Team members may not recognize the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky plant when they return May 11, said President Susan Elkington.

Significant changes have been made around the facilities to protect against the coronavirus, including the actual flow of traffic in some areas, she said.

“I’m sure they are thinking it will be like it was when they left, but there have been a lot of changes,” she said. “I don’t think they’ll recognize it.”

Dr. Crystal Miller, public health director for WEDCO visited the plant last week and was impressed with the steps Toyota has taken. 

“They have done an incredible amount of work in a very short time,” Miller said of TMMK. “Of course the over-arching concern is having such a large group of people in one area, but they have really done an incredible job.

“They have implemented social distancing, and addressed PPE. Even in their administrative offices, someone who goes to the entrance must wait and be called into the area. One of our concerns are the ‘super spreaders’ who come into contact with a lot of people and spread the virus by contact and with everything they touch. Toyota has really addressed that well.”

When TMMK restarts, the majority of team members will have been away from the plant for seven weeks, Elkington said. So, it will take time for everyone to return physically and mentally to being able to produce at the standards required by Toyota and TMMK, she said.

“For the first couple of days, production will not happen, she said. That time will be spent going over new protocols and learning the new safety procedures that have been put into place.

“Everyone will have face coverings, and stations will be six-feet apart. When that isn’t possible, we’ll have shields in place,” she said. “Groups will be broken up into smaller groups. Business units have been broken down into smaller shops, smaller units.

“The goal is everyone will have actual contact with a very small number of people.”

The cafeteria has been reorganized to be “grab-and-go,” with no touch at check out. The break areas have been reconfigured.

“We have taken steps that really limit exposure and the number of people you may come into contact with,” she said.

Closed areas such as offices and shops will have an entrance and someone must sign in before entering or wait while someone is called if necessary.

All of these changes in addition to procedures for cleaning and sanitizing equipment and work spaces.

Many of the changes at TMMK are similar to what Toyota is establishing at its other North American plants, but there are differences because each plant building is different and each vehicle model has different specifications, Elkington said. For example, TMMK is Toyota’s largest plant and has entrances and exits than other plants more so that had to be taken into consideration. Also, each state has its own set of requirements which must be met.

TMMK has an 88-page “playbook” with guidelines and philosophies that is used to help set the protocols.

The health and welfare of team members is critical, she said. The heat generated by wearing masks, for example, has been taken into account by adjusting air and humidity levels, and staying hydrated is important, she said.

“Our first priority is taking care of our team members and helping them take care of themselves,” she said. “Hopefully what our team members learn here, they can take back home and elsewhere to be safe.”

 

Mike Scogin can be reached at mscogin@news-graphic.com. 

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