appropriate for the region. In India, for example, we’ve found that a phone tree is the most effective way to disseminate information.

Our marketing department also created a section on our website dedicated to COVID-19 resources. This includes frequently asked questions, not only about technical guidelines, but also about the virus itself and how to prevent it.

Extra support and encouragement during a crisis

We know that this is a time of high stress, and we want our employees to have the resources necessary to handle it. While Master Fluid Solutions already provided telemedicine services to our employees, we’ve encouraged them to sign up and use it, and we’ve seen an increase in signups since the stay at home order went into effect.

Master Fluid Solutions also had plans to keep up employee training during the Great Recession in 2008 through our learning management system (LMS) platform. Since we’ve instituted work from home and staggered shift policies, we’ve also noticed an increase in its usage. Part of this is due to us encouraging employees to take advantage of the platform, but our employees have also been exploring relevant modules to broaden their knowledge.

Employees are finding ways to connect and offer each other support. Our Bonusly platform used to reward each other for a job well done is also seeing more traffic. This platform lets managers and employees give each other points, which can then be redeemed for prizes, such as gift cards and MFS apparel.

COVID-19 has definitely created challenges for the manufacturing industry, even those that have disaster plans in place. Our ability to be flexible and utilize existing plans and technology, as well as our commitment to worker health and safety, will help us continue to serve our customers during and after this time.