The world has changed.
And rubber companies are trying to navigate the chaos caused by the coronavirus while seeking to maintain operations and keep their employees safe.
While many are sheltering at home and isolating themselves, manufacturing companies face the challenge of needing staff on hand to create products.
At the Fairlawn, Ohio, offices of ContiTech, the non-tire rubber product business of Continental A.G., about 200 workers at corporate headquarters have been instructed to work from home. Plants located around the U.S. were continuing to operate when the company was reached for comment.
"They told everybody to go home. Everybody is working from home. There's a travel ban. They can't travel, can't come to work," a spokesman for ContiTech said.
A person is providing security at the facility, but no visitors are allowed at the company's headquarters.
"Internally, there is a group of people who are monitoring the situation because it is a very fluid situation. Things can change minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour. They are prepared to react to things that could possibly occur," the ContiTech spokesman said.
The company continued to operate plants around the country, but "obviously that could change."
"They are prepared to react to things that could possibly occur," he said. "They are telling everybody to heed all of the precautions that are given by the experts, especially the medical experts and people who monitor disease control, and follow any of those guidelines," the ContiTech spokesman said.
At Cooper Standard Automotive Inc., a Novi, Mich.-based automobile supplier, a spokeswoman said in an email "things continue to move rapidly, but this is where we are at this point in time."
"Cooper Standard is closely monitoring the rapidly developing coronavirus outbreak. The health and safety of our employees remains our top priority," she said. Over the past two months, Cooper Standard has proactively implemented a number of actions to help keep our employees and stakeholders safe."
The company has created a visitor screening questionnaire and is limiting what it calls "non-critical visitors," the spokeswoman said. Cooper Standard also is requiring social distancing guidelines, which require that people do not have close contact with one another. There's also increased cleaning of common surfaces and a restriction of all domestic, international and local business-related travel.
The company is requiring employees to work from home when possible.
Cooper Standard previously temporarily idled plants in China and indicated operations elsewhere could be shut down. "Our manufacturing operations in countries outside of China may also be temporarily impacted as our customers consider actions in their facilities," the spokeswoman said.
Federal officials, meanwhile, have published new guidance to help companies deal with the potential for coronavirus in the workplace.
Companies also already are beginning to see the pandemic having a downward impact on business. Germany's Wacker A.G., one of the world's largest makers of silicone, expects the coronavirus to have a negative impact of more than $110 million on its annual earnings in 2020.
"From today's perspective, 2020 is going to be another very challenging year," said CEO Rudolf Staudigl on March 17, in presenting the German group's annual report.
The uncertainties arising from the coronavirus, he added, "currently top all other risks."
For the full year, Wacker revised down its earlier forecast of a "mid-single-digit percentage" decline in EBITDA (earnings) in 2020.
"Due to the drastic developments since the end of February, Wacker rates the risk of a coronavirus pandemic as likely. … EBITDA, in consequence, could decline by a two-digit percentage versus last year," the German chemicals group said.
Wacker sales for first two months of the year were lower compared to last year, partly due to restrictions in China on shipping products to customers. The firm said the restrictions are dampening every division's sales in China.
Wacker also confirmed a loss of about $700 million, as reported in its preliminary figures for 2019.