A Year into COVID-19.
This past year is incomparable to any other time anyone has experienced. It is the first time all facets of life are deeply affected on a global scale. While the general population have mainly focused on health and the well-being of those around them, business, manufacturing, and the economy have suffered too. There are certainly examples of companies that thrived because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some examples include ventilator component manufacturers, remote patient monitoring systems and glass vial suppliers. It is well-known how intense the demand for these items was, and manufacturers were simply unable to deliver fast enough. This was due to lack of resources, lack of supplies and significant slowdowns in logistics management.
On the other hand, there were also plenty of cases where companies had to completely shut down leaving people unemployed, either permanently or temporarily. This obviously kept supplies of less vital items scarce. Cleaning supplies were being sold at a 400% markup.
Over time, businesses began re-opening, keeping in line with their countries’ regulations, which brings us to today. So here is the hand that’s been dealt, and everyone is doing their part to make it work and it looks very different than what we knew. A major part of this is accomplishing more from home. There is no single opinion on connecting remotely, it works great for some, and a real hassle for others. But one thing this pandemic has proven is that there are significant business benefits to working from home and it is here to stay.
The Reality of Living Remotely
Courtesy of platforms like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom, communication has become more efficient, with employees becoming more effective in their roles. Studies have shown that employees who work from home are significantly more productive than their office counterparts. Additionally, having employees work from home reduces business costs significantly. Smaller workspaces require less maintenance and are easier to manage, keeping focus on business itself, not the property. Both employees and employers are offered more flexibility with their time as well, saving travel time and maintaining a better work/life balance. Plus, a happy side effect of remote working has been an increase in environmental sustainability. With fewer people traveling, whether it be to and from the office, or to visit far away factories, the reduction of travel has positively affected the planet. With companies committing to take action towards climate change, having employees offsite became a strong contributor. So, while remote working has been imposed upon the population, it is going to be a trend that is here to stay.
Manufacturing Today & Tomorrow
Today, companies are looking at the effects of this global circumstance and it has caused them to accelerate their plans to move into Industry 4.0 through automation and smart factories. This was already on the roadmap for many companies but the automation of manufacturing facilities has been significantly fast-tracked. This is the one sure way to address and prevent the backlash from such a catastrophe and offer several levels of effectiveness.
Smart factories can:
- Ramp up or ramp down as a reflection of the demand;
- Continue to work when people are forbidden within a facility;
- Remain 100% accessible to those same people from the comfort of their home office.
Making Change Work
Now, corporations are investing more and more into connectivity, advanced data analytics tools, machine learning, AR/VR tools, robotics and remote deployment. Almost 40% of industry leaders have adopted a control-tower approach to address blind spots in the supply chain and avoid material shortages. A control tower will centralize data from internal and external resources and enhance visibility for better decision-making. Having such a structure in place provides a solid foundation to confront any circumstance, regardless of where people are located.
This has also brought a resurgence in onshoring. Given the expected growth in technological innovation manufacturing is shifting to accommodate. This includes the increase in robotics and automated sequencing being integrated into every aspect of production, from automated assembly and handling to automated testing. As these practices become more economical, some business activities that were previously offshored are being brought back to domestic markets. Having production and R&D in closer proximity comes with a list of benefits including:
- Reduction of communication errors due to language and time zone;
- Solves the challenge of shorter product lifecycles;
- Provides easier access to quality data.
With most tasks being performed in this manner, at the end of the day it does not matter if the people managing the data are onsite or in their living room. Investing in a home office would certainly be appropriate at this juncture.
For more information on remote test integration, please contact Averna.
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