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How to stay open for business – battling COVID-19 in Northern Italy

Update: As of March 23, the factory in Cantarana, Italy, has been affected as part of the temporary general lockdown decided on by the Italian authorities. However, it stays fully prepared to resume operations when the lockdown is lifted. The same thing applies for the factories in Mumbai and Dublin, affected by similar government issued general lockdowns in India and Ireland.

In northern Italy, one of the hardest COVID-19 affected areas in the world, Swegon’s factory for chillers and heat pumps stays open for business, thanks to dedicated employees and partners, and creative solutions to the new challenges. In a situation with numerous guidelines to follow from authorities on national and international levels, we have asked Managing Director Massimo Boischio, to share some advice from recent experiences – what basic concrete measures makes it possible to keep the operations going in the middle of the Coronavirus outbreak?

  1. Safety first – the health and well-being of our employees and our partners are naturally the most important thing to us. It becomes very clear in a situation like this, just how much we are depending on all parts of society to work together, and the well-being of the people in it is the foundation of it all. So when focusing on protecting our employees, we indirectly protect also their families as well as the local community around us – all of which is crucial for us to continue with the operations.
  2. Task force – in Swegon’s delegated structure there is already a high level of autonomy, which enables quick decision making for local management. On top of this we have organized a dedicated task force with the responsibility to always be updated about official guidelines and then implement these efficiently, thanks to the short line of command.
  3. Upgrade hygiene standards – we have really put an effort into identifying how we can avoid giving the virus space to spread. For instance, washing hands and stepping up cleaning procedures is a good start, but we also need to think one step further to remove unnecessary contamination hot spots. We even remove doors if they are not necessary for fire safety etc, to avoid the staff touching handles.
  4. Make it easy to keep distance – the 1 meter distance rule recommended by health authorities is an effective way to stop virus spreading, but it can feel awkward when you are not used to it and sometimes people simply forget – so one example of what we did , we reduced the number of people in the office letting them work from home and increased the distance of working desks for those people in the office, we double the canteen shifts to limit the number of people having lunch in the same time and also put up red markings on the floor in the canteen, helping people waiting to be served lunch to remember the distance rule.
  5. Information, Information , Information - we keep reminding all our employees of all new routines and hygiene standard via e-mail protocols, but also using screens around the whole factory and with extra information signs at toilets.
  6. Protecting the factory parameters – this might have seemed overly dramatic a few weeks ago, but for instance we have a strict no-entry policy for external transportation personnel, with separate bathroom facilities etc set up outside the factory.
  7. Create organisational firewalls – if our first line of defence, like increased hygienic standards, should not be enough, we want to make it hard for the virus to spread further. So we have divided our employees into autonomous groups, which are scheduled to avoid contact in canteens, locker rooms and so on. Normally we encourage socializing to build team spirit, but we can’t afford to leave out any precautions at the moment.
  8. Take it seriously – after seeing first-hand how the outbreak has evolved in northern Italy, we know the actions we decide on can’t just be a paper exercise, we need to be clear that this is for real, and that every measure must to be taken seriously, even if they sound drastic by the standards we were used to just a few weeks ago.

Building on the experiences from Massimo Boischio and his colleagues in Italy, and adapting to the local situation in their respective countries, the other 16 Swegon production units worldwide, as well as sales offices, technical service departments and headquarters, are just as intent to weather the COVID-19 outbreak and keep all vital parts of the operations going.

You can also read more about the Swegon UK&I situation here.

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