COVID-19: Business Implications Series — Preparing for the New Normal in the Workplace

As governments and healthcare experts work toward getting us back in to the workplace, business leaders are faced with evaluating current operations’ practices, safety protocols, information flows, and physical workspaces to identify current virus risk points and mitigation strategies moving forward. And it won’t end with COVID-19. Businesses must change their practices so that we limit the impact of future viruses spreading in the workplace.

Leaders must rapidly formulate solutions, both near- and long-term, and Lean practices can help. Specifically, Lean Design and Lean Thinking—more important now than ever before—can be used to achieve effective social distancing, employee safety, and profitable operations.

Lean practices to consider:

  • Value Stream Safety: Conduct a risk assessment across the company’s value stream to identify current processes and practices where the likelihood of virus transfer exists.
  • Work Hand-off Map: Trace work practices to identify multiple person-to-person hand-off points that violate the six-foot safety zone.
  • Workplace Discipline: Leverage a comprehensive 5S program to establish cleanliness standards, remove waste, and achieve gains in efficiency.
  • Footprint and Line Layout: Apply Lean Design concepts to create safety zones and reduce employee density, while increasing quality, efficiency, and product flow.
  • Work Balancing: Leverage takt time and cycle time data to redesign production lines/work cells, and reallocate work steps to ensure employee safety and improved throughput.
  • Standard Work: Create Standard Work to facilitate efficient work practices, workplace cleanliness, and employee training.
  • “One-Touch” Processing: Critically evaluate the company’s Work Hand-off Map and work to reduce the number of person-to-person hand-offs.
  • Visual Management: Establish a suite of visual management tools to facilitate site-wide communication while maintaining social distancing and the six-foot safety zone.

As difficult as this time is, stepping outside of working in your business to work on your business is more important than ever. If you’ve never pursued a Lean initiative, now’s the time—you have an opportunity to improve your throughput and provide a safe work environment for your employees. If you’ve already “leaned-out” your operation, take time to review your layout and work practices again to ensure effective safety while maintaining or improving workflow.

BlueWater Partners’ Lean and Six Sigma experts are committed to supporting you during this unprecedented time. For guidance on your business’ specific situation or for additional information about Lean, please email Ron Miller or Jeff Jackson.

To find the latest Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) resources related to COVID-19, please visit their website.