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AlixPartners Team Analyzes the Effect of COVID-19 on Manufacturing Plant Operations

The COVID-19 crisis has put oilfield services and equipment manufacturing plant operations at high-risk, presenting challenges that need to be managed very closely. PESA Member Company AlixPartners and its industry team hosted a webinar to share their perspectives on restarting operations in this new environment.

Ranjith Kondath, Oil & Gas Practice Leader, opened by explaining AlixPartners wanted to use this opportunity to utilize their comprehensive operations management experience and recent work with other manufacturing clients, sharing a framework on a crisis management approach to manufacturing operations ramp up.

Senior Leader Steve Hilgendorf from AlixPartners’s operations practice offered attendees insights on how manufacturers are looking restart operations globally and gear ongoing operations to a new normal. The global COVID-19 pandemic has placed unique challenges on manufacturers across nearly all industries and contexts. The role of operations leaders is critical to ensure employee health and safety while establishing business continuity and although there is no “playbook” for this environment, sharing and disseminating learnings and best practices can help leaders navigate uncertainty.

“The more you plan, communicate and assure people there are protocols in place, the less disruptive this all will be.”Steve Hilgendorf, AlixPartners

Hilgendorf shared a framework reflecting six key tactics of successful operational restarts/ramp-ups amid COVID-19. These tactics, all with specific objectives, include committing to frequent communication at all levels, clearly defined and documented new health and safety protocols, confirming supply availability and customer demand, confirming operational readiness, training employees on new policies and procedures and establishing a structured operational continuity team. Giving each of these categories attention throughout the ramp up is critical and will ensure an easier return to operations cycle.

Travis Jarrell, Operations Director, provided details around each tactic. He highlighted the importance of on-going communication both during the ramp-up and at facility work sites. He also stressed establishing clear health and safety preparedness as operations ramp up. Protocols around health screenings, operator methods, social distancing, sanitization, PPE, and health and safety staffing are all critical in order to ensure the physical and emotional health of employees.

Operational readiness was also addressed, looking at pre- and post-COVID-19 processes and procedures. A graphic of a manufacturing facility was shared showing the differences between the layout prior to the crisis and what it might look like today. Highlighted in the depiction were changes in operator workstation spacing, reduction in shift capacity, additions of disinfection/cleaning procedures at start and end of shifts, reductions in efficiency due to increased operator walking time and reduced process repeatability and possible additional quality inspections required.

The presentation closed with the recommendation that organizations establish a cross-functional operational continuity team. This is the underlying team that keeps an eye on challenges employees are facing and manages each component of the ramp-up. Each team leader has responsibilities specific to ensuring overall continuity from plant management and communications to health and safety and overall operations.

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