Protect Your Staff, Protect Your Clients

July 20, 2020
As COVID-19 continues to shift the way organizations and manufacturing facilities operate, system integrators have the task of finding new ways to ensure that businesses are operating safely while protecting staff.

As a system integrator, I believe we are charged with doing what is right for our clients. Sometimes this shows itself with late night startups that carry into the weekend to hit critical manufacturing deadlines. Sometimes this looks like presenting new technologies and alternative project paths, pushing through fear, uncertainty, and doubt to deliver the most innovative system possible. It may mean turning down a bid opportunity because you aren’t the right fit for the project.

Doing what is right for our clients can be a lot of things, but right now it means ensuring safety, risk mitigation, and vigilance to keep our engineers and clients healthy and safe. As COVID-19 continues to surge through the United States, many of us have seen impacts to more than just our personal lives. Several of our clients have had project delays due to staff members or contractors contracting COVID-19. This usually leads to work sites being shut down for cleaning and a cascading effect of schedule delays and pushed deadlines.

This has an impact on manufacturing schedules, resource loading, and, eventually, the economy. Events like this are not isolated and usually lead to entire departments being placed under quarantine which only delays things more.

If you turn on the news right now, it may feel like this is a political matter but, from my standpoint, it isn’t. People in our profession understand that operating safely while doing activities that could potentially be unsafe is part of what we do day in and day out. Lock Out, Tag Out is not a political concept, we place locks on equipment so that everyone can be safe. Light curtains and other safety barrier equipment are not political instruments, they are devices that keep manufacturing personnel safe and intact. Standard operating procedures are not political documents, they are instruments to ensure tasks can be repeated safely and without error. To operate safely we need a multi layered strategy with built in redundancies.

As system integrators we are charged with the safety and success of our staff and our clients, and that holds true now more than ever. Failing to enact safety protocols for your staff during a pandemic directly puts your engineers and your clients at risk, which goes against everything we system integrators stand for and is plain reckless.

Just like safety interlocks, light curtains, and safety relays are all tools in an approach to safety; masks, social distancing, sanitization stations, rotational schedules, and office maximum occupancy are all tools in staff and client safety during this pandemic. System integrators are often looked to for our ability to solve difficult problems, meet impossible schedules, and maintain the well-being of our clients. Don’t let that responsibility end at the digital side of things. We’ve taken the necessary steps and hope everyone else has done the same.

If you are not sure where to start, a few high-level concepts can include:

·      Designated work areas that are distanced from each other and cleaned when used regularly;

·       Restriction of communal spaces, such as the lunchroom;

·       Social distancing guidelines;

·       A rotational schedule for resources requesting office access to limit the number of personnel on premises;

·       Use of personal protective equipment; and

·       Temporary suspension of all teaming, social, and volunteer activities.

When in doubt, be conservative. We are all in this together, and failure in a single link can mean failure for all.

Will Aja is vice president customer operations at Panacea Technologies, a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Panacea, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

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