By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
With many businesses struggling to safely re-open, the Harvard Business Review provided some guidance using the COVID containment strategy of Barron Industries as an example.
As a government supplier, the Oxford-based casting manufacturer was required to remain open and worked with the University of Michigan’s Economic Growth Institute (EGI) to develop a plan to keep its 85 employees safe. The HBR details the containment strategy in an article written by Dr. Scott E. Page who contributed to the project.
“Work that requires physical interactions — construction, retail, food service, entertainment, sports, medical care, education, and salons – will require significant changes to the physical environment and individual behaviors,” said Dr. Page, professor of complexity, social science and management at U of M. “In designing those changes, leaders should aim for a path-breaking strategy: creating behavioral protocols and built environments that break transmission paths.”
In his article titled “Reopening the Office? Here’s How to Stymie Transmission of Covid-19,” Dr. Page describes how Barron Industries worked with the EGI to map a person-to-person network of its workforce.
“That exercise revealed that certain individuals connected otherwise disconnected groups,” said Page. “In network theory, these are known as bridging links. In a pandemic, they can carry infection from one group to another, which is more damaging than it being carried from one person to another within a contained network.”
Page said bridging links should be eliminated or made virtual in order to keep the two networks separate and contain the potential spread of the virus from one group to another.
“We’re focusing on contact management,” President and CEO Bruce Barron told The Oxford Leader in June. “You map out who has contact with who throughout the day and you create this big matrix. For us, it’s amazing, you have almost 6,000 potential contacts with 85 employees.
“It’s about managing those physical contacts and isolating people more into groups. So, if someone does come down with the virus, you don’t have to shut the plant down, you don’t even have to shut that department down. But you can isolate the people that do not have any symptoms from the person that has the virus or is showing some symptoms, while that person is in recovery. It gives us a way to demonstrate we’re putting science behind our decisions.”
Barron Industries has continued operating since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic with no positive COVID-19 tests among its employees.
“In addition to the valuable advice from the EGI and Dr. Page, we’ve taken all the recommended and mandatory precautions and we’ve been extremely fortunate so far,” said Barron. “We’ve also started several new employees since the Covid-19 alert came out and we are continuing to actively hire for many new positions.”
Barron’s workforce supports the essential services required to meet national security commitments to the federal government and U.S. Military. They make metal components for equipment used in many aerospace and defense applications.