After a three month shutdown, the auto factory industry goes back to work on Monday, May 18. U.S. auto factories officially stopped making cars on March 18 due to national shutdowns over Coronavirus. While some factories continued to stay open, they didn’t produce vehicles. Instead, auto workers answered a call to help the nation by producing medical supplies like masks, ventilators and respirators. But with the nation and states beginning to reopen, the auto industry is the first major manufacturing system to go back to work. According to The Detroit Free Press, that’s 51 factories restarting across the nation. It’s going to look much different, however, and it won’t be easy.
All factories going back to work are going to look much different. FCA, Ford and GM are all having to take similar precautions to stop an internal COVID-19 outbreak. While each factory and brand may have a slightly different approach, all are putting an emphasis on pre-entry health screening, social distancing on production lines and break times, and increased sanitization. Many factories have even had to rework some of their production lines to be more deadly virus friendly.
For areas that don’t allow a six foot distance, auto workers will be protected with transparent plexiglass or plastic partitions in many areas of their factories. FCA will have thermal imaging cameras in many of their factories to check for people with elevated temperatures. Ford will provide free testing for both salaried and hourly auto workers who show Coronavirus symptoms at some factories.
Overall, the Detroit Three’s factories seem to be as prepared as they can be to curb the spread of Coronavirus inside their plants and prevent it from entering in the first place.
All three auto giants are eagerly awaiting getting production up and running. GM has their important full-size SUV lineup entering production and the C8 Corvette restarting production. Ford is looking to round off F-150 production in time for an all-new model to begin this fall plus the Bronco SUV family. FCA is set to launch an updated Dodge Durango and all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee. All three auto makers have extremely important products that have been interrupted by the pandemic, and they are certainly ready to move forward with their plans.
What automakers will have more trouble preventing is outside factors. According to Mopar Insiders, FCA has already sent a Sterling Heights, Michigan worker home after testing positive for COVID-19. If workers contract the virus when off work, this could hurt productivity inside factories with key personnel in quarantine or hospitals.
Yes, as of now, national and state coronavirus cases are on the downward turn as social distancing, sanitization and PPE efforts have successfully “flattened the curve.” But experts have warned that rushing the re-opening process could result in an uptick in cases, possibly worse that the first outbreak. Are the Detroit Three rushing this process and putting auto workers at risk by reopening now, or will internal and external measures be enough to get our economy back up and running? Only time will tell.