SMU Community Chat

SMU Community Chat: Coming Out of the Pandemic

Written by John Packard

What comes first, the chicken or the egg?

We all want our businesses to return to “normal.” We want all employees back to work, getting paychecks, buying products, and living happy, healthy lives.

On Wednesday, we hosted one of our SMU Community Chat Webinars. Our featured speaker was Bernard Swiecki of the Center for Automotive Research and the topic of discussion was automotive (click here to see recording). More specifically, how COVID-19 has affected not only the OEMs (Ford, GM, Fiat, etc.) but also all of the suppliers who provide products to the auto plants.

There is talk of at least some of the automotive companies restarting operations on May 4 (or close to that date). Swiecki pointed out this is no easy feat as there are hundreds if not thousands of suppliers throughout the chain who need to work in harmony. Complicating the start-up is how federal, state and local governments are dealing with “stay at home” orders, and managing the risks associated with the coronavirus.

Swiecki mentioned a detailed start-up plan, which was developed by Lear Corp. The plan is entitled the “Lear Safe Work Playbook” and many of the automotive companies are adopting it as they look to bring their businesses back online. You may wish to read the full plan (which is 51 pages long), and you can do that by clicking on this link.

The workbook covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • Step-by-step guides for setting up a pandemic response team
  • Cleaning and disinfection procedures
  • Staggering shifts and lunch breaks and other social distancing strategies
  • On-site health screening
  • Protocols for isolating employees who become ill at work

Just by reviewing a portion of the materials contained in this workbook, I got a sense of how daunting a task it will be for large manufacturing companies to re-start (or re-tool their thinking) when it comes to the health and safety of their employees, which in turn impacts the health and well-being of the denizens of the world we live in.

We all want to return to “normal” and what that means. How we are going to do that has become a “political football.”

We would like to share with you two comments SMU received on the subject over the course of this week:

“Several weeks ago, I was very angry at the silent and faceless enemy and what it was doing to my investments and future. I got past that, but now I am getting very angry that there is a faction of society that would as soon see this country shut down until a vaccine was approved. This has turned into a complete political football, where each side of government is blaming the other, like school children, which is all completely outrageous. Enough is enough already!”

“The market returning to pre-February levels will first require that everyone behave like adults. Problem is there is an entire population of individuals who don’t believe they can become carriers or die from exposure to COVID-19 and they refuse to take it seriously. That group is putting our entire economy and way of life at risk by their selfish and irresponsible behavior. How many people have lost a parent or family elder through this ordeal and couldn’t see them during their final days? This is just terrible! I can’t control the actions of others, but I can control my own. Use your PPE or stay home; either way, choose to behave like an adult so we can open up the country for business again.”

Adds John Packard, SMU President & CEO: “I’ve learned over the course of my life that to survive one needs to adapt to the circumstances where you find yourself. To be successful, one must be proactive in recognizing opportunities associated with those circumstances and find solutions for others to follow. Complaining gets us nowhere.

“When we come out of this pandemic, there will be companies (and politicians) whose brand is forever altered – both for the good and bad.”

The next SMU Community Chat Webinar will be on Wednesday, April 29, when we will talk to Ken Simonson of the Associated General Contractors about the construction industry. You can register for this webinar by clicking here.

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