Even though we are only running essential lines, we’re still going to need another 55 people next week in Michigan to satisfy customer demand. Paducah will be starting up off-shifts for the G0 lines.
Since we were only able to get 9 volunteers in Michigan last week after asking everybody, it seems the only way forward is to start the standard recall procedure, in department seniority order. This is the same way we did the recall in 2019. When recalled, you may exercise your shift and plant preferences. There are acceptable COVID-19 related reasons to decline your recall, such as illness or childcare challenges, please talk to HR about your individual situation when called.
Some people were not able to take planned vacations during the shut down period. For this reason we are relaxing the vacation carry over policy. You may take one week paid and the rest may be carried over, even if it’s more than the 40 hour limit.
I returned to work today. Duane took my temperature with a scanner and asked me some questions. It’s a ghost town in the office, with only a few of us here while everyone else works from home.
I walked through the Progress Drive plant and 6th Street plants so far. I was really impressed with the changes that were made during the last week. I especially liked the hands free sanitizer stations that are installed all over the place.
I wore a mask with safety glasses all day just to see what it was like. My glasses didn’t fog up like they do for some people. I am wearing the normal plastic non-prescription safety glasses with the black rubber seal. My mask has a bendable tab that conforms to my nose, and I think that helped a lot. We’re getting these types of masks today, so hopefully the fogging will be kept to a minimum. For those who cannot wear the masks, we will have face shields. Everyone will have to wear one or the other to be compliant with the latest Michigan order.
Maybe my mask didn’t fog up, but that doesn’t mean I have enjoyed the experience. It’s a little like breathing into a bag at first. It doesn’t seem like I’m getting the same amount of fresh air. Maybe I’ll get used to it. People in the hospital wear them all day, so I guess this is the new normal for us.
Governor Whitmer is expected to extend the stay at home order until the middle of May, but ease up on certain types of activity. We’ll wait and see. Mason county still has a very low number of cases, 5.
Many of our major customers are still planning to start up on May 4, that’s why we are gradually ramping back up.
A common question is how much longer will we continue health care coverage. We’ll have an answer to that question before we start calling people back for the week of May 4.
Stephanie is calling people to ask if they want to come back next week and is waiting for retuned calls. If you have a message from Stephanie, please call her back so she can keep going down the list.
Cleaning, preparation and very limited production is taking place today. This week about 20 operators are working in Michigan and Kentucky, plus necessary support staff. Next week, as we have requirements for another 90 operators in all 4 plants. We are trying to keep the number to a minimum required to fulfill automotive customer orders.
We are continuing to evaluate our customer requirements, and will recall people as orders increase. We don’t expect to “re-open” one day and have everyone who is on leave come back that day. We will be reaching people by telephone when it’s time to come back.
Unemployment claims continue to be the biggest complaint and concern. HR is working in the evenings to make sure forms get faxed as soon as possible. There is no backlog on the Whitehall side. Stephanie is having great difficulty getting answers from the unemployment agency. Unfortunately the system is overwhelmed.
I apologize for not posting in a while. Each day I send an e-mail to all employees who have UACJ Whitehall e-mail addresses, and Stephanie posts the update on the employee Facebook page. The reason I stopped was because each of these e-mails contained some information that our customers may not want us to share on our website. Today I can share the post, because it is only about us :
We are starting to call employees back. At this point we are asking for volunteers and we are calling individuals to report on Monday April 20. We will be calling more back on April 27. After that will depend on customer requirements.
Because we supply the automotive industry, we are considered essential because automotive companies like Honda, BMW, Ford and GM can’t build cars without our parts. We are ramping up to be prepared for the startup of these assembly plants. You may have noticed other companies in Ludington like Great Lakes Castings, Brill, Kaines and Haworth are still working. They must be considered essential also.
We have notified local officials in Ludington and Paducah of our plans to gradually return to work, starting next week. Included with the notification was our COVID-19 Safety Plan.
The new COVID-19 safety plan has been completed by several members of management. It is thorough and comprehensive and complies with the Governor’s requirements for essential businesses. Spectrum Hospital visited the Progress plant today. John Boos, Duane Tyndall and Bob Parks reviewed the plan with the hospital official, who was pleased with the plan and our preparation.
The plan includes the following topics :
Pandemic Response Team
Preventative Material Inventory
Personal Protective Equipment
Disinfection Measures – pre startup
Disinfection Frequency – ongoing
Deep Cleaning and Disinfection Protocol
Social Distancing Protocol
Social Distancing in Manufacturing
Social Distancing during shift change
Social Distancing during breaks
Social Distancing – Bathrooms, Common areas and offices
On Site Health Screening
On Site Health Screening Temperature Protocol
Self-Quarantining and Return to Work Protocol
Visitors, Contractors Self Screening
Return to work guidelines
Daily Cleaning Layered Audit
Have a great weekend, stay safe, and hope to see you soon!
I had to think really hard to remember what day it was when I started this update. This new life reminds me of the movie Groundhog Day.
Today Governor Whitmer extended the stay at home order in Michigan to May 1, as expected. As I said in yesterday’s update, we will need to start up earlier to be ready as our customers start up on May 1.
Management is working very hard to develop new safe policies and practices that will be in place prior to anybody returns to work. These will apply in Michigan, Kentucky and Mexico. We’ll keep you posted as they are finalized.
There is nothing new about Kentucky’s stay at home order, but we’ll stay tuned.
We now have the first confirmed case of Coronavirus in Mason County, and I understand that this person is recovering at their home.
Toyota was the last of the major OEM’s to announce extending their downtime until the beginning of May. Of all our customers, only Tesla in Shanghai and Reno are still operating. Today Stan Krupinski, John Boos and Bob Parks safely shipped some inventory to Tesla from Madison and Progress. Thank you guys for coming in to take care of Tesla.
Many of our customers are delaying their payments to us, putting us in a precarious situation. This will make it difficult to pay our suppliers on time. Even though most people are on layoff, we have fixed costs like health insurance and utilities that do not go away and we have little money coming in to pay for these things. Therefore we are limiting expenses to the bare minimum and trying to re-negotiate payment terms to get us through this lean time. This will probably be the case for the next few months.
Steve Gray, Dan Kittleson and the plant managers are working on new safety procedures that will be put in place so that we can return to work when we need to. We are also purchasing supplies that will be needed for these new procedures like gloves, masks, touchless sanitizer dispensers, cleaning supplies and those kind of things.
We still don’t know exactly when and how we will start back up, but let me tell you how things are looking. If most of our customers are starting up in during the first week of May, we will need to start up a week earlier (April 27) for those parts that are low in inventory. It will not be a full crew. A week before that (April 20) we will be bringing in a number of maintenance, electrical people, technicians and engineers to get things ready for a safe startup. Again, not everyone will be needed. We will communicate our plans to our city and county governments so there are no issues.
When we do recall, it will be volunteers first. We also will be taking into consideration situations that make it impossible to return, such as illness and childcare challenges. Only after exhausting volunteers will we be formally recalling people according to our handbook. Again, the policy will have to be modified to allow for people who cannot return due to illness or childcare problems.
The Michigan legislature voted to extend the state’s emergency declaration until April 30. Governor Whitmer’s March 24 stay at home order expires on April 13, but the governor is expected to extend the order sometime this week.
All of our customers seem to be shutting down for the entire month of April, except for Tesla, who is still running at a reduced rate in Reno and Shanghai.
It was a great weekend to get out and do some yard work, and probably many of us are feeling it in our backs and muscles by now.
On the business side, today’s news is that automakers are extending their shut downs further. Honda today announced that all North American production will be suspended until May 1. BMW also announced that their shut down (which affects Paducah) will be extended to April 30 (It was April 13 and we were getting a lot of pressure to come back and make parts for them). Tower also notified us that they are planning to be down until May 4. Challenge has moved orders out, too.
Today we met with our plant managers to discuss how to implement social distancing in our plants when we come back. They are also evaluating personal protective equipment like gloves and masks.
Do we know when we’re going to call people back to work? Not at this time.
I watched Michigan Governor Whitmer’s update this morning. She hinted at extending the stay at home order, but did not make any announcement. Based on the automakers announcements and our expectation of an extention of the stay at home order, we feel it is looking less likely that we will be coming back in any significant way next week. We will extend health insurance benefits through April but after that we will likely require our employees on leave to take COBRA. We will notify you in an update in the coming days.
A few words about unemployment: I’m hearing it’s frustrating to get through. Please know that we are doing everything we can at our end. The state’s system is not designed for this load, and Governor Whitmer acknowledged this today in her update.
Fortunately, no cases of COVID-19 in Mason or Lake Counties, yet.
Not a lot of news today. We are in daily communication with our customers to determine their status and when they plan to start back up.
We’re still waiting to get a legal opinion in English that better explains the Mexican government’s position on businesses like ours. We hope to get this opinion later today.
We await updated information from Michigan and Kentucky on whether each state’s stay at home orders will be extended beyond what was originally announced. Since the outbreak is projected to peak at the beginning of May, I would expect these orders to be extended.