Detroit — Ford Motor Co. said it expects the process of reopening its plants and offices to take several months, with some salaried employees continuing to work from home until at least late June or early July.
When vehicle production will resume remains unclear, but officials, on April 30, described a long list of changes that workers will find.
They won't have access to cafeterias or fitness centers during breaks. They'll don goggles, carry hand sanitizer and sport Ford-made face masks for the entirety of their shifts.
They'll stand 6 feet apart, where possible, and their movements around the factory will be reorganized to avoid bottlenecks. Before they enter the building, they'll have to complete health certifications and be subject a no-touch temperature check.
"The workplace will be much different than it was even two months ago," Kiersten Robinson, Ford's chief human resources officer, said on a conference call with reporters.
Ford executives said that, whenever U.S. plants resume production, all will come online together. Line speeds will remain the same, but production will be affected for some time as workers return on reduced shifts.
For example, plants that operate on three shifts will come back on two, and overtime will be curtailed.
Ford officials are eager to resume operations. The auto maker this week said it lost $2 billion in the first quarter and projected an operating loss of more than $5 billion this quarter due to the virus.
"It's critical we get this restart right," Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley said. "We want to restart as soon as we can and do it safely."
General Motors Co. created a manual to instruct team leaders on the company's new safety protocol.
"In these uncertain times, we must focus on controlling what we can, and we will continue to take the appropriate actions. As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, we are ready to adapt and make any changes to policy in accordance with relevant health and safety protocols issued by authorities," CEO Mary Barra and Jim Glynn, vice president of global workplace safety, said in the 48-page guide.
GM's manual outlines requirements for physical distancing, wearing face masks and safety glasses, and participating in health questionnaires and temperature screenings.
GM's housekeeping team will clean high-traffic areas three to four times per shift, as well as between shifts. Doors will be propped open when possible to increase airflow and eliminate the need for workers to touch them.
Ford has been talking with the UAW almost daily about how, and when, to bring factories back online, said Gary Johnson, Ford's head of manufacturing.
UAW President Rory Gamble opposed an early May restart, and he has said auto makers should implement stringent testing procedures.
Robinson said Ford is working on a comprehensive testing strategy, although it wouldn't be ready for weeks to months. In the meantime, Johnson said, union workers would be referred to local hospitals for tests should they require one.
The UAW, in a statement issued April 30, said it is asking Ford to test workers for the virus as much as possible.
"Our position is that we employ as much testing as is possible at the current time and commit to full testing as soon as it is available," Gamble said in the statement. "We are also strongly advocating self-reporting and testing for those exposed to the virus or exhibiting symptoms at a minimum."
Ford believes it has cleared another benchmark cited by Gamble: whether executives would be comfortable sending their own families inside the plants.
"Absolutely, I would feel comfortable (with) my family coming back to work at a Ford facility," Farley said. "I completely trust the process we've come up with."
Hannah Lutz contributed to this report.