UPDATE 7/20/20: In the past few months we've made some changes to the procedures described below. They are, in no particular order: We are no longer requiring goggles, after finding that they encouraged eye-touching more than they prevented it; we do not have mandated team hand-washing sessions; our headcount per shift is closer to one-half of our pre-COVID norm than the one-third we started with. If we make further changes, we will continue to update this post!
Hey there Nuggeteers and future Nuggeteers! My name is Leah, and I’m Nugget’s Director of Manufacturing. I’ve been known to appear in the occasional Instagram Story, but I’m pretty elusive, so for many of you this is probably your first time hearing from me.
We’ve experienced massive growth since I started at Nugget two years ago, and I’ve seen a lot of changes within the company, from location, to personnel, to everything in between, but the changes brought on by Covid-19 have been more than I could have ever imagined. To provide some more insight for customers on what’s happening at our factory in North Carolina as we return to work, I’ve written a bit about our activities and thoughts in this new era, the processes we are putting in place, and what that means for your orders.
But first, I would like to say THANK YOU to everyone who has shown composure and understanding during this time. Trust me when I say that none of this is being taken lightly by anyone on the Nugget team, and every decision we make is thoroughly weighed and considered. Your willingness to be respectful of our needs is truly heartwarming, and has provided us with the time we needed to prepare for a safe return to work.As anyone who keeps up with our marketing and company announcements already knows, we take the health and wellbeing of our production teammates as seriously as the health of anyone else at the company. And as the person specifically tasked with getting us back to work, I especially have felt the stress and anxiety that comes with putting any of our employees at risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Will there be a vaccine by the time we head back to work? No. Does that make me feel warm and fuzzy inside? No. Will our production capabilities be affected by the new, intensive safety measures we will be implementing? Definitely. Will we do everything in our power to try to protect our employees, while still meeting the needs of our customers? You bet.
So, we’re going to have to get creative (thankfully, creativity and imagination are kind of our thing). Our 12,000 square foot Hillsborough factory — which once upon a time felt like an absolutely massive space to make Nuggets in — doesn’t feel quite so large anymore, now that we function as an assembly line and are trying to keep employees spaced six feet or more away from each other at all times. And things that used to be everyday, normal activities, like washing hands, are now a critical means of reducing the spread of germs, and need to be taken very seriously.
In normal times, I think about things like our materials, timing, and flow: Should the pillow makers each grab their own fabric from the bins as they need it, or should the QA person bring it over to both of them in batches throughout the day? These days, I spend my time thinking about different things, like: with all the disruptions to supply chains, do we have enough hand sanitizer? Do we have enough disinfectant wipes for the hand carts we use to transport foam around the building?
Do we have effective ways to screen people for symptoms, or to take their temperatures? What about infected people who are asymptomatic? How are we working to identify them and make sure they don’t come to work?
Do we have plenty of break areas for our employees to take a rest? We used to encourage people socializing and spending time together — now we have to actively discourage it. It goes against human nature, and our philosophy as a close-knit company, but mindsets like that absolutely need to be altered in order to protect each other and ourselves. These are just a handful of the things that keep me up at night.
We’ve done our best to come up with answers to the questions above, and many more. Here’s some of the work we’ve done to prepare ourselves as thoroughly as possible before resuming a limited-capacity version of production next week.
NEW MEASURES AT NUGGET HQ
- We created a survey for all employees so we could find out a few important things, including how well they were socially distancing themselves, how well the people they live with are socially distancing, and how susceptible they were to COVID-19 due to their own personal health circumstances, or those of people they live with. We will be using that information to coach and educate on social distancing, as well as adjust the roles of people at higher risk.
- We have created new, socially-distanced spaces in the warehouse to have meetings, like our daily production meeting. Previously, we would all crowd around in a small, intimate area. Now we will have every employee standing at least nine feet away from their nearest coworker.
- I have taped out clearly indicated walking paths for the people working on the assembly line, so that their paths do not come within six feet of each other. In areas where workers would be too close, but cannot be spaced apart easily, we have erected acrylic panels between them.
- Everyone will have a new, designated break area with each person spread out with at least ten feet between them. You’ll notice I say nine or ten feet a lot. Based on scientific research, six feet is recommended, but even further is better, so we’re taking that seriously and spreading out as much as possible.
- Every employee will be using provided PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). This will include safety glasses and masks to prevent people from touching their mouth and eyes.
- We have added additional touch-free handwashing stations, which will be used during multiple team-mandated handwashing breaks per day.
- To limit the number of people in the building at any given time, we are resuming production with roughly one-third our usual headcount per shift.
- Everyone will take their temperature at the start of the work day. Anyone with a fever will be sent home and instructed to call their doctor to be screened.
- We are sending a weekly email bulletin to the entire company with the latest information about Covid-19 from the CDC, the NC Dept of Health & Human Services, and the health departments of the counties surrounding our HQ in Hillsborough, to keep everyone on our team up to date.
- Every employee has to score 100% on a quiz about social distancing and sanitation in the age of Covid-19 before being able to return to work. You can take the quiz for yourself here.
These are just a few of the things we are doing to make sure that our team’s return to work is as safe as possible. As you can imagine, none of these measures are going to increase production speed or efficiency. They aren’t going to result in more Nuggets going out the door than usual. But what they do allow is the most important thing there is for a business: the ability to be back at work. We aren’t sure yet how many Nuggets we’ll be able to ship per day, but once we’ve been operating for about a week and start to get the feel of it, our marketing team will let everyone know across email and social media right away. Our priority will be to first finish the remaining Nuggets that were ordered before March 27th, then move on to orders from on or after the March 27th restock.
And one last note: as important as these measures are to protect the health of our own staff, they also protect you, too. Because of CDC guidelines that state the coronavirus can live on surfaces like plastic for up to three days, we still recommend you wait a couple of days to open Nugget boxes when they first arrive. But because of all the work we’re putting into our factory, we also believe the chance of Covid-19 being on any packaging from Nugget is extremely low.
I hope this helps you understand my role as the leader of the manufacturing operation, and what we’re doing to make real progress in a very uncertain time. Thanks for your support — please stay safe and healthy. We care about our employees, and we care about all of you too!