The pressures of the global pandemic forced remarkable evolutions in the way we do business as well as the tools with which we perform our tasks.
Upon inspection, manufacturing and distribution in particular were presented with significant challenges of productivity, supply chain continuity, employee safety as well as the increased requirements around workplace safety.
With these factors in play, leaders in this space were able to deftly respond to the initial COVID-19 workplace requirements via OSHA & CDS and take advantage of the leaps forward in technology to make their operations safe, efficient and resilient. An examination of these evolutions will be worth consideration.
Manufacturing facilities require that both labor and workflow optimization be protected. The pandemic highlighted the issues with crammed floors, limited entrance and exit options as well as the lack of social distancing.
These concerns are not going away, especially as we start to move beyond the pandemic and evaluate old ways of work. Using the right innovations, manufacturing facility leaders can mitigate risk to employees and operational risk by better ensuring a healthy and safe environment and reducing potential supply chain impact.
One example is the use of advanced, touchless screening solutions to increase the speed of facility entry and exit. Using a mobile credential, an employee can be granted access through their mobile device without ever having to come in physical contact with the door. Combining this credential with other innovations like temperature screening takes the experience to another level and establishes a frictionless facility entrance experience.
Another technology that has proven effective is the use of interior video cameras to monitor high-traffic areas within a facility. Tracking movement throughout these specific locations such as break rooms or high-volume areas ensures the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is being upheld and helps with any necessary contact tracing.
Video analytics can also identify inefficiency on product lines. Paying attention to these risk factors and inefficiencies will improve holistic environment safety and productivity.
Protection beyond the facility walls
Inventory control has been a rising concern for many manufacturing facility leaders. While it is a significant challenge to manage external risks such as facility closures and logistical delays, the overall gain in internal KPI tool-sets has both increased and become more business-friendly.
Where before a single operational dashboard or data analytics were expensive and specialized, today’s bundled software packages and IoT equipment have made situational awareness and deep analytical reporting a brass ring within reach.
The word “security technology” often prompts thoughts related to fighting fraudulent activity like internal theft and inventory shrinkage. However, the same innovations can be used to protect the entire chain of custody for raw materials and finished products. For example, any mishandling or mistreatment can disturb the entire supply chain.
Using video surveillance integrated with access control systems, these transactions can be closely monitored to ensure proper arrival and control during the entire lifecycle. Some facilities have meticulously leveraged video footage archiving with process timestamps to provide a defacto block-chain ledger for critical processes and products
These systems also lock out unauthorized individuals from specific locations such as inventory or storage and provide a clear audit trail of each step in the lifecycle and who was involved. Advanced processes like this not only improve the entire chain of custody but act as comprehensive quality control measures.
Many production halting scenarios can be captured, alerted and escalated to the most appropriate subject matter experts to minimize downtime or hazardous conditions. Modern systems can alert managers to these instances so that operations can get back up and running in a timely manner, ensuring maximum quality is achieved.
Maintaining support for employees
Where any single product cannot solve endemic productivity and health governance concerns, the right combination of technologies can empower forward-thinking facilities towards a powerful new normal.
While facility planning calls for risk management already in numerous disciplines, the pandemic was an additional scenario to be planned for. From this time forward, health screening is expected to remain a realistic element in future facility planning; even beyond COVID-19. Visitor Management, space planning and reservations as well as occupancy caps all are now served through single dashboard solution bundles.
The leaps forward in mobile technology and lobby signage/kiosks also allows for superb Kaizen building blocks. Human resources, life-safety, security, operations and space planning can all come to the table and craft a simplified employee experience from the parking lot to the workstation.
Choosing the right mix of these technologies can be a difficult task. The pandemic did see an explosion of technologies; however, the marketing and messages can be misguided at times. It always pays to engage with peer communities and trusted consultative partners before lining up the internal requests for funding and compliance assurances. An experienced solutions integrator can be an extremely powerful partner during these conversations.
Lance Holloway is Senior Solutions Architect at STANLEY Security.