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Turning Lemons into Lemonade

If there were ever a time to put the old saying “turn lemons into lemonade” into action, the time would be now. While some people are answering conference calls with rambunctious toddlers bouncing on their knees, standing six feet apart in grocery check-out lines, wearing face masks in public, and in some unfortunate cases, attending funerals and weddings virtually.

Other people, essential employees, like those working diligently in the thyssenkrupp Manufacturing Center (MC) in Middleton, Tennessee, are getting adjusted to the new life inside the factory’s walls.

If you were to ask Daniel Downen, Gary Smith and Vaden Baldwin about their roles, the three would likely joke about doing a little bit of everything around the facility and wearing many hats while doing it. “Basically, we have a hat rack. “They’re anything from a painter to a plumber to an electrician and landscaper and will do just about anything that needs to be done, to keep the facility running smoothly.” says supervisor, Downen. Together, the three have been responsible for executing the CDC’s recommendations for the 650,000 square foot facility. In their collective 73 years with thyssenkrupp Elevator, they’re used to changes around the facility, but never like this.

Making adjustments

To ensure continuity of operations at essential businesses, the CDC has issued guidance to keep employees safe. Some recommendations include wellness pre-screening, regular monitoring, access to face masks, social distancing, sanitization of spaces and practicing good hygiene.

Although the team is used to fulfilling last minute requests, the barrier is time. “The biggest challenge is making the recommended changes quickly. We’re used to dealing with short time frames, and these guys do a really good job at that. Whatever the deadline is, they get it done,” said Downen.

In a short period of time with long workdays, the team divided and conquered to make adjustments to the facility, keeping in mind safety, the CDC’s guidelines, the layout of the space, overall functionality and efficiency. Throughout the MC, the team set up dots six feet apart at all the time clocks to guide employees on distancing while clocking in and out. Because the cafeteria had to be temporarily closed in order to reduce congregating, the trio purchased and distributed 30 microwaves throughout the plant so people can warm their lunches. With the new traffic flow around the facility six additional entrances and exits were created for employees to access time clocks. The team worked with a local HVAC contractor to increase the amount of fresh air coming into the facility through economizers resulting in a 10% increase of fresh air. They added janitorial staff to increase the amount of sanitizing and cleaning of common surfaces and brought on more security to help with additional work at the truck gates where interactions in shipping and receiving are limited. Currently, the team is also creating a parking area exclusive for each department entering the building in designated entrances.

Thinking outside the box

Finding supplies has been a hurdle, but with their quick thinking and resourcefulness, they find solutions.

One of the most important has been securing enough hand sanitizer for the facilities over 1,000 employees who are clocking in and out every shift. So, they reached out to the Casey Jones Distillery in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and in partnership with the safety team, secured enough hand sanitizer for the MC. Because the hand sanitizer was packaged differently, they had to improvise and develop a new means to dispense it. The current dispensers are wall-mounted, so the team made stands out of PVC pipe to hold the new bottles and added a piece of hose to the plunger so people would get the right amount in their hands. The team worked expeditiously to put handmade dispensers near the 12 time clocks around the MC in just two days.

The beat goes on

“We have a lot of people who have been here for a very long time, so change is difficult for some, but after they see it’s making them safer and no one has gotten sick, they have adjusted to it,” said Baldwin.

For Downen, one of the things he appreciates the most is how the trio has come together to keep employees safe. “I like that it’s a fast-paced environment, but what I enjoy most is working with these guys,” he said. “They will do just about anything in the world to get the job done.”

Every day brings new challenges for Daniel and his team and so far, they found ways to meet those challenges. Together, they’ve mastered turning lemons into lemonade.

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