Fighting Covid-19 with Pods and Robots

Post lockdown, companies across India are resuming manufacturing operations by adhering to strict protocols to battle Covid-19 pandemic.

Tata Steel has implemented the concept of pods across its operating locations in a bid to break the transmission cycle. A pod consists of 10 workers with a particular skillset so that they do not have to depend on anyone outside their group for completing the assigned job.

A Tata Steel spokesperson said that if one person is infected, the entire pod is quarantined, but the other pods can continue to work. The company said it ensures business operations as the requisite workforce is present to do the job. Besides, in case of any Covid-19 positive case, the pod system enables contact tracing.

Consumer durable makers such as Panasonic India and Godrej Appliances had tested and planned employee safety protocols, factory layout changes for ensuring social distancing and physical barricading before opening their offices and facilities.

Hussain Shariyarr, Senior Vice-President and Operations Head, Godrej Appliances, said the company is adhering to all MHA guidelines as it resumed operations post lockdown in different locations. “While navigating this new operational reality, we are also considering additional dimensions of employee safety within the production environment and workflows to address physical distancing requirements,” he said.

Minimising physical touch

“Normally, on an assembly line, workers operate close to one another. To tackle this, we plan to enhance our manufacturing efficiencies with robots, which can minimise physical touch on the shop floor, and introduce emerging technologies such as cobots (collaborative robots) with advanced safety features, wherein humans and robots work alongside to deliver higher productivity," Shariyarr added.

Panasonic India has made the Aarogya Setu app mandatory and is using sanitisation tunnels. “At Panasonic, we have resumed manufacturing operations with 25 per cent capacity and will gradually ramp it up by the month," a company spokesperson said.

ABC approach

Hyundai Motor India Ltd, has adopted what it calls the ‘ABC approach’ of timely firm Action, implementation of Best practices, and constant positive Communication.

It has also implemented comprehensive Standard Operating Procedures for the safety and sanitation measures to ensure that the employees are safe. It has also arranged for additional tests for anyone showing any symptoms and has tied-up with leading hospitals for medical care. “These include thermal and other screening for all entrants, day-to-day sanitation of the complete 536-acre campus, well-planned healthy nutritious food, social distancing at production lines and offices, and so on,” Stephen Sudhakar, Senior Vice-President – People Strategy & Business Support, Hyundai Motor India Ltd.

As has India Cements, which has many factories across South India. It has mandated a series of precautionary and safety measures, including an SOP for social distancing, social distancing and sanitisation by all employees at all the plants and offices.

Drug major Alembic Pharmaceuticals Limited, which has multiple manufacturing facilities around Vadodara, has formed an internal committee to chalk out an in-house protocol for Covid-19. Besides several general standard protocols, the company launched a unique model of cluster-based isolation of teams working at different units.

A spokesperson for Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages said that “Every factory is working at less than the government-approved strength, seating arrangements have been altered at factories/offices to ensure distancing. Strict workplace sanitisation protocols are in place. All biometric systems have been disabled, A digital chatbot has been enabled for employees to check their health conditions, which then decides if they can go to their workplace/factory. Entrances at all locations have sensor- or foot-pedal-based mechanisms to open and close.”