Adjusting to the "new normal" at your plant

June 9, 2020
Are you trying to figure out what has changed for good? You are not alone, says Thomas Wilk.

This editor’s note comes to you from my temporary home office just outside Chicago. It’s more of a shared workspace than an office, with my work laptop competing for space on our back-porch table with stacks of baseball cards, paper airplanes, construction paper, and a good number of pencils and glue sticks.

From the Editor

This article is part of our monthly From the Editor column. Read more from Thomas Wilk.

Still, based on what maintenance and reliability teams have gone through this year, pushing a few of my kids’ Legos off of a table is nothing. Since mid-March, our industry has faced significant disruption, from reconfiguring production lines to accommodate social distancing, to enduring sizeable furloughs and layoffs. The June 1, 2020 COVID-19 update from Industry Week captures the current situation in all of its contradictions:

“In those 11 weeks, entire state economies have been shut down and reopened; factories have closed and reopened, or remained dark; more than 40 million have people applied for unemployment insurance and more than 100,000 people in the United States have died. The situation remains volatile, but notably less so. Manufacturers with little to no information in the early days of the pandemic have established protocols for reducing the spread of the virus, and states have begun to lift pandemic-era quarantine orders.”

Several of our contributors this month are reflecting on these dynamics, with some recommending how to overcome practical challenges, and others identifying technology and workforce trends that have been accelerating quickly. We’ve had Sheila Kennedy’s cover story on augmented and virtual reality scheduled for a while now; it’s due to a quirk of scheduling that it is appearing in print now, when many companies are taking a strong look at remote training and support options for their teams. As Sheila notes in her opening line, “Every new best practice begins somewhere,” and she proceeds to profile six  organizations that have taken leadership roles in testing the business value of AR/VR and other emerging technologies.

Tom Moriarty takes on the challenging question of what goes into the successful management of work-life balance. Whether you’ve been working from home more often these past few months or have been working extra hours on increasingly random schedules, Tom offers a three-step plan how to identify and then remedy situations that may be out of balance.

Finally, there is Doc Palmer’s passionate and convincing argument for the value of the planner in helping organizations navigate uncertainty of any kind, and in particular the disruptions caused by COVID-19. Doc draws a clear connection between the uncertainty involved with managing this pandemic and the general challenge of managing plant assets, especially where opinions can (and do) differ on what is the right amount of proactive activity.

Until next month, stay safe and try not to step on too many Legos.

About the Author

Thomas Wilk | editor in chief

Thomas Wilk joined Plant Services as editor in chief in 2014. Previously, Wilk was content strategist / mobile media manager at Panduit. Prior to Panduit, Tom was lead editor for Battelle Memorial Institute's Environmental Restoration team, and taught business and technical writing at Ohio State University for eight years. Tom holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MA from Ohio State University

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