Member Companies Adjust, Prioritize Communication

Members of the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with care and caution.

You have temporarily closed your plants to disinfect your operations. You have reduced your staff levels to create more space on your plant floors. You have formed response teams, shuttered conference rooms, established work-from-home operations, accelerated sanitation protocols, suspended (or reduced) travel, redesigned work spaces, installed clear barriers on plant floors, eliminated high-touch points, installed temperature-taking stations, staggered break schedules, required masks in certain spaces, closed your campus to visitors, and launched campaigns to reinforce safety messages.

Those measures, while effective, do not land at the top of the list of your successes. In a poll of about a dozen member companies conducted last week, we learned the things that matter most in your workplaces were communicating effectively, accommodating employees, and simply being nimble.

At Dirt Dog Manufacturing, the company transitioned to four, 10-hour shifts a week to reduce exposure and give employees an extra day to react to the emerging reality of schooling from home.

Marc Ivey, vice president of business development for Dirt Dog, said the company also intensified its outreach to dealers.

“Even though we took our salesmen off the road early in the process based on shelter-in-place orders, we were intentional in making extra phone calls to our dealers simply to check on them, their staffs and their families,” he said. “We were available to answer questions, of course, but we made it clear that the intent of the call was a simple check-in.”

Other companies cited communication as key to their success as well.

Steve Sukup, president and CEO of Sukup Manufacturing, has been publishing a weekly video message to dealers.

Brad Baker, product manager with Salford Group, said the company organized daily meetings in the earliest days of the pandemic. Senior managers met first then shared information with their respective groups. The meetings kept everyone informed on a fast-changing situation and offered reassurance to employees that the company was committed to their safety.

At SMA Inc., the company implemented policies like those throughout the industry and ultimately adapted them based on geography.

Luke Gazaway, national sales manager, said what was a company-wide ban on travel was modified based upon region. Territory managers can now travel at their discretion but communicate with customers in advance about the circumstances at their operations and their comfort level with visitors.