Manufacturers have always played an integral part in American comeback stories. Whether it is bolstering production during wartime to support our country's efforts or revolutionizing factory floors following economic downturns to bring new and innovative products to market, manufacturers have served as a guiding force in our nation's resurgent moments. America's comeback from the coronavirus pandemic will be no different, with the men and women of manufacturing leading the way forward safely and responsibly.
While many manufacturers were designated as essential businesses and allowed to operate during Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-home orders—making lifesaving medical products, ensuring grocery stores are stocked and equipping first responders—some were forced to cease operations.
Now, as Illinois plans to gradually reopen the economy, with many regions entering Phase 3 by the end of this week, manufacturers large and small are ready to unleash their economic might to help our state and nation recover.
Illinois' manufacturers are first and foremost concerned about the well-being of employees, customers and their communities. Building and expanding upon guidelines from scientists, best-in-class companies and public health experts as well as state and federal regulatory agencies, the Illinois Manufacturers' Association developed a Safety & Reopening Guide for manufacturers across the state to reference as they prepare to resume production.
This guide provides manufacturers of all sizes with best practices on how to protect employees, customers and suppliers. Recommendations include providing employees with appropriate personal protective equipment and training them on how to properly use masks, face shields and other items; reducing potential contact among individuals by changing shift patterns or constructing temporary barriers between stations and sanitizing surfaces more frequently, and providing touch-free equipment such as time clocks and trash cans.
Screenings are an important tool for employers. Employees can self-screen at home before heading to the workplace or be checked at the start of a shift. Creating a master schedule would allow an employer to track personal contacts in the event that an employee tests positive or exhibits symptoms. More than 92 percent of manufacturing workers received benefits before the pandemic, and manufacturers are offering a variety of leave options and supportive policies to allow workers to stay home if they are sick or to provide care for a family member who becomes ill.
The coronavirus pandemic has been one of the greatest societal and economic upheavals in modern history. It will no doubt have lasting effects on how we live and work. But manufacturers have proven time and again that they can adapt to and overcome society's greatest challenges using American ingenuity and innovation.
The women and men of manufacturing stand at the ready to chart a safe and prosperous path forward and help deliver yet another American comeback.
Mark Denzler is president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association. His column first appeared in Crain's Chicago Business, a sister publication of RPN.