Individuals, businesses, governments and communities around the world are contending with the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this unprecedented crisis, organizations are responding with determination, purpose and compassion to protect the health of employees, to help ensure continued service to customers and to plan for future events to help mitigate damage to their operations. 

All organizations are in uncharted waters in dealing with the economic turmoil resulting from COVID-19, yet managers have a responsibility to manage their businesses and help others navigate these hardships. Many forges will have addressed the immediate needs created by the pandemic: implementing safer workplace regimens, revising paid time-off and other policies to assist employees, enacting customer support programs, catching up with backlog, etc. 

One of many challenges will be operating in the “new normal,” or what business conditions will prevail and likely remain for some time. As many have already experienced, some of these new business conditions may lead to great strain on your business systems. For example, there may be increased business continuity risks, including supply-chain disruptions, shifts in customer touchpoints, unavailability of critical resources and other discontinuities. Additionally, unexpected surges (or reductions) in orders can provide additional strain to the operation.

The manufacturing operations of a forge obviously cannot be completed remotely. For staff members who can work remotely, however, the business needs to consider their productivity challenges and potentially weigh them against employee and community health needs. Some of the challenges are associated with connectivity and security regarding communications. Others stem from work efforts at home in the company of children who require help with schoolwork during the day. Additionally, business continuity and disaster recovery plans are being tested by evolving challenges, such as travel restrictions.

Mindful of these challenges, business leaders have – at least during the initial stages of the pandemic – assessed their current operations and outlined initial recommendations to mitigate foreseeable problems. After establishing a command center and chain of communication, the forge can more rapidly adjust operations and monitor production to meet demand. Management will need to continually look for factors affecting the operating capability of the forge, analyze the factors, configure operations to mitigate the factors and optimize subsequent production.

Remember that this pandemic is not just a short-term crisis. It will likely have long-lasting implications for how people work and how supply chains function. As a result, there is a pressing need to build long-term resilience in your value chains for managing future challenges. Develop sufficient flexibility to protect against future disruptions as is reasonably possible. Consider developing a robust framework that includes a responsive and resilient risk-management operations capability. That capability should be technology-led, leveraging platforms that support applied analytics but also rely on the collective knowledge and skill of your employees. In the long-term, risk response will need to become an integral part of business-as-usual protocols. 

COVID-19 is an unprecedented public health emergency affecting every industry. Some will struggle to reset to the “new normal” that is constantly being redefined. There are indications that demand patterns will shift. Global supply chains may be rerouted and rearranged, and companies will have to adapt to new and uncertain market conditions.

To stay competitive, the forge should identify hidden and trapped value, especially in operating costs. A flexible supply chain can also help the forge pivot the product portfolio. Review strategic roadmaps and scan the market for potential growth or diversification opportunities. This includes creating cost-efficient operational strength by redesigning toward intelligent operations.

Lastly, and from a human health perspective, bear in mind that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides online guidance regarding strategies and recommendations for employers responding to COVID-19. The CDC website also includes a table outlining the engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) that employers may use to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.