We have finally reached a point at which COVID-19 shutdowns are both normal and expected. Everywhere we look, local and regional governments are forcing businesses to close and telling workers to stay home. Social gatherings have been on the chopping block for weeks. The question is this: are massive shutdowns the right way to go?
While politicians and medical experts debate the merits of social distancing, it might be helpful to look at examples of organizations that have successfully kept COVID-19 at bay. One such example is a composites manufacturer located in Faenza, Italy.
As you know, Italy has been the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe. The country has witnessed an astounding number of total cases and related deaths. Things have gotten serious enough that Italy’s federal government has imposed a nationwide lockdown, at least until April 3.
Implementing Prescribed Strategies
Bucci Composites was doing business as usual when COVID-19 arrived in Italy back in February. Around the middle of the month, the company began implementing basic strategies prescribed by regional health officials and industry leaders. The strategies included encouraging frequent hand washing and requesting that employees keep their distance from one another.
As the pandemic spread throughout Italy, the company implemented further restrictions, including:
- establishing a minimum distance between employees
- requiring masks when minimum distances could not be maintained
- not allowing employees to gather for lunch or coffee breaks
- restricting facility access
- providing ample hand sanitizer
- moving all internal and external meetings to an online platform
- educating employees about health and safety.
Despite the restrictions, the company was operating at about 70% capacity well into March. They only ceased operations when the nationwide lockdown went into effect the week of March 23.
No Infected Employees
Bucci Composites went as far as to provide lunch meals to employees in response to grocery stores either shutting down or not having enough. They also directed their cleaning service to triple their efforts in keeping all surfaces inside the plant clean and sanitized.
To their credit, not a single Bucci employee tested positive for the virus or developed symptoms while the plant remained open. There is no word on whether or not any of them have since tested positive. General manager Andrea Bedeschi told CompositesWorld that he was “proud” of his employees and their cooperation with restrictions.
There Might Be Other Ways
Now that all of Italy is locked down until early April, there will be no more composite materials emerging from the Bucci factory until restrictions are lifted. This will undoubtedly lead to supply chain disruptions among Bucci customers, but there is no way around it.
Management at Rock West Composites in Salt Lake City, Utah says that supply chain disruption should be expected worldwide. The industry is already challenged to keep pace with the demand for composite products across all industries; shutdowns will only make it more difficult to maintain a steady supply.
With all of that said, Bucci’s actions suggest there might be other ways to combat COVID-19 without massive lockdowns. The point of this post is not to say that what the company did is a model for all to follow. Rather, it is simply to suggest that there are other alternatives that are at least worth exploring. It may not be necessary, nor wise, to completely disrupt economic activity to fight COVID-19.
At any rate, congratulations to Bucci Composites and other companies that are doing the best they can in the midst of what has become a global crisis. They are to be commended.