Auto suppliers, manufacturers back online under new executive order

One week ahead of Big 3 production re-start
Posted at 12:25 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-11 15:43:09-04

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Under Gov. Whitmer's new executive order, auto suppliers and those in the manufacturing sector can resume work Monday May 11 under strict safety protocols.

This comes one week before the planned re-start of production in the auto industry; the Big 3 planning to resume car making at its plants May 18.

Plymouth Technology in Rochester Hills was deemed essential under the first stay-at-home order; it's a chemical supplier for the automotive industry.

Before the outbreak, they supplied specialty chemicals for suppliers and auto plants to clean and re-use their water.

When the Big 3 idled production in mid-March due to COVID-19, Plymouth had to shift gears to stay afloat. They started making hand sanitizer in bulk, as well as cleaning solution, which they'll continue to produce.

Now, Richie said Plymouth is waiting to see how quickly they'll ramp up pre-COVID production, based on what auto suppliers need.

“Everybody’s waiting. You can see we’ve got lots of product ready to go," said CEO Amanda Richie. "Because some folks built up a whole bunch of inventory before the shutdown. And some folks who really stuck to just in time are going to have a really fast need. So managing that is difficult because don’t know what to expect.”

The manufacturing sector makes up nearly a fifth of Michigan's economy. Those allowed to head back to work Monday will adhere to strict safety protocols including health screenings with temperature checks and wearing masks if workers cannot maintain six feet of distance.

Per Gov. Whitmer's executive order, "Manufacturing facilities must also train workers on, among other things, how COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person, signs and symptoms of COVID-19."

Allowing suppliers to get back to work before the auto plants re-start production is vital according industry expert John McElroy wit Autoline.

“You cannot start vehicle production again unless you have all the parts and components in the assembly plant," he told Action News.

And for those supplying the suppliers — it’s a game of constantly checking-in.

“Contacting every customer and understanding where they are this week, where they think they’re going to be next week and then adjusting our production plans to match their needs," said Richie.

Like many companies in Michigan’s manufacturing space, Richie has had to make some layoffs. She’s hoping to get all of her staff back by June, but said a lot of that depends on suppliers needs.

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