The COVID-19 pandemic and its resultant disruption have highlighted the need for manufacturing businesses to take careful steps in the management of on-site contractors. By Stephen Darracott.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt businesses and our communities. Nevertheless, the Australian manufacturing sector is thriving. With ongoing restrictions and lockdowns in some regions, manufacturing companies should look for technology solutions that can help them help increase safety and security at their sites.

One area that can’t be underestimated is managing contractors, casual workers and visitors. It has always been important to know who is working onsite. It’s also essential to make sure contractors and casual staff have had required training, and health and safety inductions. Furthermore, manufacturers need to ensure that contractors are licensed and insured before letting them get to work. In the past, this has usually been done using manual, paper-based forms and processes. However, this approach is prone to error and can make it difficult to accurately determine who was onsite at any given time; a key requirement of the Government’s COVID-19 safety requirements.

COVID-19 has emphasised the importance of being able to securely manage contractors and visitors to manufacturing facilities. Contractors can often move between various manufacturers, which makes it even more important to be able to accurately trace their movements if an outbreak were to occur. The nature of their movement means that contractors could even be an infection vector, making it all the more important to be able to accurately pinpoint where they were, how long they were there for, and whom they came into contact with.

Modern solutions to address these challenges include digital visitor management systems. These are cost-effective yet highly efficient solutions that track contractors and include more information than would be possible with manual sign-in sheets or other forms of confirmation. This lets manufacturers dramatically improve safety and compliance within their facilities while simultaneously achieving a return on investment in the digital visitor management system through reduced overheads and administrative costs involved in managing contractors.

For example, a digital visitor management system can include a kiosk placed at the facility’s entry or reception. Placing it close to office staff can help ensure that all visitors and contractors sign in on entry, using the system, without having to dedicate resources to sign them in and conduct inductions. By removing the need for dedicated staff members to manage visitors, manufacturers can lower costs and redirect those workers to more valuable, growth-oriented tasks.

Some systems can include elements such as temperature checks to lower the risk of infected people entering the business. The same system can automatically notify staff onsite if a contractor’s temperature is high so they can determine whether that person should be allowed onsite. This can help protect the business and all its workers during COVID-19 outbreaks and it can also help prevent the spread of other infectious diseases such as influenza. Deploying these solutions now can futureproof the organisation against other health events.

COVID-19 requirements are far from the only reason manufacturers should invest in digital visitor management systems. These systems provide an added layer of support when it comes to keeping contractors and other visitors safe onsite. Like the Government’s COVID-19 check-in application, a digital visitor management system can use a QR code to direct contractors to a sign-in page. Visitors can even pre-sign in using a dedicated website, saving time once they arrive onsite. The manufacturing firm can request specific information from the contractor, including details regarding accreditations or licences. Before they can finish checking in, the manufacturer can require contractors to complete a site induction or safety checklist.

Digital visitor management systems provide a snapshot of who is onsite at any time and also ensure that all contractors and visitors have completed the necessary inductions. In case of emergency, it’s also easier to determine who should be onsite so that, if anyone is missing, first responders can be alerted and can start searching for them sooner.

The latest digital visitor management systems store all of this information in a secure database in real time. This means the information can only be accessed by authorised users, protecting the privacy of contractors while ensuring the business has the information it needs to keep everyone safe.

The need for more effective ways to track and trace visitors and contractors to manufacturing facilities has been accelerated and highlighted by the pandemic. However, there are many other benefits that digital visitor management systems can provide to manufacturing firms. These include cost reductions due to less time spent managing visitors, and increased ability to manage the health, safety, and security of the entire workforce, including contractors.

While the manufacturing industry faces a bright outlook, recent events have shown that it’s impossible to predict the future. It’s important for manufacturers to prepare for potential events by modernising their visitor and contractor management processes for increased accuracy and control, without increasing costs.

Stephen Darracott is Vice-President and Country Manager at Pitney Bowes Japan, Australia and New Zealand.