Essential services are, theoretically, the only operations that should be on-going in the U.S. right now—but what are they? The term “essential” has come under a great deal of scrutiny in recent weeks, as it’s used to determine whether or not companies can keep operating amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
In an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus, non-essential activities have been halted, which means many organizations have been forced to suspend their operations. In the manufacturing industry, however, there are a considerable number of companies still operational and considered essential. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed increasing demand on some manufacturing firms.
Despite the controversy surrounding what constitutes an essential service, the following manufacturing operations are widely considered to be vital and, therefore, are permitted to operate:
Medical Supply Manufacturers
As coronavirus sweeps around the world, there is an unprecedented demand for medical equipment. With countries in need of ventilators, personal protection equipment, and even extra hospital beds, medical supply manufacturers are working around the clock to increase their output.
According to IBIS World, manufacturing companies who produce medical equipment and supplies are expected to see a sharp increase in demand. In particular, plants supplying personal protective equipment are running at maximum capacity and will almost certainly continue increasing production.
The COVID-19 outbreak doesn’t just mean that healthcare providers require more equipment; they need an increasing amount of medication too. While individuals can reduce their use of non-essential consumables, medication remains a critical and life-saving resource.
As well as producing medication at a consistent rate, pharmaceutical manufacturers are increasing production of certain medications in direct response to COVID-19. As researchers and doctors attempt to create vaccines and effective treatments, manufacturers are responding to the additional demand for certain drugs.
Food Producers and Manufacturers
The food and drink industry is something of a dichotomy when it comes to being classified as an essential service. While restaurants were one of the first venues to be deemed non-essential, the food supply chain itself remains a critical part of the nation’s infrastructure.
As such, food manufacturers are continuing to operate. In fact, the closure of many food outlets means that manufacturers are working hard to fulfill increased demand across other areas.
Manufacturing Safely During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Even manufacturing companies that are deemed to be providing an essential service have been forced to modify their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing means ensuring workers are kept at least 2 meters apart to try and prevent the virus from spreading, for example.
In a bid to increase outputs and operate safely, manufacturing firms are using advanced solutions. With smart manufacturing systems, for example, firms can operate with fewer personnel on-site. As well as enabling them to meet the government’s temporary restrictions, this ensures that companies can keep up with production, even when staff are forced to take time off work to self-isolate.
While the true definition of an essential service continues to be debated, the ability to operate within COVID-19 could render the discussion irrelevant. Providing firms can use innovative systems to create safe working environments, an increasing number of companies could reinstate their operations. As the government responds to calls to protect the economy, the implementation of automated systems and smart technology could provide a way out of lockdown and put us on the path to recovery.