FLINT, Mich. -- I stepped out of the rain into a black tent where a masked man thrust a pair of grill tongs my direction.
Pinched at the end was a fresh basic surgical-grade mask. A thumbs up signaled to the next masked man that I had not knowingly been in contact with a person infected with COVID-19, nor was I experiencing any symptoms. My temperature was taken and I was permitted to enter the facility.
I returned to work Thursday. Not my Crain Communications Inc. office in Detroit, but Lear Corp.'s just-in-time seating plant on Flint's historic Buick City site.
The automotive seating supplier held an open house, of sorts, for its production line leaders to get them acclimated with the rigorous new safety protocols as the plant is set to begin limited production Monday.
Admittedly, walking into a production plant in the middle of a pandemic that's claimed the lives of nearly 86,000 Americans in the last 100 days is nightmare fuel. I was fearful -- for my safety and the safety of my family.
But Lear published its "playbook" for reopening on April 6 -- several companies have since published their plans -- and more than a month later, I was offered the chance to witness and report on its implementation in person. Fear be damned. The opportunity for unfettered access and a plant tour with Lear CEO Ray Scott and his team of production leaders (the interview with Scott will be published in Monday's edition of Crain's Detroit Business, an affiliate of Automotive News) proved too juicy for my journalistic lizard brain to decline.
Once inside, the Flint factory is largely the same as all modern manufacturing plants, organized and surprisingly clean. But the first thing workers will notice on Monday is an overabundance of signage, directing them down now one-way paths and blue circles on the floor neatly spaced 6 feet apart anywhere people may congregate. There is one way in and one way out of bathrooms, cafeterias and up and down stairs. Workers are instructed via orange dots on every sixth step how to maintain distance. Masks are required.