Plant Engineering survey: Top 10 actions in response to the pandemic

Response to pandemic

Consider where your organization is now in its response to the coronavirus and compare that to the results of two COVID-19-related surveys conducted in March 2020 by CFE Media & Technology.

The publishers surveyed manufacturers and other industry professionals about the impact COVID-19 would have on their organization and how they would respond. Participants in the survey were visitors to CFE-owned websites, which includes Plant Engineering, Control Engineering, Oil & Gas Engineering, and Consulting-Specifying Engineer.

Between March 11 to March 19, 74% of the respondents believed that the pandemic would negatively impact the organization. A second survey containing the same questions was conducted from March 20 to 25, and 13% more respondents agreed, bringing the total to 87%.

Individuals were also asked to identify where they believed companies would be focusing most in response to the virus. The participants ranked 24 possible actions from highest to lowest.

Here are the 10 highest-ranking actions.

Top 10 actions

1. Limiting travel

2. Working on contingency plans now; expect to see changes soon

3. Encouraging work from home

4. Eliminating travel, with the percentage rising to 46% from 35%, previously

5. Delaying or eliminating hiring

6. Mandating work from home (for those that can)

7. Delaying or eliminating investments

8. Adding supply chain contingencies such as secondary sources

9. Adding new manufacturing capabilities to make up for breaks in the supply chain

10. Increasing production of relevant product categories to meet increased demand

“Limiting travel” took the top spot at 80%, followed by “working on contingency plans,” with “encouraging working from home” in third place at 56%. During the second survey, more than 50% of respondents said they believed that critical parts of some job functions could be performed at home while 24% thought they could not.

CFE media also asked participants several open-ended questions related to the organization’s ability to carry out critical functions from a remote location.

One respondent stated that “no actual manufacturing could be performed.” Another said that “work requiring test set-up and data collection, field service, installation, shipping and receiving, inventory work orders and quality control could not be completed.”

Many manufacturers took preemptive steps to keep workers safe, such as directing employees who did not have to be at the plant to work from home. Most plant maintenance professionals would probably agree with the respondent that said it would be difficult to perform some physical tasks remotely.

However, organizations with more substantial investments in plantwide network connectivity and wireless solutions such as a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software were better situated to navigate the challenges, whether they knew it or not. Read more about the survey in the Plant Engineering article, Survey results: increased recognition of COVID-19’s adverse impact.

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