What returning to work during COVID-19 looks like at Lake Orion manufacturer

What does returning to work look like in this coronavirus culture? It'll be different but it's do-able.

Take Complete Automation, for example. The metro Detroit manufacturer has found a way to get their job done while staying safe. 

When you walk in, a health screener greets you with questions and a thermometer. This is the new normal for employees at the global supplier based in Lake Orion. 

"We wanted to be on the forefront of the cleaning and the protocol to keep our people safe," said president Ken Matheis.

Considered an essential supplier, Complete Automation was allowed to reopen after closing for only a few days in late March. But Mathias knew they had to quickly figure out how to manufacture parts and a sense of safety. So it was a little stressful on everybody," Matheis said. 
So when employees slowly started returning, work life was dramatically different. 

"We're our own quarantine group, so to speak. We're going to keep each other safe, we're going to stay safe together so we can make it through this," Matheis said. 

Meaning, workers who used to stand right next to each other have to spread out. 

"It's your natural reaction to want to walk up to someone or pat them on the back or high five or something, so it was a learning process the first week back," Cale Serecky said, who's a pipefitter at the company. 

And social distancing employees requires more shifts and more space. 

"We've got second shift running now, which we didn't have very many people on second shift, and we've just spread people out throughout the facility. For example some of the other buildings here on this campus we were using those for just storage and now we're using those for final assembly and manufacturing so we can spread people out so they're not working right on top of one another,"  Matheis said. 

While staying six feet apart is a priority it's also, for certain jobs, an impossibility. And that's where adding plexiglass comes in. 

There's also now a regimented cleaning schedule that includes sanitizing all high-touch surfaces, from soap dispenses to coffee makers.

Using CDC guidelines and FCA protocols, Complete Automation has created a 4-step plan to reduce risk. It starts by asking, 'How do you feel before you come to work?' Masks are strongly encouraged, sanitizer is required and if employees can work from home, they do. 

For those in-office, conference tables are marked where sitting is allowed to make sure everyone's properly distanced. 

It's a lot of change but employees are adjusting because when they leave work home life is different, too. 

"I take my shoes off before I go into my house and I just have an area to put my work clothes and shower right away, and do the best I can to keep my family safe also," said Kelly Stieb, a material handler. 

Matheis is proud of the fact there's been no COVID-19 cases among his almost 300 employees. 

"We had to have a healthy employee and we had to have a healthy company at the other side of this. If we didn't, either one of those two, we're in trouble. So our objective was to maintain safety for our people and maintain a healthy company," Matheis said. 

While maintaining physical distance, the company is trying to keep everyone emotionally close. They host a Friday evening Zoom call where everyone is welcome to play games, or just hang out and laugh a little.