COVID-19 Coronavirus Resources for Manufacturers

Manufacturing Outreach Center has compiled a partial list of resources regarding safety, along with information designed to support economic retention and recovery.
In this Section

How can we help you get through this?

From risk mitigation and supply chain disruption planning to strategic planning for today and tomorrow, UW-Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center (MOC) can assist during this time of uncertainty. Let's start the conversation.  Connect with us at 866-880-2262 or by online form.

We are working with our local and federal partners on response efforts and how to best support Wisconsin manufacturers through this crisis.

Members of the MEP National Network have consulted lawyers, national networks, and resources to bring practical guidance and real information specifically for manufacturers.  Please consult this list of the best resources to help Wisconsin manufacturers weather the COVID-19 storm.  Our team at UW-Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center (MOC) and the MEP National Network have compiled a one-stop shop for many of your questions, big and small. As we get new information, we will be continuously updating our resource page. 

MOC is committed to doing whatever it takes to help the manufacturing community stay strong. 

NEW - WI Reopen Guidelines

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has pulled together a website dedicated to relief and recovery resources.  The manufacturing sector guide is here.

11 Practical considerations and action items:

Management Tip: FMLA rules have changed, and if you are under 500 employees, you need to read this article IN FULL.

IMPORTANT: Even if you are under 50 employees and normally are exempt from the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, these changes apply to you and go into effect around April 2. Essentially, the new law means that all companies must provide 80 hours of sick leave for all full-time employees. You will pay upfront to employees but be reimbursed fully by the federal government in the form of a refundable tax credit.

This is not in addition to other sick leave provided by the company but is before any other sorts of time off are to be used. There are nuances of how much you pay based upon the reason for sick leave. This sick leave can only be used for pre-approved Coronavirus issues. Read here for more.

Management Tip: Have you modeled your cash position?

  • Cash is king: Do you know if you have enough? If you come up short, reach out to your bank to try and leverage your line of credit.
  • Do “zero-based budgeting.” Examine your entire P&L to determine what is essential vs. non-essential. Then look at headcount; who are your A-players? Do whatever you can to keep them, even if they aren’t productive right now. They are impossibly hard to find, so do whatever it takes.
  • And, if after you leverage your line of credit you still don’t have enough, check out:
  1. SBA’s disaster relief loans (up to $2M) –we have more information we can share if you need it. Start here:
  2. Low-interest loans of up to $2 million are available for small businesses and private non-profits.
  3. Loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills and have repayment options of up to 30 years.
  4. Interest rates are 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for private non-profits.
  5. Need help filling out the application? Access these step-by-step instructions
  6. Layoff Assistance and Aversion Services –

Consider contacting MOC regarding a Profit Risk Assessment for your company.

Management Tip: Explore your insurance coverage

Everyone's business interruption insurance and general insurance is different, but you don't want to miss out if something shuts you down. Get in front of your lawyer and broker right more. Here is a bulletin posted by The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance.

Management Tip: Double down on your customers, they are still your lifeblood

While this crisis is likely going to get worse before better, communicate and be there for your customers as a top priority. Do not let urgency be the enemy of the important...

Do not forget to communicate with your customers!

You as the CEO might want to step in here to be sure you roll out the red carpet and keep your customers close. In the last recession, those who stopped communicating did not fare well when things got good again.

Being there for your customers when things are bad will ensure that you have a loyal customer when things turn around.

HR Tip: What about OSHA, HR and safety concerns related to the virus?

Culled from hundreds of questions, here are the top HR questions we have heard.   Review answers and the full list of questions here.

  • What can or can't I ask my employees about their health because of HIPAA?
  • When can or can't I put someone on unemployment insurance? What if they need to take care of kids? What if they are quarantined? What if I just want them to go home because they are worried?
  • Is there a best practice with regard to a manufacturer who has seen an infection? What does the law say and what is best practice once we have sent someone home? Do we have any risk because the infected person was in the shop and touched surfaces? When might we actually have to shut our facility down legally and from best practice? 
  • Can I send an employee home if they display symptoms? Can I take their temperature? What if they have traveled to a COVID locations? What if they have tested positive for COVID? 
  • Am I liable if an employee is ill at work? Can employees refuse to come in because they fear being infected? 
  • When would I need to shut down, how can I avoid doing that? 
  • How can vacation time/paid time off/sick time be required to be used and for what purposes? Can I advance time from later in the year? What if it is all exhausted, do I need to pay for more? 
  • What do I do if I am forced to temporarily lay off employees or significantly reduce their hours? 

HR Tip: How will unemployment changes in WI affect me?

The state is changing requirements for unemployment right now, and rates may go up in the future. Read more

HR Tip: Now is the time to build company loyalty (and dispel crazy rumors).

First, the chart below shows the risk by age – this disease is very dangerous to at-risk populations and those over 70 years old. As much of our employees are under 70, this may be comforting.  But it emphasizes that the risk to the families of your employees are high.  Do you have employees who care for elderly parents?  What about those near retirement?  Do you have any people with asthma, auto-immune disorders?  This is the world that your people are living in.

data show older populations are at greater risk

  • What are you doing provide accommodations for and comfort to those who are at risk, or those who are fearful of being at risk? What communications are you sending? Are you able to increase the distance your employees need to be near each other? Are you able to make some exceptions for those who may be at risk? 
  • Working remotely may not be an ideal option for most of you. But if some of your team is remote, you should consider a business license to Zoom, WebEx, Skype, or Microsoft Teams which is likely already loaded or available for download if you use Office365.
  • You can do A LOT to provide a personal touch that helps calm your employees and shows them you respect their efforts and dedication by; being physically present, talking openly about future plans, not having too many closed door meetings, communicating with your staff every day, making sure you know about your employees’ personal concerns (even if all you can do is be empathetic) and ensuring your managers are keeping up with the emotional state of their direct reports.
  • Oh, and don’t forget that there are some crazy rumors out there.  Stop the spread of misinformation by debunking those for your employees. Here are printable lists of myths debunked.

IT Tip: With strange times, come more attempts to phish, beware.  Make sure you have updated your cybersecurity.

There has been a rise in phishing schemes taking advantage of panic-stricken employees.  It never hurts to reinforce the need to respond appropriately to strange emails. Read more: Imposters pretending to be from the World Health Organization (WHO), Coronavirus ScamsTelework Security Basics

Operations Tip: How are other manufacturers protecting themselves in their plant?

Many have shown that what South Korean manufacturers are doing to keep their factories up and running.  Here are some of the measures that they are taking:

  • Working remotely for the sales team, marketing teams and finance teams as well as back-office.
  • No face-to-face meetings allowed.
  • No business travels.
  • People should keep 6 feet distance when they talk and even some things are being rearranged in the plant to accommodate others working 6 feet from one another if possible.  As this may become the new normal, any steps you take now to spread areas out will likely be good for the future too.
  • Temperature checks before entering the factory gate (use IR scanning thermometer that does not require touching skin or ear temperature with an alcohol swab in between).
  • A person who shows temperature above 99.5 degrees is not allowed to enter.
  • Wearing a mask while in the factory.
  • People should clean hands with hand sanitizer before going into the office door. (Hand sanitizer can be placed in front of every office door)
  • Taking weekly anti-epidemic sterilization for all major surfaces.

Operations Tip: Are you disinfecting all the areas you need to with EPA-approved COVID cleaners?

  • Machine control panels
  • Tow motor and other vehicles
  • Packaging centers
  • Shipping/receiving offices and docks
  • Locker rooms
  • Restrooms
  • Break/lunch rooms
  • Time clocks
  • Administrative offices
  • Air conditioner coils and drip pans
  • Shared computers, telephones and office supplies

All surfaces are not the same, it’s critical to follow the proper procedure for disinfecting based on the type of surface being disinfected.  The specific procedure for disinfecting the variety of surface at your manufacturing facility varies depending upon the type of cleaner you are using (make sure it is EPA registered product against coronavirus and that you leave it on the surface for long enough).  One local companies products are sure to do that if you are concerned:

EPA List here

Management Tip: Will you look for the opportunity even in this disaster?

We are all going to have to hunker down and survive first, but as leaders we must continue looking to the future to provide hope and to make sure that when things are better, we are better.

We believe that our manufacturers are the foundation of our economy. And when we come out the other end of this crisis, we can be stronger than before. We can choose to use any extra time we have to plan, to look for talent now, to increase our roster of A-players later, to start thinking of how to minimize future supply chain disruption through reshoring products, and to plan for 18 months from now when we can again invest in new ways of doing things.

There is always a silver lining…even if we have a marathon to get through first. What opportunity is just beyond our reach today that, with your strategic vision, you can aspire to? Maybe today is too soon to think about it, but when the day-to-day crisis management becomes overwhelming, perhaps sitting back to think about the future again is the right thing to do.

Consider contacting MOC for a free consultation for your company.

Thank you to our partner Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers for assisting in supplying some of this information.

COVID-19 Resource Links

Foundation for Manufacturing Excellence

Wisconsin Workplace/Employee Recommendations

Insurance Questions

Disruption/Response Planning

Recovery Planning

National Association of Manufacturers

Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing & Productivity

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

The CDC has provided this interim guidance for businesses and employers to help plan and respond to COVID-19.

They have provided information on how COVID-19 spreads, its symptoms, prevention and treatment, what to do if you are sick and more. See the links below for select sections.

The World Health Organization (WHO)

University of Wisconsin-Stout