Below is a transcript of a webinar featuring Mike Kilby, President of Dajcor Aluminum, and the company's experience with re-opening, the safety measures they've put in place, and how implementing CrowdBlink for employee screening helped them stay compliant and minimize overhead. You can read the full transcript below, or watch the whole video recording here:
Transcript: How Leading Manufacturers Responded to Covid-19 Webinar
Milan: Okay, let's just give it a couple of minutes for attendees to roll in. I think we can give it one more minute before we kick it off. It's 4:02, so I think we can safely kick the meeting off. First of all, thank you everyone for joining us to the CrowdBlink webinar on how leading manufacturers are screening for COVID-19, and ultimately hoping to provide a bit of a blueprint on how the manufacturing industry is adapting to the changes given the whole COVID-19 situation. Joining us today, I'm really excited to have Mike Kilby, who is the president of Dajcor Aluminum. Mike, hi. Thanks for joining us.
Mike: Hi, thanks. It's great to be here.
Milan: Do you want just give everybody a little bit of an introduction about who you are and what Dajcor does?
Mike: Yeah, by all means. Dajcor aluminum is an aluminum extruder, fabricator and anodizer. We're located in Southern Ontario in Chatham and we have 240 employees. We service over 600 customers in various industries: automotive, light rail transit, electronics, recreational equipment, buildingand construction. We take aluminum and turn it into components for all those industries.
Milan: Awesome, perfect. I am Milan Malivuk. I'm the SVP of sales and marketing at CrowdBlink. Joining us today, we also have Matas who is going to be serving as the moderator. He's going to answer any, any questions in chat and ask some questions during our Q and A portion at the end of this webinar. To begin with, who CrowdBlink is: since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown, CrowdBlink has been working with essential businesses, whether it was people in the construction industry, in manufacturing, long term care, health care facilities that had to keep operating and we've been working with them to help them conduct their daily screenings of not just staff and visitors, but really anybody that's been coming into their location.
Milan: As the economy has begun to reopen, we've been very lucky to partner with a lot of really great organizations ranging from the New MexicoChamber of Commerce Association, which represents a multitude of industries all the way to the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers and a number of leading brands that have really been able to leverage the CrowdBlink Protect platform to ensure that they're meeting the evolving regulations and doing everything they can to keep their workers and their workplace safe. One of the things that in all of our conversations with the different manufacturers and ultimately different industries that's come up is the pretty much constantly evolving COVID-19 guidelines and regulations that are from state to state changing and changing pretty rapidly as the situation evolves. Mike, ultimately you have locations in multiple jurisdictions, so you probably have a better view than most in terms of the differences between federal and regional and even municipal guidelines. Can you just give us a little bit of a background on what that process has been like for you in terms of trying to standardize across your organization?
Mike: Yeah, sure. Initially, of course it was pretty chaotic.Things were evolving quickly, rules regarding PPE, lockdowns, all those things were evolving. Our industry in both Canada United States was deemed as essential industry, so we stayed open and we had to think quickly about what we needed to do to adapt. We did some things like we put together a COVID task force right away. We started to get feedback from our labor group, our salary group, what did they think we needed to do in order to be safe and operate safely. Some of that included of course social distancing right off the bat, placarding and signing areas to remind people about sanitizing and keeping their distance and so on, and then also some limited work from home. In manufacturing, it's not possible or from home, but there are certain salary roles that could work from home and some of those folks did go about that.
Mike: In addition, we staggered breaks and lunch hours. We distanced seating locations in the cafeteria, so people couldn't sit close to each other and also designated that seating in case there was a positive test result, we would know where to go right away to do some deep cleaning. We invoked wearing masks early on, and that was not a popular decision amongst the employees, but now it's been more well received in most jurisdictions and it's turned out to be a little foresightful. That was kind of step one. Then step two was how do we ensure that we're doing our daily checks and so on to make sure people are being covered, and that led us to asking health questions. People wearing masks, but weren't sure if their neighbour had been exposed somehow, so we had daily health questions and we were recording that on aspreadsheet or on a manual sheet that was later put into a spreadsheet, and we were waiting on the arrival of some temperature taking thermometers.
Mike: Then we ran into CrowdBlink and became aware of your technology, so we adopted that and that made it much easier because we use a tablet. We asked questions that are tailored to no answers, unless if there's ayes answer that requires followup or possible isolation or sending an employee home. Then with the temperature taking, all that stuff gets recorded, and then the following day, it's just a really a matter of taking temperature and asking if anything's changed. That really sped the process up versus the manual system that we had. Then we went further with other things like workplace sanitizing.We have dedicated people that go around all day cleaning different surfaces indifferent workstations. We'd use the CrowdBlink for visitor and logistic screening for people coming in.
Mike: We have visitors for normal business functions, plus we have truck drivers showing up to the hall away our materials to our different customers and all those people coming into our facility need to be screened in some way, so we used the temperature taking and questionnaire to screen those people. Then we adapted the technologies like this. We use Teams in our facility, but now people are using these things to meet with customers and other employees to avoid face-to-face meetings in our facility. We've increased our weekly communications. As we update things and we continue to meet weekly in our COVID task force, we communicate back out to the employees what's going on, what things we're going to do. For instance, we relaxed our mask wearing criteria a little bit with allowing people to pull them down to talk to each other if they're more than six feet apart and pull them back up if they're getting in tight quarters. That's just the reality of manufacturing for us.
Milan: That's been pretty consistent, at least in terms of whatI've been seeing is whether it's New Mexico or Ontario or Tennessee or Virginia or wherever, there's nuances that are different in terms of what's being prescribed by the state governments in terms of how these businesses can reopen in general and in manufacturing specifically, but it really kind of boils down to a lot of the stuff that you managed to implement kind of right at the get go and it really just boils down to what's really on the screen in terms of the need to conduct these daily health screenings and the assessments of the employees, PPE processes that are going to place social distancing. I think we'll get into that in a couple of minutes about just how that actually applies to manufacturing because there's some particular [inaudible 00:09:58] in terms of what most industries can do in terms of social distancing versus what the manufacturing industry can do and those cleaning schedules. Have you noticed significant differences in terms of the different jurisdictions and requirements in each of them or have you also found it to be pretty consistent?
No. They've been fairly consistent. We have a facility, anew facility in Kentucky and Kentucky was early to adopt masks. In our area here in Chatham for instance, in Ontario, Ontario did not adopt masks province-wide. It was region by region, and Chatham in particular was slow to adopt masks. Kentucky was earlier, this was later, but overall we invoked all our other protocols for distancing, et cetera, across the organization. We'd already taken proactive steps regardless of what the local jurisdictions required.
Milan: Right. Really, I think that segues well into those different requirements and guidelines because it's not always necessarily a firm requirement, but often is set of best practices that are getting issued. We were talking, I think it was last week about how a lot of the advices being put out really kind of doesn't land when it comes to manufacturing because there's so many things that are very specific in terms of just the way that manufacturing is conducted. The reality is that when everyone's saying work from home, not really going to fly in the manufacturing industry, right? It really boils down to a lot of costs that impact the bottom line, and I was wondering if you could just talk really quickly because we obviously have kind of a rough overview in terms of yes, there's reduction overall capacities because fewer people, more social distancing. That's one thing, but I mean the economy is a whole other aspect that's coming into play here. I was just wondering if you can give kind of a quick overview about what your kind of initial experience was in terms of the economic impact and how you see that kind of changing now, if at all.
Mike: As I mentioned, we are deemed an essential business, so we kept running. In the early days, in April for instance, we still had orders, however our productivity fell dramatically. Many people stayed home because they could. They just wanted to be in a, what they deemed a safer environment, so they stayed home and that helped us with the fact that some of our business volume fell during that period, but the people that did come to work were very tentative. There was a lot of trepidation about working alongside other people and productivity fell dramatically. By May and June, business volume was increasing and productivity was starting to come back, but it really took until, I would say July before we started to see significant improvements in productivity. I think it was mainly due to people being able to feel comfortable and safe in the work environment and more fully get back at it. We still have higher absenteeism. It's in the 8% to 10% range. We've had to hire people as a result. There are still people staying off because they don't want to put themselves at risk, maybe they are vulnerable or maybe they need to care for children or something at home that this COVID has created a bit of chaos with, but it has definitely had a financial impact on the productivity side.
Milan: I would assume if you've had to implement something like the split shifts or segmenting workers into kind of designated bubbles to eliminate kind of cross pollination or mixing up groups that obviously has some impacts in terms of operational costs and [inaudible 00:14:13], right?
Mike: Yeah, it definitely does. We were just talking about this today. For instance, split shifts, but people moving between roles because we've had to move people around in different things that they hadn't done or different departments they hadn't worked in before. That department has a different break period, so people are a little confused about when they take their break and so there's a bit of chaos and understanding who should be on break and who shouldn't. Of course some people will take advantage of that, so there's some lost productivity just as a result.
Milan: Is there something that kind of comes to mind that you've obviously been kind of leading from the very beginning here in implementing a lot of stuff before it actually became a formal requirement, and so you've kind of had to figure out a lot of things on your own on a lot of fronts. Is there something that you think would have helped earlier on in terms of just how to manage things like split shifts or is that just something that there's not really a clean process that you can put in place and it's kind of the same as it was originally?
Mike: Yeah. One of the things, again, we just spoke today in our COVID task force meeting about the split shifts are good, but what we're finding is people don't want to congregate in the cafeteria where they normally might for a break or lunch. They're congregating more in their work areas with their coworkers, and so the split shifts are becoming less necessary now. In fact, we're looking to go back to eliminating them and just seeing how that goes with the back to one break period and one lunch period, and we're going to see how that works its way out with respect to how people choose to distance voluntarily. If it doesn't work, we're going to go back to the split shifts and split lunch hours again, but it's evolving and it's constantly evolving in that regard.
Milan: That leads pretty well into the next topic, which one thing that I think is more represented in manufacturing than probably most other industries is that there seems to be a recurring challenge based in the manufacturing industry with some of the most specialized and highly skilled workers tend to have an aging out of the workforce over the past few years regardless. Now, with COVID-19, there's also unfortunately an overlap in terms of the more at risk populations looking a whole lot like the kind of demographic of who your most specialized workers are as well as who's most at risk of COVID-19. What we've been hearing from a couple of our clients is just trying to create an environment where there isn't an incentive for their kind of the stalwart that knows the entire operation and kind of has to be there for operations to keep running smoothly and the person with all the answer for them to feel comfortable to go back to work and taking a retirement package to not be the kind of default or preferable option right now, just given everything going on. Can you speak to that a little bit in terms of if that's something that you've experienced as well and just what the impact has been?
Mike: Yeah. Definitely there's been an industry skills gap brewing now for the last 10 years, and we definitely see it. I haven't noticed a big exodus of more vulnerable population as a result. It's been a real mixed bag. There's been a few that are more at risk and they decided to stay home ors elf isolate because of their condition, but I haven't really noticed any definite age group or age demographic more than another that is choosing to stay home. I haven't had any sudden retirements or any of that stuff yet that would tell me that that group is thinking that way. There may be one or two examples, I guess I can think of really where there've been aging skilled people that are not coming to work and would choose to stay home, but not a huge number.
Milan: You've seen a pretty consistent spread across the demographic. It's not the more mature population necessarily that you're seeing more hesitancy to return, it's pretty spread across the entire workforce.
Mike: Been pretty spread, but it's there. Anecdotally, there was an incident of misinformation where somebody thought somebody had been exposed here and suddenly five people went home, so it's definitely on people's minds, but I don't think it's, in my experience so far anyway, it hasn't been confined to any real age demographic. The demographic varies because younger employees have children at home still and some of them have had to stay home to deal with child care. I think it's been a bit of a mixed bag of who has stayed home and isolated.
Milan: You mentioned an example of maybe through the grapevine people hearing that someone might've been exposed and that triggering some fear in people basically to go home. Really in terms of scenario planning, the industry of manufacturing at large is not a stranger to protocols. Here, I think that there's a very clear and kind of unified thinking that there need to be some very clear protocols on what happens in the case of a positive test, in the case of a suspected exposure and a couple of these different scenarios that you just ultimately have to plan for. I'd imagine that given the fact that you have a dedicated task force for the purpose that you've probably made some decent progress in terms of actually establishing some formal structures in terms of how you actually respond to these things.
Mike: Yeah, we have. Confidentiality is one issue. For instance, all the salaried folks when they come in, they report into one location for their temperature taking and answering questions. If there were a question that was answered in a positive manner that required further investigation, doesn't trigger an event where, as I mentioned, a bunch of people might want to go home because they're worried about what's happened. There's that. I had another thought that just escaped me at the moment.
Milan: No problem. Ultimately, have you had any positive tests that have occurred at one of your workplaces?
Mike: We have not, no. No, we haven't, but we have also taken steps in that event. We have, for instance, I'll call it a SWAT team. It's an independent company that would come in and do a deep clean of the facility if there were a positive test result. We know where that person works, we know where that person resides for their breaks and lunches and so on and we would go through a cleaning protocol and also make phone calls to different employees to make sure they're aware that they could have been exposed and asked for testing. We had an incident where one of our employees had a spouse working at a different location that had an outbreak, and therefore we asked that person to go off for 48 hours and be tested to make sure that there was no possibility that they could've brought it into the workplace. We put that in place to protect everybody, and so far, if that person does that, there's no punitive thing of losing wages or anything like that. We just ask them to go home, be tested and let us know what the test results are.
Milan: Right. In terms of where you were actually creating these protocols from, was that all something that you and the team developed internally or were there kind of external resources that you were able to leverage and use this kind of a starting point because obviously it's always different and specific to your organization, but what was your kind of process for actually creating these because I'm sure a lot of people are kind of looking at a blank piece of paper and not really sure where to start.
Mike: There's been several sources, but the starter for us was we use the Original Equipment Suppliers Association document. We got ahold of that. We sell into that market, so it's very similar to what we do, what they do would very similar to what we would need to do here. We stole a lot of pages out of that book, so to speak, to get going. There were others, you've got LearCorporation. I saw their document, it was extremely detailed. Then subsequent to that, there's the Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium, EMC. EMC puts out daily bulletins. They let people know what people are doing. There's a Q and A on there that companies can ask questions, how are people handling this or that and they answer it. It's been very helpful to help refine information, what happens if the Ministry of Labor comes into your facility, what are they looking for? Well, they posted an example of one of the members that had that happen and what did the ministry ask for and what did they have to provide and what were they looking for, and they provided that information back to everybody, which was very helpful, so you can kind of check off the list that you're covering off those points.
Milan: Right. Is there a risk net... Well, let me put it this way. I guess if there's kind of a dial in terms of how detailed an organization gets into the protocols because I'm sure you could try to plan out every single protocol and have a formal structure for every single step, which is obviously great, but do you think that there's kind of a sweet spot? I mean, there's some stuff that obviously needs to become formalized in terms of here's the actual steps to be taken. Do you think that your organization is taking an approach that you go very micro in terms of the exact steps are being outlined or have you taken kind of a more macro high level approach?
Mike: It's interesting, there's a bit of a CYA part of it. You want to make sure you're doing what you need to be doing from a liability perspective. I want to keep everybody safe, of course, but I've also had pushback. We took a poll in our plant how many people want to wear masks and only 35% wanted to wear masks, which means the majority don't want to wear them. However, that 35% is likely or a portion of them are likely not to show up for work if we were to remove the mandatory mask protocol, so there's a sweet spot in there, stuff we want to do because I don't want to have an outbreak and have to shut down or suspend operations while we do a deep clean or whatever that might end up looking like. I don't want to have that happen. However, I have an obligation to my, to my employees to make sure that they feel safe in this environment, and it's a delicate balance there because others don't want to be told that they have to do certain things. It wasn't something they necessarily signed up for, so it's a balance.
Milan: Yeah. I mean, really this next section is about social distancing specifically, but taking that a little bit broader, I mean, the reality is if you really ask why some of those people are against the face masks in the workplace, I would assume that a lot of it really comes down to also the environment in which you work because not all manufacturing workplaces have the same kind of climate in terms of the actual, physical temperatures and the type of work that's being done, and it might not really be conducive to wearing some things like PPE that's being required as well, right?
Mike: Yeah. There's no doubt it's hot in our factory in the summertime and wearing a mask is difficult. That's why we relaxed the protocol to be able to pull them down when you're not within tight confines with your working partner. Some of that stuff has just been an evolution and we had to block off our drinking fountains for instance, so people weren't using the buttons, but we had to provide bottled water, cold water and popsicles and stuff for people during a cold spell. There's been lots of different things it's evolved in time, how do you manage all of these moving parts and things you just didn't anticipate at the beginning, who would think you'd have to block off your water fountains and buy a bottle of water all of a sudden, but we've adapted.
Milan: In terms of work partners and the reality that a lot of the manufacturing work involves situations where you can't be six feet away from people all the time, how do you manage that because the regulations when we see them obviously say social distancing, usually with the little caveat of when possible, but that grey area obviously leaves a lot of unanswered questions in terms of like what do you actually do if you've got two individuals that have to travel together in a truck, for example, and things like that. Did you put any special measures in place on that front?
Mike: Yeah. I don't have that issue with people traveling together in a vehicle, but I do have people getting in tight quarters. It's noisy in here and getting close to your working colleagues is necessary, and there we ask that you have your mask up over your nose and your mouth. That's one we've done. It's also not very practical for us to be dividing work areas by putting up by plexiglass shields or any of that stuff too. It's just not practical, so we can only do the best we can do, and then keep deep cleaning or cleaning workstations and stuff between shifts, so that people feel comfortable with their work environment.
Mike: One of the evolutions also has been that, as I mentioned, people are taking their breaks and lunch hours with their working colleagues.They tend to create their own, I'll call it bubbles within the workforce like we have bubbles at home with our friends and family. People have just adopted to that, the people that they trust to stay around and enjoy their breaks and time with. We're still respecting social distance guidelines. Again, it's just been an evolution, and some of it is we have not in the past encouraged people to eat at their workstations because of dust and other things in the environment that might contaminate their food, but we've had to adapt now and allow that to happen because having everybody in the cafeteria at once is probably the worst of the evils.
Milan: In terms of actually creating the bubbles or the work cohorts, originally it seems like from a lot of conversations that organizations had been basically going and dividing the worker population and saying, this is cohort A, cohort B, cohort C, but you bring up an interesting point. If you've got some of that natural formation of bubbles occurring, do do you think that it's better to just be prescriptive and say here are the lines in the sand and whichever side of it you fall, that's it, or is there a way to kind of collaboratively make it to kind of ease the impact to the workers?
Mike: I think it's more of a collaborative approach. This was discussed at our COVID task force earlier today and exactly that, do we want to put picnic tables in work areas now so that people at least have a place to sit and we can mark the sitting locations to make sure that people social distance, or should we allow people just to find their spot like they would and have. We elected to leave it the way it is rather than promote sitting in your work area with the idea that if we allow people the flexibility to go back to the cafeteria if they want or whatever, then they don't feel an obligation to sit at some prescribed location in their work area. With colder weather coming, we have smokers and there is a designated smoking area outside, but that will push some of them back in again and they will have to find their spot. Again, we'll watch to see how it evolves. If necessary, we'll take a more prescriptive approach to how we see things.
Milan: Is there an opportunity here in terms of... Let's face it, it's a different just organizational structure of having these kind of micro cohorts and these bubbles of your own workforce. Have you, either personally or heard of any kind of successes by having some kind of friendly competition between them in terms of being able to try to push productivity by having one consistent group of people working and being able to benchmark them against others and having some competition in that sense?
Mike: I haven't heard of it. That's a great idea.
Milan: I was just thinking as you were talking to me, we've got these kinds of different teams that are forming and once you get these kinds of communities even within your overall workforce community itself, but once you have a team A and team B, it just seems like, looking at the bright side, there might be an opportunity here to have some leaderboards or something like that, that can maybe help to alleviate some of the initial impact to performance and productivity.
Mike: Yeah. It naturally happens here just by the nature of our facility. We're on shifts, we run a three-shift facility, and so you do have people that are on shifts that remain on shifts together. It kind of naturally occurs that way, and those things have been done in the past where we've had friendly competitions between different shifts. What would make it interesting is what people come up with, with different ideas or suggestions to help manage that area for the next shift and the next shift that might be helpful too.
Milan: Have you seen changes in terms of the usual way of doing business besides the obvious? I mean, have you had to actually change layouts of the actual facility to facilitate kind of the new way of operating, or has that been largely unchanged or it's been operational to change?
Mike: Well, a few things like the water fountains, for instance, are blocked off, the washrooms, every other cubicle is blocked off or stall is blocked off, the designated lunch and break areas are changed. Other than that, we haven't changed or realigned workstations other than the cleaning protocol that's required.
Milan: Right. I guess we touched on a little bit earlier, but when we spoke with a couple of different associations in manufacturing space that we're partnered with, they kind of consistently identified things like time clocks, doors, elevators and obviously the actual facility equipment itself. I think I remember mentioning that you had a specific solution to how you were handling time clocks, which I think is probably the highest shared touch thing that literally everybody has to interface with that at some point during the day, right?
Mike: Yup. We use Ceridian, and each employee has a card and that card has RFID or whatever technology is in it, but there is a physical touch pad that they have to punch in their clock number, and that is done by we station a supervisor there at the beginning of each shift and that supervisor punches in the clock number or the man number, and then they swipe their card and away they go. Everybody's wearing a mask, so that's taken care of, and then there's only one person touching the time clock.
Milan: Yeah. I think that's super smart because it's not just about relying on the enhanced cleaning procedures and everything, but instead sometimes by just doing something as simple as saying we're going to have a designated person that's the only one interacting with this now. It seems very obvious in retrospect, but I can't say that if faced with the same thing, that's naturally where my head would go to. I thought that was a super interesting thing to just call out because I think it's easily missed.
Mike: We have another little thing we do. We have used to have pizza lunches all the time, like the town hall meetings and they were well attended. 90% of the employees would come and grab some pizza and listened to what I had to say or whoever was speaking. The last ones we had, we had 30%attendance. People did not want to attend the location where other people were touching the food and so on they would be eating. Recently, I was at another event where they had designated people handing out. We had a person with tongs handing out the slices of pizza, so I only had to touch anything. You pick up your plate, you go and your food is put on your plate for you, anything. Little things like that, people are aware of it. I guess it's good that people are that aware that they take precautions ahead of time.
Milan: Yeah, absolutely. Speaking of precautions, daily screening is something that we talked about. It's a requirement that we're seeing across most of the different jurisdictions, whether it's at a state or municipal or federal level. The pretty consistent thing is that the requirement is for a business to operate, the guidance is you need to conduct daily health screenings, risk assessments and temperature checks of everybody each day that they arrive. Obviously very different from how things used to operate pre-COVID, not something I think you were planning on doing if I asked you a year ago. Obvious ways that a lot of people are dealing with it right now are going to use pen and paper forms and print them out or just going to ask people as they come in or use some sort of other tools. Can you kind of outline just what you initially started doing as soon as the pandemic really kind of came into effect and what you're doing now, and just kind of explain the difference and the little overview of that?
Mike: Yeah. I touched on it earlier. This is pretty much exactly how ours evolved. We took our manning sheet and we went around person to person and ask them health questions and signed off that there were no issues showing up. That was very cumbersome and took a long time. In fact, it took almost a whole shift to catch everybody and ask all the questions, because do it at the clock on the way in and manually record everything was not practical.
Mike: Then with the screening tool, one of the other things we had trouble doing was getting ahold of a temperature gun early on. They just weren't available. With the temperature gun and with the screening tool, and we have, I think five questions they have to ask that are worded in such a way that the answer should be no if there's nothing to worry about and if there's ayes answer, then there's further investigation required or there's an isolation that's required. Subsequent to the initial questions being asked, then we have basically a simple formula of taking temperature and asking if anything has changed from yesterday. If the answer is no, then that's very quick to administer. Some of the things that we find are some employees do show up half an hour before their shift or 20 minutes before their shift, so we have designated spots for them to report into where the supervisors may not be present and there's people that have volunteered to ask the questions and think the temperature and record the result. Otherwise, beginning and end of shift, there's a supervisor, they are taking the information on a tablet. That's turned out to be pretty painless now and pretty quick, and I have a running record of everything.
Milan: How long are your actual assessments taking per person now on average?
Mike: I would say it takes 10 seconds.
Milan: 10 seconds. Before, I guess you were still having a designated individual conduct the assessments, but when it was pen and paper, they were having to basically interrogate each person individually and now it's just kind of digitized, right?
Mike: Yeah. Before, again, we were having people asking them questions [inaudible 00:41:35] people initial and so on. We started off with, when we got the temperature gun before the app, we took the temperature at the door and then we walked around to the different workstations and followed up asking questions, and that was not optimal. We had to record it on paper and we had to have them initial it and keep it so that we had a record. Now with the tablet process, it's quick and easy and it loads up into the cloud and it's done in a hurry.
Milan: What kind of, I guess data retention is expected of you by authorities? I guess a part of it is obviously proof of compliance with regulations, but also the ability for you to contact trace and be able to search through those records. If you're using pen and paper, obviously you can't just run a report on a stack of papers, so there's some clear advantages there, but do you have some clear guidelines in terms of how long you have to keep these records for and have them be searchable and things along that line?
Mike: No, we don't yet. There's still a lot of uncertainty around WSIB claims and whether that will be allowed if there were an outbreak in your workplace and people got sick and God forbid, they had a long lasting issue or died, then how do you prove that you've been diligent and for how long? I mean, these things are questions that will come up, did we do everything we were supposed to have done or could have reasonably done? These are all questions that are in my mind as a business owner. Again, no jury's out on what the final kind of repercussions could be from WSIB or labor standards.
Milan: I mean, that's very kind of timely transition to our next topic around just really liability. It really just comes down to at least all the conversations that I've been having across all the different states and provinces in Canada. Common topics seems to be that is there going to be some sort of shielding of liability or is COVID incident treated like any other work accident and how does it basically fit into the existing kind of processes and expectations when it comes to liability and risk, right? There's been a lot of variation, let's call it, from region to region, but there also hasn't been that much because I haven't heard of any place that actually has gone as far as to say that there is a release of liability when it comes to COVID-19. Have you had any kind of, I guess direction or guidance or how you and your organization are looking at that?
Mike: Yeah. I have read lots of different points of view. There are legal firms that are posting stuff on their websites you can read and, and some are saying, yes, absolutely the employer's liable and there's the potential for WSIB claims if somebody asks to go off for a period because they get ill with COVID. In my view, there's definitely a duty of care by the employer to do the best they can do to try to keep people safe. WSIB is one, liability as another, and having employees feel safe to come to work every day and have a productive workforce. That whole duty of care really extends to the employer. I think by having my COVID task force as a representative group of six for the plant that represent people's points of view and do talk to people about what they're concerns are, that's probably as far as I can go to make sure that we are being as attentive as we can to this evolving issue.
Milan: I mean, first of all, kudos to you for having really out of the gate put together something that just, from how you described, it really represents the workforce. I don't mean it in purely a formal representation point of view, but you've, from speaking with you, tried to basically get different kinds of parties of the workforce a seat at the table to get all those different views on that task force as well. I think ultimately you would, I mean, I'm going to kind of speak for you here, but that probably is a credit as to what helped you put a lot of these protocols that we've spoken about because you get a lot of these different points of view that maybe you wouldn't have had if it was just kind of a top down directive, right?
Mike: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Certainly early on, people did not want to wear a mask and people did not want to be told to wear a mask, especially because in Chatham, it wasn't mandated. However, when you explain,I'm not here to be the bad guy, I'm here to keep you safe and help your goal or your fellow employees feel safe to be at work. If people don't feel safe to be here, they're not going to be here and we won't be able to serve our customers and we won't be open for business. I think that logic appeals to everybody despite their reservations, maybe of being told what to do. So far so good on that front that even though the majority don't want to wear masks for instance, they are doing it and nobody's been too grumpy about it.
Milan: Yeah. Ultimately, we're not going to know exactly what that kind of critical test is in terms of the legal side of things, just because it hasn't been tested and it's just not possible. A year ago, this wasn't a thing, so everyone's kind of along for the same ride right now in terms of figuring out legal opinions and there's obviously a lot of value in that, but I think it's the kind of common sense critical thing that we see across regardless of location or even really industry is just there are government guidelines that outline you need to have enhanced cleaning schedules, you need to enforce social distancing as much as possible, you need to conduct daily health screenings of the employees, and a lot of these other things that we've already talked about.
Milan: I think the kind of critical bar here is that if there's an organization out there that isn't doing those things or isn't able to prove that they've done those things, then there's a pretty strong argument that in kind of cynical case that someone can say that, "You didn't do everything that you reasonably have." I don't think anybody's expecting that employers are going to be able to do the impossible and prevent the instances of any COVID cases, but I think there's definitely that expectation that you're doing the things that you can do. I guess really that also plays into the point that you made, which is at the end of the day, it's not really about the liability from just a legal point of view, it's a business that's here to create something, build something. Unless we figure out a lot of these new ways of operating, it's really not going to make it possible for the business to operate, which has knock on benefits for everybody, right?
Mike: Yeah. It's definitely hard to have the benefit hindsight. Lots of times we've seen things happen where once everybody's had a chance to pick apart the approach to things, you wish you had done something differently because how could you have no necessarily? I think this exactly what you're saying is true. It's better to have the data and be able to show the data and prove that you've taken the steps to make things safe than to wish you had done it down the road once everybody's had the benefit of hindsight to decide what the new rules are or who's liable and all the rest of that stuff. Even at the beginning of this when businesses were faced with having to shut down their business overnight and lay everybody off with no notification, while that no notification has repercussions in the labor standards, and now you're breaching a labor standard, but you're doing what you need to do. Now in hindsight, people who laid people off quickly might have to pay people severances or could be deemed deconstructive dismissal and all these things that people have the ability to analyze and look at it now, but who would know at the time. You just do what you think you need to do to help the business survive.
Milan: When it comes into our last topic here on overall leadership and communication and I guess a piece of HR as well, there's a lot of change that has happened really quickly here. You've been very, very thoughtful around putting the employees first and really kind of putting that hat on, and having that drive a lot of the decisions that you've made more so than I think other hats that you could have worn in terms of taking a strict liability look like, here's what we have to do. Instead, from just talking to you, it's obvious that you wanted to make sure that the human element and are we doing the right things, do you feel good about it was first and foremost in your mind, but there's obviously just a huge amount of impact on the human side of things like morale and how you communicate these things and changes to policies that have to evolve. Can you give kind of a quick rundown of what that experience has been like, I guess, starting with employee morale and just rolling out safety policies and the response and communication of both ways?
Mike: Yeah. Well, morale-wise, productivity fell because people were fearful. Then I think there was more as things improved, people had more of a laissez-faire attitude, I think just because there were so many other friends that were around them that were not going to work or family members that are staying home, and they're wondering why they should be there and maybe not fully engaged in what they would otherwise be engaged in doing, so definitely a kind of a morale or a deflator in the workforce or being out there working when others aren't. We tried a few things like our normal town halls and the pizza day I mentioned, but it wasn't well received because people were a little afraid about being around other people that might be touching or close to the food that they were about to eat, so they weren't too happy or too thrilled about that idea. We went back to more of a normalcy, push for normalcy here with respect of things that we normally do, like little draws and giveaways and things that we normally do for our social club, and I think that's helped. The other thing I think that's helped with morale is a consistent approach to maintaining the safety standards here, and it's costly.I mean, I have two people per shift going around cleaning workstations well.
Mike: That's an expensive proposition for an employer to have those people full-time just doing nothing but cleaning, but it shows employees that the company is dedicated to keeping them safe. That's all helping bring morale back up and make people feel safe. Then on top of that, with the COVID task force, we put out our communications, what we're going to do as far as protocols go. Then overriding all of that, I put a weekly communications and said, here's what we're doing, here's what the company is doing, here's what I see in the industry right now. This is how we're going to be impacted, this is what you can do to help, that kind of thing. I stayed on that in our very irregular interval that was weekly for me by putting out communications that were posted on a bulletin. Even that, how do you communicate with employees in this type of environment? My employees are not necessarily computer savvy and get on Zoom calls where I can see them all while I'm talking to them. I can't have large town halls where they're in close quarters, so your alternatives are by email and by my bulletin board, that kind of thing. It's not easy to figure out ways to make sure everybody gets the message, which is also a bit of a challenge.
Milan: What's the engagement been like in terms of do you mostly rely on formal structures going through managers and taking things up the chain, so to speak or have you had a lot of people who are really willing to kind of share their thoughts for better or worse on the new protocols and all the communications that you're pushing out?
Mike: Yeah. It's been coming back up to me. I do my walk around the floor and stuff, and some people will approach me, most won't, but through supervisors and through the COVID task force we put together, I get a lot of feedback through that task force. People know who the members are, they're comfortable with them because they're coworkers and they tell them what they think about certain things. That's been pretty good, but from communication tome to employee has been more one sided unfortunately. I don't get a lot of direct feedback other than through supervisors and the task force.
Milan: But it sounds like just throughout our conversation, that if I was somebody who was watching this, I think probably the key takeaway would be that, that COVID task force that you created seems to be kind of at the root of a lot of the key innovative things that you've touched on. I think apart of it is the fact that you didn't just create a COVID task force and necessarily just handpick this small group of just executives or just people from the floor, instead it was, like you said earlier, really representative of the overall workforce. You of had that representation itself, but consistently that seems to be the root of a lot of the benefits and the good things in how you've rolled them out.
Mike: Yeah. I'd say in hindsight now, it was the right thing todo and it's worked well for us and we continue to meet even though there's less to do today, but like I mentioned earlier, we've had two or three discussions now about relaxing or changing the staggered shifts and lunch breaks protocol and stuff because we see how things are evolving. I think it's got value and continues to add value and we're going to keep it.
Milan: One of the kind of common topics that is being talked about a lot right now is with the new requirement for daily screenings and health assessments of employees, there's a lot of kind of concern from some of the manufacturing associations that I've spoken with really everywhere in terms of the potential for abuse of people basically now having a new option basically to say, if I say yes to having any of these symptoms that I don't have to go to work. I'm just curious how you've seen that, first of all, in terms of if there's been an impact of people taking advantage of these new protocols and changes in policy that you've rolled out, and also just what kind of impact like absenteeism, if any, has had on the business?
Mike: Well, absenteeism has definitely had an impact in the business, for sure. How our policies have evolved that way, I only had the one incident where the one employee's spouse was in a workforce or in a workplace that had an outbreak. Fortunately, he and she were not exposed or weren't positive, but that employee went off and we had set up in our COVID task force that we would continue to pay people to stay at home while they waited for their test results as a goodwill gesture, again, for them doing the right thing, for their fellow employees and themselves while not being penalized in any way.
Mike: We were on the lookout and the COVID task force kind of took this on without prejudice that if people start claiming to have been exposed and wanting to go off for 48 hours while we get tested, then suddenly we would revisit the policy of paying people. It's a goodwill gesture by the company to do that with the idea that it's goodwill on behalf of the employee to go and get tested and make sure they're not positive for COVID. It's a tit for tat, hopefully it doesn't get abused in any way. Then if somebody were to be positive and go off, we'd have our SWAT team community to deep clean, but also that person would go off on sick leave, normal sick leave. We have not made provision for that to pay for people to be off on sick leave while that would just be done normal sick leave that they would take.
Milan: In terms of the actual return to work, I think you're probably in a slightly different situation than most in the sense that you have been operating and you were deemed an essential business very much from the get go, so there hasn't really been that kind of phased return to work that probably a lot of people are seeing. Let me put it this way, is there a component of optional return to work as it relates to your business?
Mike: Yeah. We have a couple where work from home is necessary, vulnerable people and again people with children at home with daycare needs. I fit were me starting my business up again, my advice would be provide everybody the protocol on what's going to be done to make them feel safe and be safe at work, and stick to it. Implement it, but stick to it. If people aren't wearing their mask, tell them to put their mask on. If a supervisor is being lax and looking the other way, call out the supervisor, and we've had to do that. We've had those issues come up and without being firm about it, if you're wishy washy about it, employees aren't going to feel safe and they're not going to want to return to work. With some of these things, [inaudible 01:01:45] in Canada, people can stay home and collect $500 a week as opposed to being paid $800 or$900 a week to be at work, and people would rather take less money and stay safe than be at work. That's an option for people or has been an option for people, so I don't want people to not feel safe at work and to show up[inaudible 01:02:08].
Milan: Yeah, of course, of course. Okay, great. I guess my real last question to you would be you've really had to kind of be agile and evolve your response, and I think it's true of everybody to a degree that there isn't one right answer to here's what you need to do to adapt your business to COVID, butI'm sure that you've learned a lot of things kind of the hard way to get to where you are sitting today. To kind of sum it up, if you could just go back in time and just re-implement things or changed something that you did at the very onset, what are those kind of key things that stick out to you as the big rocks in terms of here's the best way to do it now that you know what you know?
Mike: Well, read a lot, read a lot about what other people are doing. That's helped evolve the protocol here. Implement a good digital strategy like this one, CrowdBlink. It makes it easy and efficient, and it'll minimize your loss productivity at the beginning of shift and create this database of potential liability protection down the road as well as keep people safe today. I think those are things you can do right away that will help. Then stick to your policy. Enforce your policies and keep people feeling safe. We did a full survey of the plant to ask people if we could be doing anything differently. We got 65% response, which was to me extraordinary that people took the time and responded. We knew how many people wanted to wear a mask, did they feel safe, how safe did they feel on a scale of one to 10 and so on. We have a lot of information back, and I think that's been worthwhile. I would also create a task force that is representative of everybody to capture feed back and keep evolving your policy that suits you because your workplace is going to be different than mine.
Milan: Outstanding. Okay, so I want to take the chance now to just quickly just give a little rundown about the screening tool that you have been using. I'm just going to do a little rundown. In the meantime, if there are any questions from attendees, feel free to enter those via the chat. Matas, my colleague is going to be addressing any of those and we'll answer them, either myself or we're happy to see if Mike has a couple of minutes to answering any specific questions around his process or how they've adapted. In the meantime, I'm just going to share my screen and go to my mobile device. While I'm doing that, Mike, you're not actually utilizing the self-assessments when you use CrowdBlink Protect, right? You're still sticking with the centralized assessment where you've got an individual that's assessing people as they come in and ask them the questions.
Mike: That's correct, yes.
Milan: What kind of drives that decision in terms of whether you do that or whether you have employees completing the self-assessments, whichI'll get into in a sec?
Mike: I don't know to be honest with you, Milan. That's the protocol we had adapted, I didn't know of another one. There might be, depending on what the level of computer savvy somebody might need to do that. I have a large group that wouldn't be very computer savvy.
Milan: Right. I'll do kind of the rundown of both methods just for the people watching. What CrowdBlink Protect is, is a health and safety assessment tool, which ultimately lets you conduct daily or whatever time period assessments of every individual that's coming to your place of business.You can either allow people to conduct self-assessments, and that's this screen here. I've just logged into the CrowdBlink Protect mobile app as an example.Perhaps I am an employee at Mike's manufacturing facility, and so prior to work, I have the option where I can log in and you can clearly see that I've got a QR code and it says screen required. My profile has already been created here, so the system knows who I am and I can just go to start. It's first going to ask me the standardized symptom questionnaires. These are all customizable that the employee, before they even arrive at work, can actually fill these out, and you can obviously customize these.
Milan: You can see I've added a question in here and I can submit the results. If it passes, you can immediately see that, that screening is a success. There's that kind of visual component to it as well, or you can obviously scan it. Now as an employee, you obviously know whether you're cleared to go to work or not before even arriving on site and having that done, but also as an individual actually shows up to work, they can now just show that QR code to a screener and that screener is literally just going to scan the QR code and it's going to pull the name of the individual from their profile. It's going to pull and store all of their answers to those questions, and it'll prompt that screener to record that individual's temperature. It just kind of shortens that time period because this way you don't need to ask every individual as they arrive all of those same questions, instead they can fill those out before they even arrive. You're minimizing that face-to-face contact as well, and all the information is being logged in the database automatically.
Milan: It's a really simple way to kind of streamline the process of conducting these assessments. It's literally just the scan, and if you need to take the temperature, you record the temperature and you just kind of minimizing how much of that interaction has to occur onsite. That's something we can obviously talk about later about how we can get you set up with that.The other way, and so now we're going to show kind of the way that you and Dajcor are currently using CrowdBlink Protect. This is with the centralized assessments, so we're just going to log in here quickly. What I'm going to do is log in now as a screener, not as the self-assessment or an employee. Here, this would be maybe your designated, it could be a foreman for a shift, it could be a security guard, it could be whoever you choose to be the one conducting these assessments. Let's say that I'm a shift leader, and so I'm going to be the one that's responsible for doing these actual assessments with people as they show up. This is the screener view, and then literally what I would be able to do at this point just go to start. First is the scan identification, first individual walks up... Are you using scans of their IDs or are you having to just enter the names or what's the process?
Mike: By their clock number.
Milan: Okay, and so you're just having them kind of walk up and say to the screener, so they're basically going to enter that number there.Alternatively, if you're an organization that does have employee badges, then you're able to obviously just push that scan button and you can just scan the existing employee badge either as a barcode or a QR code, or obviously you can enter manually the name, company names, which is also useful for visitors to your location. If you've got deliveries or people who are not employees, you can still process them this way. Also, worth mentioning is at this step, if I push scan, it'll pull up the camera, so yes, I could use that for the employee badge, but I could also use that to scan the QR code of an employee that completed the self-assessment.
Milan: I'm sure for most organizations, they're kind of hesitant to go with a solution that requires all of their employees to use mobile phones, show up with a mobile phone and have completed a self-assessment before. Literally, your screener can go from scanning those QR codes, somebody walks up, doesn't have a phone, you're about to do the assessment, you can literally just do that assessment in line without changing modes basically the way that we're doing it today. We would just enter the number, go to next. It takes us to that same questionnaire that we saw, the kind of employee self completing in the previous version. Upon responding, now we get that temperature check. As you're using today kind of infrared thermometer, take the temperature and enter that reading.
Milan: As long as it's within that prescribed range, we're going to confirm it as accurate and we submit it and now that's all been logged to the database and you're ready to process the next person. Just to give everybody kind of a quick rundown on what that process that Mike is actually using looks like. It's a really easy way. Mike, you mentioned earlier that it takes about 10 seconds even doing it in this version where you've got one individual that assesses everybody. I'm curious, now that you've seen the self-assessment piece, I've started to see more and more of our clients starting to look at self-assessment as a way to use it. Is that something that you think would work for your organization or do you think it's better move, given the environment, to just stick with a designated person that just does the whole thing?
Mike: I don't know. I'd say it could be. I mean, it could be easier to do your self-assessment at home, show your QR code and go, but in the time it takes them for them to take their temperature in the morning and say has anything changed and the answer is no, that's probably as quick as scanning a QR.
Milan: Right. I guess ultimately if you've got a really slick process on the temperature side, that might be kind of a bottleneck factor, but ultimately it really just comes down to which way you want to operate. As you can see, the system supports both modes of scanning and it's a really lightweight way because you haven't had to deploy any custom hardware, you're really just running this off any Android or Apple device that you have, including just regular phones or iPads or whatever the case may be. Ultimately, that's the kind of easy solution that we've been able to work with you to deploy at your facilities. The benefit obviously is that you don't have to deal with all the paperwork and storing paper that you did before.
Milan: It's a faster process as well, and ultimately we're hoping that it's a simpler way for you to not just have proof of compliance, but also if, God forbid, that ever there is a positive case, that you're able to go in and you can actually pull detailed reports, get full visibility and conducting contact tracing to really narrow down exactly who was exposed over a given period of time as well. That's the CrowdBlink Protect in a nutshell. What I'll say right now is just Mike, thank you so much for joining us, huge wealth of knowledge, and I'm sure everybody that sees this is going to really appreciate what the time that you took to share what you've learned and the stuff that you've put in place with Dajcor. Thank you so much for that.
Mike: Yeah, my pleasure.
Milan: Thank you everyone. This is going to be recorded and sent out after, so if you missed any of this, don't worry. We will send a recording to everyone after the fact. If you're looking for any more information on the actual CrowdBlink Protect screening solution that Mike has deployed at Dajcorto help conduct his daily health screenings for COVID-19 of staff, the solution is low cost. It's $49 per screener per month, and you can get more information at crowdblink.com. Feel free to reach out to us, we're happy to help. We're working with a lot of different associations in the manufacturing industry, and a lot of great manufacturers such as Mike that are kind of leading the charge in terms of how to reopen safely. Please reach out if you have any questions, we're happy to help. Otherwise, thank you so much for joining us today and thanks again, Mike for everything.
Mike: Okay, thanks guys.
Milan: Take care.