As the coronavirus pandemic sent most manufacturing companies operations to a halt across the country, the West Virginia Manufacturing Extension Partnership, housed inside the Department of Mining and Industrial Extension at West Virginia University, launched a webinar series to prepare their clients in West Virginia for a strong comeback when normal production resumes.
“One thing that is on everyone’s mind now is preparedness,” said Jamie Cope, manager of business development for WVMEP. “How can we be ready for the unexpected?”
Webinar topics were determined based off of WVMEP staff and their partners expertise, while also putting a focus on the unique challenges facing manufacturers today.
One webinar focuses specifically on infectious disease response and guides clients through the best practices to keep employees safe in the workplace through strategies such as social distancing, as well as keeping employees up to date with factual information pertaining to the virus.
Another looks at continuing operations during a crisis. As the coronavirus has created a major disruption in normal work patterns, this webinar discusses how to prepare essential employees to take on tasks and responsibilities outside of their normal routine.
“Many of the webinars we’re offering discuss innovations that, along with improving day-to-day production and safety, will add long-term stability through planning,” Cope said. “We’re finding that our manufacturing clients are as busy if not busier while working from home or working with limited office hours.”
While it may seem like there is no upside to suspending normal business operations, Cope explained that there has been one unforeseen advantage of this current work from home arrangement — the ability to block off time without as many unscheduled interruptions.
“Manufacturers who may have felt like the couldn’t be out of the office to go to a seminar can now focus on learning,” Cope said.
According to Cope, not all topics are related to COVID-19, the webinar series has given their clients an opportunity to explore areas such as automation, leadership and augmented reality.
“The overall intent is for us to provide clients with practical and useful information on how they can implement our services in a time of crisis,” said Staci Miller, director of WVMEP. “We normally deliver a service in person on the production floor. It can be challenging because clients are so busy, but now that production might be slow and people have extra time, we are offering ideas on how they can implement best practices during this period of downtime.”
The WVMEP’s main focus is on helping West Virginia businesses improve competitiveness in both local and global markets. The partnership is hosting two to three webinars a week, with new topics added to the list almost daily.
“We have had strong participation in each webinar,” Cope said. “That speaks to how hungry people are for quality content. Every webinar we have hosted has ended with more participants than it started with.”
Contact Jamie Cope at James.Cope@mail.wvu.edu for more information or to register for an upcoming webinar.
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
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