Target Corp. is sharing its COVID-19 safety tool kit — including employee health screening checklists and social distancing signs that can be printed out — to provide a potential road map for other retailers and businesses as they look to reopen in the coming weeks.
The Minneapolis-based retailer also said this week it has received more than 10,000 preorders for infrared thermometers from Minnesota businesses. Last week, Target began offering them at wholesale cost to businesses across the state after finding a supplier of the high-demand products.
And Target continues to offer technical support to the state of Minnesota after it jumped in to help set up an inventory management system and configure warehouses where N-95 masks and other personal protective equipment are stored before being distributed to hospitals and clinics across the state.
In the past two months, a number of Minnesota-based businesses, including 3M, Ecolab and C.H. Robinson, have stepped up to use their expertise to help the state procure PPE and work through issues such as navigating customs.
For Target, it started with an e-mail that Pete Bernardy, a state official helping to set up the state’s warehouses, sent to a contact he had at Target late on the night of March 23. That e-mail was forwarded to Tony Heredia, Target’s vice president of compliance, ethics and corporate security.
Heredia called Bernardy first thing the next morning and learned the state was looking for help keeping track of the PPE coming in from various sources, storing the supplies and quickly sending them out.
“They needed to do this as quickly as possible and with a tool that would be as simple to use as possible because they were receiving product that morning,” Heredia said.
Heredia made a quick call to Target’s supply-chain chief and within a few hours, a small team of senior supply-chain leaders from Target were dispatched to the state’s warehouse. The team stayed on site the rest of the week, helping advise on how to set up the warehouse and adding custom programming to the supply-chain software the state was using.
That partnership led to conversations about how Target could help the state in other ways such as coming up with easy-to-use tools businesses could use to screen the health of their employees.
A group of Target engineers spent about a week coming up with a web-based tool with five yes-or-no health screening questions, as well as a place where employees could input their temperatures, a feature now available on the Minnesota Safety Council’s website. The information is submitted anonymously, but it gives employers a way to track the changes in the results over time to track the health of their workforce.
“What we saw in all of those conversations was there was a pretty drastic shortage of thermometers in general, let alone the type where you don’t have to have any contact with anybody,” Heredia said.
Using its contacts, Target was able to find a source for infrared thermometers that it has made available at cost — $51.49, including shipping — to Minnesota businesses. The no-touch, point-and-click thermometers are held inches away from a person’s forehead and give an immediate temperature reading.
Orders have come in from small shops as well as Fortune 500 companies. Delivery is expected on or after May 15.
Target isn’t using these infrared thermometers in its own operations. Instead, it is providing employees with personal-use thermometers as they get them in stock to use at home before they come into work.
As other businesses look to reopen, Target leaders realized that others might benefit from what they have learned in terms of safety protocols since Target has remained open as an “essential” retailer.
“While ours certainly isn’t the only way to do it, we felt we had learned a significant amount adjusting our operations over the previous eight weeks that this was something we should just make available to everybody,” Heredia said.
Target’s 60-page tool kit includes the signs it has put up at doors to discourage shoppers who don’t feel well from shopping in its stores and other messaging it has put up on social media to encourage safe-shopping practices. It also lays out other measures it has taken such as requiring store workers to wear face masks, and enhanced cleaning checklists.
The materials are being distributed through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and the Minnesota Retailers Association and will be shared with other state and national groups. Target has posted a link from its corporate website.
“There’s lots of great examples of signage and communication with customers,” said Bruce Nustad, president of the Minnesota Retailers Association. “They have presented the materials in a way that you could literally print out the signs. And it’s brand agnostic, which is nice.”