COVID-19: The Way Forward – Insights from McKinsey & Company

MILPITAS, California, May 13, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — In much of post-lockdown China, urban life is humming. Streets in Beijing and Shanghai are bustling with traffic, smog again shrouds city skylines with the resurgence of economic activity, property sales are bouncing back and a revival in consumer confidence is taking hold. Emerging from monthslong shelter-in-place orders, the nation has seized a large measure of control in containing COVID-19 as it breaks fertile new ground in pandemic response and recovery.

In Wuhan, Hubei, the fountainhead of the novel coronavirus, one company offers a striking example of China’s muscular COVID-19 containment efforts, carefully continuing to operate through January and February as the virus set root, said Karel Eloot, a Shenzhen-based senior partner and Asia leader of Transformation and Operations practices at McKinsey & Company, speaking at a recent webinar presented with SEMI. Soon, COVID-19 spread to eight other provinces that suffered serious outbreaks and forced the nationwide lockdown that sent China’s GDP plunging 7 percent, its first contraction in 28 years.

An impressive arsenal of safety protocols, many designed to reduce people density as a bulwark against the virus, animates China’s fight against COVID-19, a return-to-work movement that is laying a path forward for companies around the world. It is these measures, Eloot said, that have kept the Wuhan company afloat and helped other businesses across China restore operations with unusual speed.

Community and Social Distancing – The Heart of China’s COVID-19 Response

In establishing safeguards, many companies started by assessing staffing requirements, identifying workers essential to sustaining on-site operations while allowing others, such as white-collar staff, to work from home, though some have since returned to their offices. Seen as non-essential, some factory maintenance workers have been instructed to stay home. To fill staffing gaps, business have turned to multi-skilling practices, such as having on-site supervisors and engineers step out of their daily roles to handle lower-level operations activities. 

Much of the focus has been on community distancing, with businesses quickly identifying workers suffering even minor COVID-19 symptoms and using contact tracing to prevent sick or vulnerable employees from entering offices and factories and turning them into hot zones for community spread, Eloot said. Manufacturing facilities are staggering work shifts to reduce people density, closely monitoring workers’ body temperatures with an eye toward other symptoms, and following up with medical tests and quarantines as needs dictates. QR codes, long a staple of e-commerce, have been a particularly effective weapon in combatting COVID-19. Companies are deployed the scanning technology to identify workers by color code – green, yellow or red – and assign various levels of site access depending on who they’ve been in contact with.  

Some factory workstations are now walled off by transparent plastic sheeting to prevent COVID-19 infection through aerosol drift. In business meetings and lunchrooms, staffers sit spaced a safe distance apart and facing the same direction to avoid crosscurrents of the microscopic respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. Others eat in isolation. Meeting room windows are opened, weather permitting, to admit fresh air. And elevators – perfect petri dishes for contagion – are shuttered to ward off human clusters, shifting all floor-to-floor movement to staircases.  

Companies united by the common goal to keep goods flowing through supply chains are providing masks and other personal protective devices to smaller players most vulnerable to the economic shock of COVID-19. The aim: Shield the companies from the potentially crippling effects of the virus to avoid supply chain breakdowns that can undercut the performance of the whole.

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Source: COVID-19: The Way Forward – Insights from McKinsey & Company