Production must go on even in a pandemic, so procurement, HR, and production need to make rapid changes to enable this without compromising the safety of employees. UPM Raflatac's Polish sites responded to the new situation decisively, with a can-do attitude.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge for our whole supply chain from employees to suppliers and subcontractors, and finally to customers. Each and every one of us had to develop new ways of cooperating and being in touch remotely in a completely new situation.
For us, the pandemic also meant that our products became even more important as an essential part of food, medical, logistics, and retail value chains. So, keeping our production running and maintaining a smooth supply of our label materials to the market became crucial.
This had to be achieved without risking the health and safety of our employees, as that is always a priority for us.
Here are some experiences of living and working during the pandemic from Poland, where UPM Raflatac has its largest center of label stock production in the world.
Keeping materials coming in
The lockdown itself was not a big problem for the Supply Chain Department, as it can work as efficiently from home as from the office.
"The biggest challenge though was to complete all orders fully and on time," says Procurement Manager Monika Walenty-Raszczuk. "In the first few weeks, we got twice as many orders as usual, but production in the Coating and Finishing Departments had been scheduled for a few weeks ahead."
Furthermore, raw materials were often delivered at the very last minute, which made it difficult to keep production running smoothly.
Flexibility, commitment, and good cooperation with other departments made it possible to solve most of the encountered difficulties.
Setting up safe working practices
The outbreak of the pandemic meant that we had to very quickly implement many solutions to minimize the risk of virus transmission at the factory.
Office workers started to work remotely, and on the shop floor, we implemented divisions enabling employee rotation and provided masks to be worn at work. Social distancing and disinfecting hands frequently were naturally part of the regimen.
We all had to learn to function in new conditions, develop working methods that would allow us to perform our duties with safety precautions when working in close proximity.
Our employees behave in a very responsible way. They report contacts with people who appear to be at risk, such as people arriving from abroad or who have been in a direct contact with the virus. In these situations, we apply preventive quarantines.
"Personally, I am impressed with how quickly we were able to implement new solutions and how responsibly all our employees approached the threat posed by the pandemic,” says HR Manager Andrzej Listwan.
Andrzej Listwan, Monika Walenty-Raszczuk, Marek Jagielski and Michał Konopacki
Attitude plays a major part
In production, keeping everyone safe requires very practical solutions, like monitoring the availability of masks, other personal protection, and disinfectants continuously to be able to react immediately to shortages.
In addition, safety means active dialogue with all employees, compliance with UPM Raflatac's guidelines to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection, and continuous improvement of OSH management.
"These measures put together allow us to best protect our Production Teams in the factory. We are at the forefront among employers in this regard,” says Marek Jagielski, Coating Manager at UPM Raflatac factory in Biskupice Podgórne.
Michał Konopacki, Finishing Manager at UPM Raflatac factory in Nowa Wieś Wrocławska, also stresses the psychological aspect of dealing with the pandemic.
"Our employees' attitude to adapting to the new rules of operation and reacting promptly to cases of illness is also a big advantage. Thanks to this attitude, we have been able to avoid hazardous situations of exposing our crew to potential infections.”
Dancing in the rain
The whole world turned upside down over year ago now. The important thing is that we have been able to adapt to the situation, keeping our production going and making sure our employees can do their job as safely as possible.
As the author Vivien Greene put it: “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain.”