After the last 18 months of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, two things became increasingly apparent for many manufacturers. First, manufacturers need to accept that the pandemic will continue. Secondly, manufacturing executives and plant managers know they must be ready for the next pandemic or crisis.
With that in mind, manufacturing leaders must work to ensure five critical practices are followed on manufacturing floors:
- Employees must wash their hands
- Employees must maintain social distancing.
- Elbow- or foot-operated switches and controls must be implemented whenever possible.
- The plant floor and all operating equipment must be sanitized regularly, following strict guidelines.
- Antimicrobial pushbuttons should be installed wherever possible.
When businesses first closed due to the pandemic in March 2020, the critical question became: How can manufacturers reduce sanitary risks once operations resume? While the question is easy to ask, it soon became apparent that there are two critical challenges to address.
- First, it’s relatively easy to hire a sub-contractor to enter the factory every two hours to spray control panels and their pushbuttons with alcohol and other sanitizing agents and then wipe them clean. However, outsourcing that practice can quickly become cost-prohibitive. Furthermore, it can result in additional downtime, which negatively affects production and reduces profitability.
- At the same time, there also is a related personnel issue. As manufacturing plants open again, plant operators return to work, albeit with significant concerns. Although they have to work, they are concerned about contracting COVID-19, which can negatively impact employee morale and decrease their productivity.
In response to these challenges, Schneider Electric worked to develop Harmony antimicrobial pushbuttons.
Prohibiting microbial growth as an additional line of defense
It is crucial to note that the antimicrobial pushbuttons don’t gain their properties due to a coating sprayed on the pushbuttons, which will wear off over time due to cleaning with alcohol or from simple degradation stemming from wear-and-tear of continued use. While this technology has merits, it has significant limitations in industrial environments.
Instead, the silver glass antimicrobial additive, which inhibits bacterial and microbial growth, is inert and blended into the pushbuttons’ raw material during manufacturing to preserve its integrity. This way, the antimicrobial additive inhibits microbial growth and resists odor, discoloration, staining, deterioration, and corrosion to maintain the pushbuttons’ surface protection over time.
Certainly, hand washing, social distancing, elbow- or foot-operated switches and controls, stringent sanitization, and widespread vaccine adoption all play a role in keeping operators healthy. However, antimicrobial pushbuttons are instrumental in providing an extra layer of defense and assurance of sanitary equipment.
When taken together, these practices serve to protect operators’ health and increase operator morale so they know they can confidently do their jobs. In turn, this leads to higher productivity levels with reduced downtime, and it also makes employee retention easier.
Manufacturing executives and plant managers alike now know the current pandemic will continue, at least for some time. They also realize it is imperative to be prepared for the next pandemic or crisis.
Industries of the Future must be dedicated to putting people first. To ensure the manufacturing environment is adapted to the heightened sanitary requirement so operators can work confidently while also ensuring high levels of productivity with minimal downtime, it is vital for machine control panels to include an embedded antimicrobial feature. You can learn more about Schneider Electric Harmony antimicrobial pushbuttons and the benefits they deliver here.