Innovation and Employee Wellbeing Ground Stanley Black & Decker's COVID-19 Efforts
Stanley Black & Decker is in the business of creating products that people use every day to update their homes and fix their cars. Their infrastructure systems deliver the roads and bridges people drive on, and their security technologies protect the places where we live and work.
This year, the company’s products—which include tools, fasteners, security, health, and safety solutions used by healthcare, first responders, and construction, transportation and manufacturing workers—became essential in the work being done across the globe to fight COVID-19.
“Everything's interconnected,” said Stanley Black & Decker Chief Technology Officer Mark Maybury. “If our fastener business stops working, it prevents others from making hospital beds, it prevents others from making respirators, and even impacts those making masks that rely on nose clips. All of these things are produced in our factories.”
Overseeing operations in more than 60 countries and sales in 120, Stanley Black & Decker executives were already seeing the impact of the pandemic on the company’s operations in China before the virus was seen as a serious threat in North America.
A COVID-19 Community Response Task Force was established in early 2020 to make sure universities, hospitals, and manufacturers were connected to, and able to apply, Stanley Black & Decker’s existing technologies and new solutions designed to help address COVID-19’s challenges.
The task force also took immediate steps to protect the health and wellbeing of Stanley Black & Decker employees. Half of the company’s 54,000 employees work on the front lines running the company’s distribution centers, factories, and operations.
“If our employees are sick, our business is sick. If our communities are sick, our societies are shut down,” Maybury said.
Employee wellbeing became the cornerstone of a three-pronged strategy the company adopted to do its part in fighting the pandemic:
- Keep employees and their families safe and healthy
- Ensure continuity of operations and financial strength to deliver to customers
- Help the community and governments mitigate the effects of the virus
After seeing how essential masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) became for reopening the economy in China, one early step was procuring PPE. Stanley Black & Decker was quick to mandate mask-wearing at their factory sites, Maybury said, and the company sent masks to every employee who requested them to use for themselves or give to family members.
Early Innovations Make an Impact
Doubling down on efforts to protect their frontline workers, Stanley Black & Decker's STANLEY Healthcare team came up with a “proximity management” system to help workers in manufacturing plants and other work environments maintain social distancing.
Employees are each given a badge, and when an employee comes within six feet of anyone, their badge lights up, makes a buzzing sound, and vibrates to alert them of the too-close encounter.
“This is a way for people to change their behavior,” said Vice President of Innovation and Engineering at STANLEY Healthcare Talila Millman. “Over time, the number of encounters go down, and the length of encounters also goes down."
One plant saw a 30% decrease in encounters per team member within the first three weeks of implementing the badge system.
“It's a preventative mechanism, to help prevent the actual infection. By reducing the number of encounters, we are really protecting employees,” said Millman.
The badge system also enables fast and efficient contact tracing. If one employee tests positive for COVID-19, authorized individuals in that company can access immediate insight on other team members who may be at risk, allowing for quick action while maintaining the privacy of their employees.
Sites themselves can also analyze the data to see where they could improve social distancing and create solutions. For example, one site noticed that most of its close encounters were happening when employees went to clock out at the end of the day. The plant installed more time clocks throughout the facility to prevent crowding.
Stanley Black & Decker is also working with a variety of other businesses to implement this technology as businesses look for ways to bring employees back to work safely.
Another focus early-on, and throughout the pandemic, has been ensuring the company is meeting the needs of their healthcare customers. STANLEY Healthcare works with over 17,000 hospitals, health systems and senior care organizations to supply solutions to improve caregiver effectiveness, and protect people in healthcare environments.
At the same time, the STANLEY Engineered Fastening team ramped up its production to build fasteners for hospital beds, ventilators, and other products needed for field hospitals. As the months went on, the team also began producing the materials that are used in COVID-19 testing kits.
Other Stanley Black & Decker products like automated, touchless doors, have been in high demand. STANLEY Access Technologies has worked to offer automated doors to big retailers and other large organizations to increase the health and safety of their employees and customers.
Innovation in Collaboration
Some of the most creative and impactful products that Stanley Black & Decker has been involved in over the course of the pandemic have been the result of innovative collaborations with other companies.
“We don't just stay within ourselves; we look outwards to bring these innovations outside of the company and create an ecosystem versus being on an island,” said Millman.
A team that typically designs tools at Stanley Black & Decker collaborated with Ford and 3M to design a new Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR) for healthcare professionals. The respirator includes a high-efficiency filter system, uses Stanley Black & Decker's batteries and has a custom wiring harness engineered specifically to allow for the easy exchange of battery packs for recharging and continued use.
More pandemic collaborations have come out of an existing partnership with Techstars to run an accelerator focused on artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing. Since 2018, Stanley Black + Decker experts have helped startups move from design to production. During the pandemic, some of those startups have responded worldwide to the COVID-19 crisis.
CALT Dynamics, a company focused on socially beneficial 3D Printing technology, designed and produced thousands of 3D-printable face shields that were distributed across every county in Ireland to protect healthcare workers.
With the help of Stanley Black & Decker, Dynamic Green Products (DGP), a bio-based producer of synthetic lubricants and cleaning solutions, pivoted to add hand sanitizer to their product line. The plant-based, FDA-listed hand sanitizer gel is now sold at Home Depot and other retail outlets.
“Partnerships also help us accelerate,” said Maybury. For example, Staley Black & Decker provides security for a global distribution corporation and a global security technology company. Those companies have in turn provided Stanley Black & Decker insight into the latest findings on mask effectiveness, testing, and contact tracing procedures.
A defining characteristic of Stanley Black & Decker “is the immense collaboration that you have with other companies, and the constant search for innovation,” said Millman.
A Time for Generosity
A moment that stands out to Maybury during the pandemic was Stanley Black & Decker CEO Jim Loree saying that now is the time to be generous and to give what you are able to those struggling—a sentiment that “reflects his character and how the company culture is built,” said Maybury.
To compliment the efforts of the task force, Stanley Black & Decker committed more than $10 million for a comprehensive COVID-19 philanthropic outreach program, including $4 million in financial contributions to COVID-19 focused nonprofit organizations, and $5 million for a COVID-19 employee emergency relief fund to provide financial assistance for employees and their families who have been severely impacted by the pandemic.
When we talked to Stanley Black & Decker for this article in December of 2020, the company’s executive team was shifting to a focus on vaccines. In January, the company committed $1 million to the Ad Council’s Vaccine Education campaign to ensure they are helping bring the right information and messaging to all stakeholders.
“This is the door out of this nightmare,” said Maybury. “We’ve been tracking vaccines and COVID-19 variants very, very closely.”
A Stanley Black & Decker committee is exploring all vaccine distribution opportunities and is working with experts in the field to track vaccine distribution on state, national, and international government levels.
“Business is resilient,” Maybury said. “The people in our institution successfully made it through this incredible storm, and it wouldn't have been possible without an amazingly diverse, committed, expert, and agile team.”
To learn more about Stanley Black & Decker’s COVID-19 efforts visit stanleyblackanddecker.com/covid-19.