The COVID-19 outbreak has, and is continuing to, pose profound challenges to manufacturing businesses – the disruption is financial, personal, societal and uncertain. Outlined below are five issues (and solutions) that manufacturers in Greater Lincolnshire should focus on when planning for the “new normal.”
1. Health and safety
Manufacturing businesses should review and update risk assessments along with safe systems of work, procedures and policies. And don’t forget to review arrangements for ensuring social distancing and consequential signage!
In particular, you should consider:
Toilets, office seating, meeting rooms, visitors, site access points, sanitiser points, locker proximity, the employee handbook appendix, the clock out queue, one way systems, shortcut routes, shared tooling and on-site parking.
2. Cashflow and liquidity
Cashflow and liquidity are of the utmost importance. While the first challenge has been to defer, the next challenge will be how to cope when business resumes.
Plan potential scenarios, including at least three staff variables, demand and investment (key staff could be offered share options in lieu of cash), the possibility of shortening your tax year to enable R&D tax credits to be submitted early or claiming VAT on bad debts.
3. Supply chains
Supply chains are under strain right now - whatever your supplier tells you. Some have improved their service due to lack of demand in other sectors, but how sustainable are they as a business?
Identify your critical suppliers – these are not necessarily those you spend the most money with. If you have a new supplier, ensure that you maintain traceability through the chain and be vigilant. Also, make sure you have a non-transactional discussion with all of your suppliers, and think - do they need to be a “written-in part” of your business continuity plan?
Communication is always paramount. Don’t assume your employees all watch or listen to the mainstream news channels. Businesses that are still in the “here and now” phase often forget to communicate updates with their workforce.
Consider signing up to gov.uk email alerts and using video messages to engage your workforce wherever possible. To instil confidence in your workforce, employees will need to see more of you, so have a daily briefing for ALL staff via email or video conference. Keep up with the messages and post regularly, as new advisory messages have been, and will continue to change, rapidly.
5. Employee wellbeing
The wellbeing and mental health of employees is critical to any organisation. After all, you depend on their knowledge, adaptability and resilience during difficult times such as these.
Check in on staff that are at a higher risk of strain due to pre-existing mental or physical health conditions. Also, lend a hand with issues such as travel arrangements or getting staff into a new routine, and keep up formal and social flows of work as much as possible.