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The global COVID-19 pandemic that struck more than a year ago has altered the day-to-day operations of businesses, forcing companies to adapt to a new reality. A recent report released by Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI) delves into five aspects of plumbing manufacturing transformed by the pandemic.
The report notes PMI’s actions to help its industry members during the uncertain future that all manufacturers have been facing. From the onset of the pandemic, the organization used its connections with federal and state decision-makers to keep manufacturers open and ensure that plumbing manufacturers were designated as essential businesses.
Actions taken include adding plumbing manufacturers to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” advisory list; reaching out to governors in about 10 states where PMI manufacturing facilities were located to make them aware of the advisory and ensure the facilities stayed open; and working with the National Association of Manufacturers and U.S. government trade officials to urge Mexico to recognize manufacturers as essential businesses and help keep PMI member facilities open.
PMI also continued advocating for tariff relief so members could obtain needed materials.
In addition, PMI has served as the central communications point for COVID-19 information and guided members to the resources available on how to keep manufacturing facilities safe through an array of communication channels, including committee calls, and their website, publications, alerts and social media posts. PMI also transformed in-person events into virtual ones.
Five Pandemic Touchpoints
The report explores how workplace safety, remote working, product innovation, supply chain, and diversity and inclusion have all been transformed in the plumbing manufacturing world.
At the top of the list was workplace safety. Once plumbing manufacturers were deemed essential, they had to update facilities to ensure operations continued safely, while following guidance from federal, state and local authorities.
This included issuing face masks and other personal protective equipment to employees; adapting workspaces and erecting barriers to create physical distancing among employees; implementing temperature checks; focusing on disinfection and hand washing; creating better airflow and ventilation; and staggering shifts to reduce the number of employees inside facilities.
Another impact noted in the PMI report was the shift to remote work for companies worldwide — a trend that may continue after the end of the pandemic. Plumbing manufacturers successfully established work-from-home policies for employees who did not have to be onsite, and increased the use of tools and systems designed to better facilitate group work remotely.
A third impact involves an increase in product innovation to address the public’s increased concerns over the spread of infectious viruses. Increased sales of touchless plumbing products, including touchless faucets and toilets, motivated many member manufacturers to develop new touchless products.
In addition, PMI members are increasingly using materials that resist bacteria growth and are developing products to curb the spread of bacteria. These include self-cleaning toilets, sinks designed to drain water quickly, and seamless counters.
Even before the pandemic hit, plumbing manufacturers were dealing with supply chain disruptions caused by tariffs on Chinese goods, causing them to either negotiate with customers or absorb these tariffs.
But the COVID-19 pandemic proved even more disruptive, creating a ripple effect of interruptions. Many countries either completely shut down or limited operations of their manufacturing facilities, resulting in decreased availability of raw materials and methods used to move products. Shipping containers became less available as manufacturers used them to store unsold inventory.
Plumbing manufacturers are now continuously monitoring their supply chains while companies ramp up operations to meet product demand — a trend that some PMI members believe will continue through 2022.
Lastly, several social justice movements took center stage during the pandemic, motivating many PMI members to increase their diversity and inclusion efforts to support minority colleagues and raise awareness of the issues facing minorities in America today.
Plumbing manufacturers such as UL began making public statements supporting and standing with Black colleagues, started inclusion conversations with employees, and provided toolkits to employees containing talking points, questions and discussion topics.
The PMI board is working on additional diversity and inclusion guidance and initiatives for its members as well.
The above is a high-level overview of PMI’s 2021 Annual Report. Visit https://bit.ly/3u3Fuk1 to read the entire report.