With technology and common sense, manufacturing companies are making it safe for their workers
At the Bengaluru plant of Continental Automotive India, shop-floor workers change into electrostatic discharge (ESD) clothing before commencing work. With a minimum of 500 workers turning up for every shift, ensuring social distancing in the ‘change room’ was going to take some doing. With technology, the challenge was tackled more easily than expected.
Developed in-house, a sensor-based monitoring system installed at the entrance of the ‘change room’ now allows only a pre-set number of people. If anyone overstays their welcome, it would squeal. The overstayer is reported via the RFID tag embedded in the ID. The Raspberry Pi based application interfaces with an RFID scanner using MQTT for communication over a wireless LAN network.
“Previously, we had more than 50 employees accessing this room at any point in time; it has now been scaled down to 12,” said Phanindra Karody, head of the Bengaluru plant of Continental Automotive India.
A Colliers’ India survey says most companies are now evaluating lowering workplace density by up to 20%. It also says that until the pandemic subsides, de-densification of workplaces will push companies to scout for more space.
A majority of them have adopted cost-effective solutions, such as staggered timings, reduced shifts or alternate duty-rosters.
Thirumal Govindraj, managing director, RMZ Corp, said, “From a corporate standpoint, companies have 15-20% of their workforce working remotely. By staggering work timings, de-densification is already being achieved. So companies will wait till the end of the year to take a call on infrastructure requirements.”
All the tech parks of RMZ have been upgraded or retrofitted with a whole host of features, including touchless elevators and doors. “Whatever we have implemented is good enough for the next three to four months. Technology is changing and infrastructure is also evolving. So we would wait to bring any more drastic changes,” said Mr. Govindraj.
Demarcated work spaces
At the R&D labs of Texas Instruments India, a simple innovation does the trick. Karthik Dhanabal, Global Development Labs – India Leader, Texas Instruments, says that to check the possibility of crowding, its lab has now been divided into four zones, with each supporting a specific function, and access to it by a card. Inside, one-person-only benches and testing spaces ensure social distancing among workers.
“Engineers may come into the lab only in case of critical manual testing, measurements or if debugs are required. Such visits are low in frequency and ensure there are only limited employees in the workspace at any point in time. Moreover, we encourage that all debugging and testing process be run over Webex to reduce contact,” says Mr. Dhanabal, adding that employees are invited to offer suggestions on how to make the shop floor safer still.
‘Shift’ in focus
Bengaluru-headquartered Duroflex Mattresses has over 1,200 employees working across its three factories. To prevent crowding on the shop floor, the company has introduced two shifts where there were none earlier.
“If there are six machines on a floor, four would run in one shift and the balance two in the other shift. In pre-COVID-19 days, we had 100 % of the workforce coming in at a time and all the machines would be running simultaneously,” said Mohanraj J., president and Business Unit Head, Duroflex.
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