In response to the conronavirus outbreak in the U.S., businesses—including those in the glass industry—have been tasked with changing the way they operate to ensure safety and health of employees and customers.
“Our industry came into this year with many uncertainties, with the ongoing labor shortage as well as the upcoming presidential election. The COVID-19 virus is another factor that has the potential to impact our industry,” says Oliver Stepe, president, YKK AP America. “Every day we glean more information into the virus as well as the safest, most effective ways to move forward. The industry has a responsibility to seek out and understand the facts in an effort to keep employees and their families, customers and communities across the country healthy and safe.”
Within the previous week, companies in all segments of the industry have announced adjustments to their work policies, schedules and more, as they strive to continue operations while preventing spread of coronavirus.
“YKK AP has put a COVID-19 task force in place and it is working diligently to assure continual service. We are taking proactive measures to strengthen our supply chains and operational backup systems to minimize any impact to the industry as a whole,” Stepe says. At this time, YKK AP reports no service disruptions. “All customer service, manufacturing, and shipping are operating as normal,” he says.
Diamon-Fusion International instituted shift changes and telework options when possible, says Syndi Sim, vice president, marketing and business development. “Many DFI employees are working remotely, while our operations and customer services teams are working opposing shifts to assure coverage,” she says. “We will still operate normal business hours for shipping and product delivery; however, we will run with a reduced staff to maintain the health and safety of our team.”
FeneTech issued a policy March 15 regarding telework for all employees. According to the policy, “teleworking is: offered to all employees; highly encouraged for employees at risk or living with people at risk; highly encouraged for employees using public transportation; mandatory for any employee currently sick or feeling sick or exposed to someone that may have been in contact with the coronavirus.”
Many companies have limited travel and in-person meetings. “Two weeks ago, we made a decision not to have in-person meetings in our office with people from outside. We cut out all unnecessary travel. The only travel we are doing right now is locally to mockups in outside chambers,” says Jeff Haber, managing partner, W&W Glass. Meetings have moved online, and employees at the office are either working alternating days in office or are telecommuting fulltime.
C.R. Laurence Co. officials announced changes to will call procedures, urging customers to place orders online. “During this period, we will not be accepting orders placed in person at our service centers. We strongly recommend orders be placed for UPS shipping to eliminate the need to visit our service centers,” says Lloyd Talbert, president, in a message to customers.
The current impact of coronavirus on worksites is less clear. Although Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced on March 16 a shutdown of construction jobsites in the city, many other jurisdictions continue operations. As of March 16, New York City jobsites were open and in operation, says Haber. “Our jobs are all open and everybody is working,” he says.
While operations continue, Haber says the company has taken extra steps for employee health and safety while on the worksite. “People are cognizant of precautions. We are maintaining OSHA guidelines for safety, cleanliness. The sites all have hand sanitizing stations,” he says.
Some glass shops that work directly in homes are also adjusting practices. “I heard of one company’s approach where they put together a policy to contact clients to find out how they are feeling,” says Chris Phillips, owner of Showcase Shower Door. “Would it help if we wore gloves in the home? If we wore a mask when we’re in the home?”
Company officials note that the situation is constantly changing. “It is a day by day situation,” says Haber. Businesses report they are keeping a close eye on government and CDC recommendations and making further adjustments as required. “[The DFI] executive team is speaking to each other daily to ensure our employees stay healthy, keep social distance, and understand we are all in this together,” Sims says.