Scot McConnell is currently the Director Of Manufacturing Operations at Herbalife Nutrition a global company that has been changing people’s lives with great nutrition products and a proven business opportunity for its independent distributors since 1980. He has more than 15 years of experience in different phases of manufacturing, maintenance, and production. Over the years, Scot has built high performance, continuous improvement minded teams that have remained flexible and responsive in an exciting and competitive global manufacturing environment. Scot has also worked as a nuclear reactor operator before acquiring B.S. Nuclear Engineering Technology and B.S. Business Management, MBA degree. Such a vast experience across different fields has made Scot capable of managing multiple projects and driving Herbal life Nutrition to new heights of success.

In an interaction with Manufacturing Tech Insights Magazine, McConnell sheds light on how the pandemic redefined the Manufacturing Industry and what companies can do to weather the storm.

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the Manufacturing sector

The pandemic has changed the way the manufacturing industry operates - From putting in place advanced safety measures at factories and distribution centers, tightening the partnership with suppliers to ensure continued production, and further leveraging relationships with our technology providers to increase capacity were a few key items.

"My experience in manufacturing operations has taught me one thing: you should always appreciate the hard work of your employees— especially during these trying times."

Manufacturers throughout the world faced two prominent challenges during the pandemic: how to seamlessly run their plant and how to further protect the safety of their employees. In such a situation, they are impelled to follow strict regulatory guidelines, such as sanitization protocols, masking and social distancing measures, and many others to keep their workers safe. What added to the challenge was the struggle to procure raw materials because of the global lockdown.

Given the general worldwide uncertainty about the pandemic, manufacturers recognized that many workers also might be skeptical or afraid about their families’ safety— especially elderly family members or those with underlying health conditions. All these factors led to changing or adapting long-term plans radically to respond to the current environment. As the situation developed over the course of the year, the manufacturing industry had to remain flexible and adaptive as guidance and regulations were updated frequently by health and safety agencies such as the CDC, OSHA, FDA, and others in order to prioritize the safety of all citizens.

Fortunately, we have been able to stay one step ahead in this regard from many because of our proactive approach and extensive experience. Early on, we procured additional masks for our crews, enhanced access to hand sanitizer around the entire facility, and hired dedicated team members to focus specifically on hightouch areas. More importantly, we have focused on bolstering communication among different teams to seamlessly run our operations and serve our clients better. Truly, we are fully aligned as a team where everyone—from top management to factory workers is striving to constantly improve workplace safety.

The current state of the Manufacturing Sector

After the unique events of 2020, the manufacturing sector is gradually gearing up to speed but the raw material supply today is somewhat limited. Vaccines are also being rolled out widely, which is giving everyone a morale boost and a sense of safety. As a result, the market is also witnessing new investments and the projects that were postponed previously are again coming back to life.

"Manufacturers must prepare a robust business continuity plan to remain prepared for the worst-case scenario."

In addition to this, I believe that there is an abundance of talent available, many of which are looking for better opportunities. It is the perfect time for organizations to route these people to their facilities and may help address the requirements of the upcoming manufacturing boom.

The overall situation is highly complex, and is not an understatement to say that businesses have never encountered challenges like this before in recent memory. I believe that the manufacturing sector can overcome these trying times by being proactive and through a concentrated effort on innovation.

Piece of advice for aspiring professionals in this field

My experience in manufacturing operations has taught me one incredibly critical thing: you should always appreciate the hard work of your employees—even more so during these trying times. Its no surprise that the companies that focused on the safety, physical, and emotional wellbeing of their employees were the ones who could react to the changing scenario promptly and bounced back the quickest. Also, businesses have to be agile and nimble. No one can ensure that a crisis like this won’t happen again. Manufacturers must prepare a robust business continuity plan to remain prepared for the worst-case scenario. They cannot afford to remain unprepared when an incident like this or any other natural calamity takes place.

And my recommendations for the professionals and aspiring individuals would be to continue to learn about new technologies, understand the upcoming changes in this field, and prepare for the way things are headed – including IoT, Industry 4.0, AI, etc... They have to understand and accept that the manufacturing realm is evolving rapidly, and the competition among businesses is also increasing. In such a scenario, businesses expect more innovative inputs and ideas from their employees to stay ahead of the curve. To be actively involved in creating the future of manufacturing operations, young potential or current leaders interested in this field have to stay committed, active, and engaged to their own development— continuous learning is an essential factor in the long-term success of all individuals and companies.