Unprecedented circumstances. Uncertain times. Unusual environment. New normal. Two ways technology can play a role as manufacturers settle into a new normal.
These phrases may feel overused at this point, but they all fit. After all, the pandemic has upended much of what manufacturers have always known about business as usual. Regardless of the catch phrase, today’s manufacturers are in a position where realizing sustainable success is going to depend on their ability to embrace a unique blend of agility, determination, strategy and cautious optimism. All qualities that typically define successful businesses, but today’s circumstances have added a twist.
Understandably, the recipe will differ from company to company. Yet, technology is sure to play a pivotal role in helping manufacturers navigate this COVID-19 induced reality in two ways: providing awareness and fostering innovation.
One of the keys to effectively reopening manufacturing operations is to keep employees safe, primarily through increased sanitation efforts and social distancing. However, let’s face it, there will still be interactions resulting in people coming into contact with one another. This is where the growing array of contact tracing technologies are playing an instrumental role. Despite the security and privacy concerns naturally associated with “big brother” style monitoring, the use of wearable trackers or AI enhanced vision technology can help manufacturers quickly pinpoint who is at risk if/when an employee tests positive.
If properly sourced, these technologies can remain viable long after the need for contact tracing dissipates. For instance, manufacturers can easily repurpose these same investments to help track materials and strengthen the in-house supply system.
According to the results of Fictiv’s 2020 State of Manufacturing Report, COVID-19 has negatively harmed most businesses (89%), sales are down (44%), cost of materials and components have increased (41%) and production times have lengthened (41%).
The stats do not paint a pretty picture. Yet, opportunities often surface in the face of diversity. As manufacturers across the globe were forced into remote work situations overnight, it understandably created challenges that some businesses were not ready to accommodate. Yet, many manufacturers found creative new ways to leverage internal resources (pivoting operators and leveraging 3D printers to meet immediate market needs), or tapping into connected systems to enable remote operations in ways the manufacturer did not realize existed.
In each instance, having the right technology in place enables innovation. Going back to the survey results, nearly all (97%) respondents said COVID-19 has created new opportunities, with 87% making digital transformation a high priority. Reducing cost (46%), increasing supply chain visibility (42%) and driving efficiencies (40%) are some of the top goals for these digital efforts.
Of course, deploying technology has a cost, and for many manufacturers justifying that cost can quickly become a seemingly insurmountable barrier. At least in normal times. However, we are truly in unprecedented times. Today’s digital technologies are truly transformative. Now is not the time to try to make do with what’s already in place. Now is the time to take strategic action.
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