Olivier Corvez, senior manager of Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability at SEMI, sat down (virtually) with Todd Patterson, vice president of global EHS for Entegris Global Operations, to discuss how Entegris has responded to the global pandemic.
Corvez manages and Patterson participates in the COVID-19 EHS Task Force currently meeting weekly to discuss industry response and share best practices.
SEMI: Was Entegris prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic? How did the company respond?
Patterson: Entegris has a strong risk management framework and a risk assessment team of senior leaders who meet at least once a quarter. This focus gives us early visibility into events that could destabilize our organization or threaten our operations. Such a framework helps ensure we have the information necessary to act as soon as possible when the need arises. However, our business continuity plans for a pandemic of this scale were far less than with other more commonly occurring catastrophic events such as earthquakes or hurricanes. The COVID-19 crisis was clearly unprecedented and as such, the necessary systems and procedures were not in place with the depth and detail needed.
Our strong governance structure made it possible for us to hold steady even as the pandemic caused increasing uncertainty and disruption around the world. For example, despite major supply chain shutdowns across many industries, to date, our supply chain and manufacturing operations have only been modestly impacted by COVID-19. Our supply chain team was assessing daily the areas of risk with our suppliers and taking appropriate action as well as preemptive steps to ensure our critical supply lines remained open.
Our sales team engaged in regular communications with our customers providing them updates about our Business Continuity Plans and our actions to mitigate the risk to any of their deliveries. In addition, we maintained current information about the continuity of our supply chain on the company’s intranet for the global sales team to access as they engaged with customers. Also, a proactive communication plan was implemented immediately to send weekly video messages from senior executives directly to employees’ emails. It was an effective way to communicate with our global teams, to keep them informed about the status of the company’s operations and maintain a common sense of purpose at a time when many colleagues worked from home. In these weekly messages, we also focused significant attention on the health and safety protocols established to protect our manufacturing and lab employees from the virus.
Among the health and safety protocols we implemented immediately as the virus moved across different regions were those related to facility screenings, work-from-home policies, social distancing, self-quarantine requirements, contact tracing, increased disinfecting, and travel restrictions. With approximately 5,300 employees worldwide, we had teams in every region ready to implement these comprehensive protocols. We believe we were among the first companies to implement work-from-home policies and travel restrictions.
Temperature screening stations at Entegris facilities in Jangan, Korea (left) and Kulim, Malaysia (right).
In addition, our CEO led a COVID-19 Steering Committee comprised of senior executives and managers from operations, human resources and communications. The committee met several times a week during March and April to evaluate and formulate responses to the issues that emerged as the virus spread from region to region. The committee’s work created a strong partnership among senior executives and divisional and functional leaders, and the initial guidelines developed by the committee have formed the backbone of a global playbook to limit the spread of the virus to our other sites around the world.
Recently, the committee has changed its focus to more strategic issues such as creating a framework for transitioning remote workers back into our office locations. Meanwhile, local leadership teams at each of our global sites have been empowered to address ongoing tactical issues consistent with our thoroughly documented health and safety protocols.
Looking to the future, we are using our experience in responding to COVID-19 to develop a more comprehensive pandemic response plan. We have project teams working on better ways to:
- measure temperatures of personnel entering our sites
- facilitate social distancing in the workplace
- redesign common use areas to reduce the number of high touch points
- disinfect all spaces thoroughly and regularly, and
- manage emergency pandemic supplies.
SEMI: From the SEMI EHS survey, we noted that all members had a Business Continuity Plan. How effective has it been for deploying resources and adapting quickly and minimizing the crisis? Why or why not?
Patterson: Because we have operations in China, Entegris experienced the impact of the virus immediately. We quickly formed two task force teams for our two primary facilities in the region. These teams developed the means for communicating key information to employees and started working on prevention plans to protect employees and comply with local requirements for when operations resumed. They met the challenges head on and found quick solutions. An example was finding an effective way of communicating to the employees for each location. Group chats were established through social media. It was this work that led to their success in getting approvals from local authorities to resume operations. Those plans have laid the groundwork on which our other sites around the world could build their response plans.
The effective management of our global supply chain also stands out as a key success of the company’s Business Continuity Plan. Entegris has a highly complex supply chain with approximately 6,500 suppliers and a $850 million annual spend, and we ship work-in-progress and finished goods from over 90 sites globally.
As I mentioned earlier, despite the virus crippling supply chains across many industries, Entegris experienced very little disruption to its supply chain. The supply chain team was able to accomplish this despite a 90% reduction in global freight capacity. A key factor in keeping goods flowing to our factories was the intensive work the team had done earlier to develop an in-depth understanding of the company’s top suppliers and to mitigate sourcing risks. They had established alternate sources, balanced the sources geographically, and placed inventory across our supply chain to buffer risk.
The team also had integrated statistical modeling into reporting tools, which made it possible to reset safety stocks and logistics lead times quickly as conditions changed. And a supply chain digitalization provided one aligned and integrated view via dashboards, giving the company the ability to respond rapidly and to communicate in real time with our suppliers. We essentially had a virtual war room where we monitored the daily impact of the spread of the virus and could address bottlenecks and other issues immediately.
SEMI: What lessons have been learned, so far? How do you see changes in your company’s operations in the future?
Patterson: Institutionalizing what we’ve learned has already begun. Whether the measures implemented during the pandemic are temporary or become permanent is still to be determined. Regardless, the learnings need to be documented and available as a playbook for if – or when – the next pandemic occurs.
Entegris is already working on a more comprehensive pandemic plan that will be based on five levels of preparedness. Level 0 will cover annual training requirements and management of emergency inventory of pandemic supplies. Level 1 will include early recognition of an outbreak, and then Levels 2-4 will include requirements for when specific response measures are implemented.
Entegris also has formed the “New Normal” task force, which consists of leaders representing a number of disciplines directing the project teams previously mentioned to create a more comprehensive pandemic response plan. One of the project teams is working on improving the facility screening process that performs temperature measurement for personnel entering Entegris sites. The team is looking at the best technology to scan body temperature. As to whether this technology is employed only while COVID-19 is still active or becomes a permanent way of doing business, this is still being discussed.
SEMI: EHS is involved in both providing technical support to protect individuals but also in making organizational changes to favorize social distancing. Could you explain some of the successes and challenges while tackling these two fronts?
Patterson: Very early in the pandemic, Entegris established a work-from-home policy for non-essential employees. This significantly reduced the number of personnel and the potential for contact at the Entegris locations. Significant facility changes also were required. These included the design of facility screening booths and modifications to common gathering areas such as canteens, meeting rooms, prayer rooms, and smoking points.
Physical markings were used to designate 2 meters distancing, and the seating in canteens and meeting rooms was reduced and staggered to minimize the risk of exposure to the virus. Entegris also has a project team focused on developing design solutions for offices and workstations when space makes it difficult to maintain 2 meters social distancing. These changes turned out to be essential for some sites in meeting mandates by local authorities. Our sites in Hangzhou, China and Kulim, Malaysia both were allowed to resume partial operations after demonstrating to government authorities the effectiveness of the preventative measures put in place.
One particular challenge we are facing is the range of personal differences and awareness levels within the workforce – including those that don’t understand the importance of the new guidelines. We are working closely in advising supervisory staff to be aware of the need for employees to follow all health and safety protocols we have put in place, including social distancing. That preventative measure is the most difficult to make part of our new behavior – it is unnatural and inconsistent with our human nature, but it is critical to preventing the further spread of the virus.
SEMI: How do you envision the progressive steps in deescalating to bring back “normal” operations?
Patterson: I don’t know whether Entegris will ever go back to the old “normal.” As previously mentioned, we are working on the “New Normal.” Our focus now is on bringing our work-from-home employees back to the workplace without adding risk of exposure to the virus. We are still exploring options, but we expect to do it in a phased approach so that we can adequately assess the preventive measures that are in place and determine whether adjustments need to be made to any of our health and safety protocols.
We are starting to see a variety of different frameworks emerge for evaluating repopulation timing and procedures. We will assess them on an office-by-office, or site-by-site basis, utilizing consistent criteria to define the potential for exposure to the virus. This also applies to our field service workforce. However, I have not yet seen any governmental guidance that offers a recommended framework for returning employees to the workplace. I think this represents an opportunity for SEMI EHS and the Standards groups to work to establish that framework for our industry.
SEMI: Anything else you would like to share that you have observed throughout this crisis?
We have not discussed the challenges faced in procuring and acquiring pandemic supplies. Almost immediately after the outbreak occurred in Wuhan, it became increasingly difficult to find supplies. Even when confirmation was provided by suppliers and delivery dates confirmed, the majority of the dates were pushed out or canceled.
We found that what worked best was to have purchasing teams at the local site work with their local contacts on obtaining smaller quantities while a corporate point person was also managing larger orders. In preparation for any future pandemics, Entegris will be maintaining an emergency inventory for masks, sanitizer, thermometers, and disinfectants.
For 18 months, Todd Patterson has held the position of VP Global EHS for Entegris Global Operations. His experience with emergency management and BCP has become invaluable in the past three months. He is grateful to his global response teams around the world for coming together to support the Entegris team in this unprecedented situation. Todd is an active participant on the SEMI EHS COVID-19 response teams led by Olivier Corvez at SEMI.
Olivier Corvez is senior manager of Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability at SEMI.