Everyone in this generation will have their own Covid-19 story. Covid-19 crossed international barriers, shut down businesses, changed social norms, and forced us to reevaluate what we authentically cherish when we face mortality. Desired outcomes shifted into requirements for survival. The definition of a thriving business shifted from profit to sustainability. Waiting out the pandemic for a return to the status quo shifted from being a sign of discipline to a consequence of naivety.
Covid-19 targeted vulnerabilities specific to manufacturing. Manufacturers relied on manual labor more than any other industry, manufacturers could not simply move their entire workforce to remote work. International supply chains strangled production floors waiting on raw materials. Manufacturers were already facing a skilled labor shortage before the pandemic, now they faced an existing workforce resigning or retiring.
Since then, manufacturers have been able to close the gaps with the adoption of automated machines, interoperable cloud technology, and revolutions in industrial science. The new wave of manufacturers is sturdier, smarter, and diversified. Automated industrial machine investments allowed companies to ensure that quality, consistency, accuracy, and speed will be less susceptible to labor deficits. The principles of lean manufacturing are still observed but supported by a mixture of interoperable software and digital monitoring. These new IIOT solutions allow for transparency, real-time visibility, and demand planning.
Shifting From Investment in Profits to Safeguarding Sustainability
Before the pandemic the common wisdom of manufacturing investment was to drive profit, lower costs, and enhance production through the tenants of cost containment focused lean manufacturing. Exploiting the maximum potential of lean production generated maximum revenue using the least resources but made these companies vulnerable to downstream bottlenecks if any aspect of the production pipeline suffered a setback, underproduced, or didn’t meet customer expectations. In the short term, this made companies lucrative. In the long term, this made companies vulnerable to worker shortages, supply shortages, and conservative expectations from customers that rose out of the pandemic. The short sighted, reactive, and uncoordinated response to pandemic related shortages exposed critical need for repurposing and pivoting towards risk mitigation.
Smart post pandemic manufacturing focuses on closing those vulnerabilities with capital investment rather than the short-term gains of quick profit. Companies aren’t just seeking the best machines, the best practices, and the best partnerships, they are focused on anticipating the next pandemic, the next international conflict, and the next destabilizing event.
Supply Chain Analysis Enters the Future, Focuses on Diversity Over Profit
The pandemic closed off borders, closed the doors of suppliers, and complicated the supply chain with shortages. The business standard before the pandemic involved taking advantage of the global marketplace to find the cheapest supplier. Especially in the wake of the 2008 recession, this meant seeking manufacturing opportunities overseas for the highest margins. These companies scrambled to find local suppliers when closed ports, material shortages, and government decisions restricted vendors from meeting demand.
Post pandemic manufacturers now value a diverse range of suppliers. This isn’t just limited to maintaining local sources, manufacturers are investing in software monitoring and reporting to track the supply chain in real time.
Rethinking the Work Environment, and Supporting the Workforce with Automated Machines
Pre-pandemic, media entities stigmatized automated machines as job killers, expensive, and unintuitive. Manufacturers that accepted these claims found their production stopped by loss of labor and inability to design a workspace that could accommodate social distancing.
Post pandemic manufacturers have embraced automation as a solution to labor shortages, turnover, work environment concerns, and safety issues. With a properly scoped automation assessment by a responsible integrator, manufacturers can have machines that pick up the slack of the missing workers, improve the working conditions in the production floor, and work with the new definitions of safety our post pandemic society demands. Automated machines and robots can not only be designed to mimic the actions of skilled workers, but they can also be programmed with learning AI, data analysis aggregation, and augmented reality interfaces. Training upgrades have allowed the rise of New-collar workers, a new pool of laborer that completes the complex skill-based tasks of a specialist without pursuing college degrees or mainstream certifications.
Keeping Lean Manufacturing Alive with IIOT
Modern manufacturers haven’t abandoned the margin seeking tenants of lean manufacturing, they are supporting it with IIOT, interoperable software, and market monitoring. By utilizing the technology associated with Industry 4.0 machines, COO’s can monitor international manufacturing spaces, aggregate data from multiple production lines, and use real time data to predict when to stockpile, when to seek additional suppliers, and when to adjust to anticipate market volatility.
Necessity has also opened manufacturers to the concepts of using the digital marketplace to sell wholesale products directly to consumers, moving shipping and storage resources in house, and tracking demand trends in real time. The modern manufacturer creates their own agility by harnessing solutions that can keep them flexible during conservative shifts in the market.
At DEVELOP LLC, our project managers, software engineers, and manufacturing experts understand the innovations, critical adaptations, and technological solutions modern manufacturers require to thrive in the post pandemic market. We back our integrations with our proprietary single source guarantee. Tell us more about your project, schedule a virtual meeting, or call (262)-622-6104 to learn more about how we can help you modernize your manufacturing with industrial automated solutions.
Sean McKittrick and Matt Moseman