While most of the country works from home, including the majority of ProGlove staff, there is a small team that still comes into our Munich workshop each day. These frontline workers come in to ensure the products we produce meet the high standards our customers expect from us. These are the ones who keep our supply chain – and the supply chains of our customers – moving. As Tanja Andreh in HR puts it, “Without them, we can’t deliver at all.”
This team, which hails from 20+ countries, remains unified in the goal of maintaining production in the safest way possible.
A time for opportunity
The sudden shift to home office in early March gave people little time to adjust. As one assembly worker describes it a lot of us were in a state of shock. However, there are silver linings to be found even in this dark cloud. The uncertainty of the situation resulted in unexpected gains: greater communication, improvement in quality assurance, and the opportunity for some to take on leadership roles.
Several assembly workers were cross trained to troubleshoot and conduct minor repairs on the machines that are vital to production. For automation engineer Patricia Ferres Rubau, this increased autonomy translates into less time managing and more time improving efficiency. Melania Sebestyen, who oversees the quality of consumables says, “small nuggets of information can help the situation.” She confirms that increased usage of data and reporting improves quality.
With most of the company working from home while the assembly team is still coming into the office a drop in morale could be expected, as well as increased absences. However, these frontline workers continue to deliver without interruption and the team remains motivated and driven. Tanja Andreh observes, “they’re inspired by each other.”
Keeping each other safe
Most of the workers in assembly come to the office via public transit, where information about the coronavirus is posted on almost every wall. Surprisingly, few employees expressed fear for their own health and all want to keep their colleagues safe. Assembly worker Giorgio Gaetani, explained, “I’m young and pretty healthy so I think I’ll be ok. But I don’t want to get anyone sick.” He now wears a face mask and gloves during his commute. Now with fewer people riding the trains it is easier to observe the recommended minimum social distance of 1.5 meters from other passengers.
Once inside the office, social distancing becomes a bit more complicated. To help protect employees, the team devised a plan under the guidance of our company physician. The Munich office was physically divided into three distinct areas. Each area is complete with separate entrances, eating areas, and restrooms. Cleaning protocols require everyone to clean their work area several times a day. Should a piece of equipment arrive in one space but is needed in another – for instance a package for Engineering was delivered to Logistics – it is placed in a holding area for 24 hours. Only after that quarantine may the intended recipient access the package.
The assembly team has been split into a morning and evening shift. There is also a 30-minute gap in their schedules to prevent the two groups from mixing. Arguably, the most important mandate is perhaps the most difficult to follow: no physical contact with anyone outside your assigned group. This also means no entry into the building before official start time and a prompt exit at end of day.
Yet, even under this new stress, creativity is undiminished. Using 3-D schematics from her university and our printer, Patricia Ferres Rubau created a hands-free system to open the office doors. Others on the team repurposed the materials from wearables into face masks for the team coming to the office. The masks proved so popular inside ProGlove the team is volunteering to create them for each WFH employee too.
Eyes on the future
The pressure born from our current crisis with COVID-19 has revealed the cracks in some companies, while displaying the strength in others. For us, our strength is our people. One of the core beliefs at ProGlove is “change is good.” With the current crisis, change is necessary. Our own frontline workers – in logistics, quality assurance, engineering, and assembly – have come together to devise new ways to maintain production and increase quality. This is happening at a time when many companies are still struggling to address the new reality. We are stronger when we work together. For Patricia Ferres Rubau, the choice between developing new designs at home or coming into the office to manage the production line was obvious. “I’m more useful in the office,” she says.