- Volkswagen has reopened its Wolfsburg plant after a March 18 closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports CNN Business.
- Production will slowly build following car demand and governmental regulations.
- Employees will be subject to heightened health protocols.
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On Monday, Volkswagen reopened its Wolfsburg, Germany, factory after it was forced to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The facility is one of the biggest auto-manufacturing plants in the world. The closure represented the longest it has ever experienced in its eight-plus-decade history.
In attempts not to endanger or risk the health of its hundreds of thousands or workers, the German automaker is making “100 changes” to the way its factories will operate as business resumes, reports CNN Business.
Production will build up gradually, according to the outlet, and follow closely to parts availability, government regulations, and car demand, which nosedived this year thanks to the pandemic. Volkswagen says it expects to build about 1,400 cars at the Wolfsburg plant this week. That number will go up to 6,000 cars next week, which is only about 40% of the plant’s normal output.
Shifts will also be affected. Rather than the usual 20,000 workers, Volkswagen is restarting with one shift of 8,000 production line workers. They will see reduced hours in the beginning and changes in shifts so people coming in don’t meet those exiting.
It will be a massive undertaking. Per the story:
Workers will be expected to check their own temperature and change into their uniforms at home each morning, rather than on site. They will be asked to use elbows to open doors and walk in single file once inside, following markers on the floor to keep space between people.
Social distancing will be enforced during team meetings and over lunch breaks, with reduced seating in common areas and conference rooms converted into office spaces. Canteens will remain closed and workers asked to bring their own lunch. Water dispensers have been temporarily removed to reduce the likelihood of infection and air conditioners set to circulate as much fresh air as possible.
Tools will be disinfected after every shift and workers will no longer pass them to one another by hand, instead setting materials down in containers so that others can pick them up at a safe distance. Several hundred additional hand washing facilities are being installed throughout the plant.
There will also be more space between cars on the factory floor, with employees performing their jobs on the same car “separately where possible.” If it isn’t possible to stay five feet apart from each other, employees will need to wear masks.
Volkswagen also works with thousands of suppliers, and CNN reports it has brought over 40,000 of them up to speed on its 100-point safety plan. It notes that around 2,000 trucks would typically bring 21,000 raw materials and car parts to the Wolfsburg plant per day before the pandemic.
With the new safety measures, delivery drivers will have to stay in their vehicles. The machines used to unload the cargo will be cleaned more often.
Volkwagen shut its Wolfsburg plant on March 18. The plant itself is among the largest in the world and covers 70 million square feet. In 2019, it produced around 700,000 cars, which breaks down to about 3,500 cars a day. It was opened in 1938 and currently employs about 63,000 people.
Ceasing production in Europe and the Americas during the pandemic reportedly costthe automaker $13 million an hour, or $2.2 billion per week.
Volkswagen did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for additional comment on the matter.