5 Ways to Demonstrate Leadership During COVID-19


COVID-19 has impacted most, if not all, sectors of manufacturing, specifically food and beverage manufacturers, which have been affected in several areas. This industry has experienced a variety of shutdown issues, and many are experiencing the need to run 24/7 due to surging demand.

We will need leadership and direction to ensure that shuttered plants can reopen and those that have stayed open can navigate back to some sense of normalcy. From our conversations with customers, all agree that leadership starts with a playbook that is a path forward guide for future activities.

Based on our years of industry experience, here are five key things to consider for restarting operations during the current disruption.  

1. Manage the Crisis

The first step toward recovery is managing the crisis. The core principles to help guide COVID-19 risk planning at your facility should center around three areas:

  1. The need to prevent the virus from entering your facility
  2. Reducing the risk of COVID-19 exposure and/or transmission
  3. A plan to guide what to do when COVID-19 is detected in your facility

There are a lot of excellent resources available including theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention,Occupational Safety and Health Administration andUS Food and Drug Administration, to name a few.

2. Restart Manufacturing Operations

The next step is analyzing the supply chain as there is a good chance that not every part of the supply chain can start back at the same time. Managing these issues will help you begin operations and productions, which will then feed through the critical step of distribution to get your goods back on the shelf.

3. Create a Checklist

The good news is there are tools and guidelines that can serve as a strong foundation to drive your operational readiness checklist as a food and beverage manufacturer. We have identified 13 key topics for consideration, from evaluating potential risks to achieving a successful restart of your manufacturing operations.

The checklist, which can be found here, addresses:

1. Contingency plans
2. Inventory
3. Immediate customer delivery requirements
4. Immediate delivery plan, including transportation
5. Supplier inventory and near-term delivery plan
6. Availability of outsourced processes
7. Temporary process changes
8. Product/process re-qualification plan
9. Accuracy of work instructions
10. Workforce availability and training
11. Equipment, tooling and gauging
12. Facility infrastructure
13. Communication plans

By focusing on what can be controlled right now, you can position your organization to emerge from this unusual crisis as a leader in the industry.

4. Recover Operational Stability

With a detailed assessment of operational restart risks identified and action plans in place to manage these risks, food and beverage manufacturers can then turn their attention to the many “unknowns” that could impact the future of their business. These “unknowns” include the financial stability of the supply chain, future product demand and sourcing channels as well as changes to occupational health and safety regulations.

However, by focusing on what can be controlled right now, your organization’s operational restart readiness, you can position your organization to emerge from this unusual crisis as a leader in the industry. Ed Harriman, IT and purchasing director of Michigan Turkey Producers said it best: “Food manufacturers have been suddenly thrown into unchartered waters. These guidelines can become a sextant for businesses to help navigate through this storm and help to systematically start bringing our operations back to some state of normalcy.”

5. Plan for the Future

This global crisis is providing many opportunities for management to lean into the knowledge of their workforce and recognize emerging leaders in their business. We encourage organizations to capture lessons learned as they go through their operational restart, recognizing where the potential for process improvement exists for future operational efficiency and more robust risk mitigation. Organizations should also consider what near-term metrics are needed to measure the effectiveness of their operational restart actions.

A successful recovery from the COVID-19 crisis for the food and beverage industry will require each organization to effectively manage the restart of its operations while working collaboratively with customers and suppliers throughout the supply chain. Through sharing and adopting best practices for an operational restart, the opportunity exists for food and beverage manufacturing to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis as a stronger, better-prepared industry sector for the next significant disruption.


Stephen Dombroski is director of consumer, food and beverage markets at QAD. He has over 35 years experience in manufacturing that has been focused on the Consumer Products and Food & Beverage Industries.  His career has spanned across the manufacturing, software and consulting industries maintaining a solid focus in Supply Chain Management and Enterprise Systems. 


Cathy Fisher is founder and president of Quistem, LLC. With over 35 years of respected expertise in the quality field, Cathy helps manufacturers in multiple industry sectors “find hidden money” in their operations, eliminate customer complaints permanently and develop a proactive quality culture to achieve rapid business growth.