Manufacturers upgrading their plants during COVID-19 shutdown

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many manufacturing and automotive plants to temporarily shut down, which gives owners an opportunity to complete long-needed upgrades to their facilities.

By Joey Hancock June 9, 2020

The closing of manufacturing plants has caused economic hardships, but some owners are looking at shutdowns as an opportunity to do upgrades to improve the manufacturing process.

Zane Pucylowski, president and principal engineer at Phoenix Engineering, located in Atlanta, Ga., is urging owners to complete the maintenance work and updates companies put off because production lines were unable to shut down.

“Things are down right now, so take advantage of that opportunity,” he said. “Now is really your time to get these maintenance issues and upgrades done since the production lines are shut down.”

Inactive production lines also create an opportunity for companies to bring back workers who have been laid-off to help with upgrades to the plant.

“Now is a great opportunity to get in there when your workforce is home and you can potentially bring some of them back in to help during this time,” Pucylowski said. “Have them move equipment, update the processes, update the facility, clean things, and start getting the facility ready for when production lines can begin running again.”

Production lines are shut down, which means maintenance doesn’t need to be conducted during prime operating hours. Now is the time to complete simple maintenance tasks such as updating lighting and fixing safety issues.

Pucylowski said, shutting down the lines is where the big cost comes from so it is a good idea to conduct upgrades during a shutdown rather than shutting down while the plant is operating.

“For example, let’s say I have a chicken processing plant and my line is running at 99% and I have to hit my schedule continuously. Now after a couple of years I can shut down for a few weeks and do the maintenance on things that I’ve needed to do,” he said.

Economic aspect

Inactive plants are not creating any new income, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any money out there for upgrades.

“There is so much money available right now to many companies,” Pucylowski said. “Our company reached out to the banks to see if there was anything they could do to help us. There is a ton of money available to invest in business right now and the ability to expand while others are contracting just gives you more market share and more ability during this time.”

When plants reopen, there will be a pent-up demand for products. This will bring workers back to work and create an opportunity to recoup those maintenance and upgrade costs.

“You can get your investment back very quickly by doing upgrades to these plants,” Pucylowski said. “Updating the lights and upgrading the process flow will pay for itself many times over.”

The key to doing these upgrades is making sure there’s have a plan in place and companies know what needs to work to help your manufacturing plant become more efficient.

“Spend smart,” Pucylowski said. “In most cases, people already have these maintenance plans in place, planned and on the books. Having a plan to do these updates is key.”

Taking advantage of the shutdown can help many plants excel, but it depends on the mindset of the plant managers and how willing they are to grow during a pandemic.

“There are two kinds of thoughts people are having right now,” Pucylowski said. “If you have a fixed mindset, you see this as a bad thing and you have talked yourself into thinking you don’t have much business. Whereas, if you are the opposite and you see this as an opportunity then you are going out there and making these upgrades happen because you know in the long run how beneficial they will be.”

The shutdown is not a boon to manufacturing plants, but that does not mean it is devoid of opportunity for plants to become more efficient. The right mindset can create growth.

“Those who expand right now and have that mindset of expansion are going to do incredible,” Pucylowski said. “In any downturn the best of the best are going to keep going and that is essential to keep your business moving forward and finding the opportunities that are available even in situations like we are in now.”

Author Bio: Joey Hancock is a freelance writer in Phoenix, Arizona. He is an experienced journalist having covered politics, business, education, entertainment and sports for multiple publications. Hancock reported on the Monument Fire that ravaged southern Arizona in 2011, and he has also reported on large engineering projects such as the renovation of Phoenix International Raceway and the building of illegal cross border tunnels.