Formet Smart Start:

‘Learn from

Each Other’

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, members of the 29 Cosma divisions in North America would get together on a daily Webex call to support each other and develop solutions to myriad challenges.

“We were learning from each other,” said Phil Page, the Assistant General Manager at the Formet division in St. Thomas, Ontario. “If somebody already tripped over that rock, you will learn from it and implement changes accordingly. It also provided an opportunity to ensure we were all on the same page in this unprecedented situation.”

Page, who started as a Tool and Die Maker at Formet 21 years ago, said the pandemic was the “biggest crisis” in the plant’s 22-year history.

“It was the longest duration that our production lines have been idled in the company’s history” he said. “The personal low point for me was a couple of weeks into the layoffs when you couldn’t see the end. No one knew how long it would go or how bad it would get. All you could see were the COVID-19 numbers climbing in the daily news reports, and customers dropping out requirements.”

Understanding the situation and implementing immediate actions was the only response. The lives and livelihood of the 1,500 Formet workers, who make truck frames and underbody structures for major automakers, were at stake.

Modifications to the plant included shutting down the full-service cafeteria and showers, and adding signage in all areas, and installing physical barriers.  Formet also scrambled to find hand sanitizer, hand wipes, and thermometers to distribute to employees when they returned, sometimes buying them in small amounts until a bulk supplier could be found. There were significant changes to how workers enter the facility because social distancing didn’t work when 500 people were trying to get in during a shift change.

The Team Members are asked to fill out an electronic questionnaire which includes a temperature check within the last two hours before their shift.  If there are no concerns, this will produce a barcode that is used to enter the building.  This barcode can be scanned in at the turnstile to gain access to the plant.  Today, four of those entrances are equipped with electronic turnstiles.  Those individuals that need to get their temperature checked or fill out the questionnaire manually, have a separate entrance and are screened by a security guard.

Phil Page, Assistant General Manager at the Formet division in St. Thomas, Ontario

In a major shift for a production facility and based on social distancing guidelines, several Team Members from Formet’s salaried Departments began working remotely.  “It was something new for us,” Page said. “There are a lot of old-school thoughts at divisions about working remotely. It can be a challenge at a plant and you’ve got to get through that mindset. We tailored the policies to fit business needs, evaluated the teams, and figured out who could make it work.”  Everyone is back in the facility now, but we made it work when it was needed.

When asked what advice he’d give to other Magna divisions facing a crisis, Page offered a simple formula: “Make sure you have a supportive team with you through the process. You need them to bounce ideas off of and to develop the best plans. Ultimately, you get through it together. You can’t do it alone.”

Formet Industries’ welcome back video for employees.

An Ingenious Training Solution in a Pandemic

Concerns about the ability to maintain social distancing during training prompted Magna innovators to come up with a better way to teach employees during a pandemic.

The solution: a GoPro wearable camera that has been a favorite of athletes and anyone else who wants to capture video of their adventures. In a factory setting, the trainer straps the GoPro onto his or her head and performs a task, such as fabricating parts on an assembly line, while the trainee watches on a tablet at a safe distance.

“I’ve used my personal GoPro for mountain biking and on a trip to Grand Cayman Island,” said Jeremy Wilson, Formet’s health-and-safey coordinator. “It’s also fantastic in the plant. The field of vision is so wide you can easily see the trainer’s lower torso and arms. You can get up close and personal, guarantee that you are social distancing, and reduce the risk.”

Formet bought a base GoPro, and is considering purchasing several more kits.

“We have 1,500 people here and we do a lot of training,” Wilson explained. “This is one example of how COVID-19 makes you become innovative and think outside the box. It’s another way of making sure our people stay safe.”

We have 1,500 people here and we do a lot of training, this is one example of how COVID-19 makes you become innovative and think outside the box. It’s another way of making sure our people stay safe.