As COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift in some regions of the world, automotive suppliers plan to resume production based on customer demand and supplier availability, with many releasing playbooks to share procedures and guidelines to restart safely.
Aurora, Ontario-based Magna International Inc. created a nearly 60-page Smart Start Playbook, which includes protocols for disinfecting and sanitization, the use of personal protective equipment and isolating and contact tracing employees infected with the virus.
Grahame Burrow, president of Magna Exteriors, told Plastics News that the supplier is using its facility reopenings in Asia and Europe to benchmark its expectations and guidelines for reopening plants in North America.
All of Magna's facilities in China, Burrow said, are "back in business," running at about 80 percent capacity.
"The automotive industry is back," he said, and will continue to reopen "from east to west. Many of our OEM customers in Europe are in the process of restarting now. We are in lock step with them as they hit their start dates and as they ramp up their production."
So far, Magna's production restarts in Europe and China "have been successful," he added.
Magna makes a range of functional and trim parts, including exterior body panels. In North America, its holdings cover an estimated $275 million in injection molding operations, according to the most recent Plastics News ranking of molders in the region, placing the company at No. 34.
Burrow said that, generally, Magna's customers aren't starting at 100 percent regular production volume.
Magna's playbook was created in collaboration with the manufacturer's own suppliers and customers, other industry leaders and medical experts, Burrow said.
"Our suppliers are a big part of what we do, and we need to make sure there's consistency in terms of how they're starting up their business as well so there's no interruptions," Burrow said. "Some of our suppliers are large companies and they have a lot of initiatives of their own where we can share back and forth."
Some of Magna's smaller suppliers are looking to the playbook for guidelines as they prepare to restart their own operations, Burrow said.
He added Magna is also monitoring its suppliers' financial health and working capital to ensure their readiness to start business back up and maintain production.
With North American OEMs yet to announce finalized start dates pending regional shutdowns and UAW talks, Magna is still waiting to set its reopening date in the region.
"The situation is extremely fluid — there's new information that comes out every day, in some cases, hour by hour," he said. "Generally the situation is often dictated by the nature of the virus in some countries that have been hardest hit and are not on the right side of the curve so to speak, and the restrictions seem to be a lot stricter.
"First and foremost, we have to follow the government regulations," he said. "If there's a strict order that our business is not essential, we have no intention of violating those orders."
Currently, Magna expects all of its 139 North American facilities to be "at some level of production" by the end of May, Burrow said.
"Of course, that's subject to change," he said. "We're learning as we go. It's very important to us that we continue very strong levels of communication with stakeholders, customers, suppliers and employees so we can be consistent in our approach."
Paris-based Valeo has 130 of its 191 global production facilities currently open, a spokesperson told Plastics News. Sixty-one of those plants remained in operation throughout any shutdowns, he said.
"Some of them are only partially open," the spokesperson said. "For example, we've got 23 production sites in France, among those 13 have reopened already and they are producing from 15-30 percent of what they would ordinarily produce."
"The situation is different from one country to another," he added.