Global crises trigger far reaching and fundamental transformations in consumer preferences, industrial practices, and government policies. The COVID-19 pandemic is no different. It will force manufacturers to comprehend those aspects of business, society, and politics that will be radically modified. Furthermore, they will have to proactively build capacity to deal with the new normal .
Following areas will experience paradigm shifts:
Automation: will be increasingly deployed to resurrect the manufacturing sector. Productivity expansion via robotics and automation will be at the focal point of this effort, which will generate fresh employment opportunities for digitally proficient workers, but not for the low-skilled ones .
Rapid Factory Digitalization: that places a premium on flexible and precise management of factory operations from a remote location. Such management will necessitate fast incorporation of industrial IoT based on superior data visualization, sensing, artificial intelligence, and tools for remote collaboration .
Digital Divide among Manufacturers: two broad sets of manufacturers will emerge in the wake of the socio-economic decline. At the top end will be the digitally-savvy ones who embarked on the digital journey years ago. The late entrants will be at the other end .
Greater Attention to Health & Safety: Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and Current GMP (cGMP) will assume more significance given their focus on plant and operator hygiene. Employees can expect greater monitoring and tracking of their movements and geographical data viz. residence location, recent travels and particularly international travel . Industries will also rearrange workspaces, operate in staggered shifts, maintain more distance between employees, and prohibit visitors on the shop floor to prevent coronavirus transmissions .
Improved Strategies for Worker Retention & Deployment: particularly for workers who have to be on-site. Such workers will receive more education on how to respond to symptoms and contain the spread of the virus .
Flexible Management Practices: that incorporate change management and adaptable work schedules to effectively handle greater automation levels, more number of remote employees, and the learning curves of such employees .
“Virtual Shift” Replacing “Physical Shift”: with fewer people on the shop floor (on site), a team of virtually-connected experts will be continuously available online for consultation by the shop floor personnel. Facilitating the virtual shift will be AI-enabled tools, real time handling of data, and numerous collaboration cum communication instruments . The virtual shift will digitally scale the expertise of the specialist team over the entire institution while boosting the productivity of the shop floor team .
Emphasizing Cybersecurity & System Capacity to Resist Attacks: with more employees gaining online access to the main system areas, security of cyber network will be of paramount importance. The system design has to be resilient in order to withstand repetitive attacks .
Supply Chain Overhaul: is necessary in order to avoid last minute unavailability of parts, particularly the critical elements. Manufacturers will take more efforts to thoroughly understand in real time their supply networks. Suppliers identified as vulnerable to disrupting the chain will be replaced .
Survival of the Adaptable
Adaptability will be the key to survival at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed rapid and extensive transformation in most aspects of the manufacturing sector. The challenge also presents a huge opportunity for the digitally savvy manufacturer.
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What Will Manufacturing’s New Normal Be After COVID-19?, IndustryWeek.
COVID-19: What it means for industrial manufacturing, PwC.