It's no revelation that the Covid pandemic has caused massive upheaval for industry and economies across the board. The disruption reached an unforeseeable scale as entire industries were forced to rapidly react to the sudden and unpredictable changes or else shut down entirely in the wake of Covid. With the emergence of the pandemic, what we knew about business was upturned seemingly overnight. Any hints of contingency plans were simply too inadequate to cope with a global crisis – a threat that we are still working around to this day.
For day-to-day operations, it felt like overcoming tidal waves in quick succession. As soon as one wave had passed, another would come crashing down. The volatility of a new variant sweeping the globe would cause ripples across both supply and demand chains and the availability of the workforce. Without time for a proper, cohesive plan, it felt like building barriers made of paper to hold back the calamity wave of change – we simply were not prepared. The rapid evolution and implementation of technology is the only thing that helped businesses stay afloat. With no time for risk assessments or return on investment projections, organisations took the only options available to them, unable to predict the consequences when the alternative was to stay on a sinking ship.
Reflecting on the past two years
There are key lessons to be learnt as we move towards this endemic phase of Covid. First, the ramifications will ultimately be felt for years to come, perhaps indefinitely. The pandemic has been an eye-opening experience for many industries, so much so that even with the UK government announcing that Covid restrictions have ended, this does not mark the end of industry problems by any means. All it would take is another variant crashing down to begin the torrent of Covid concerns once again.
Another important takeaway is for us to ultimately reflect on some of the rapid changes that were made during this time. Whilst some are operationally sound and should be declared permanent going forward, businesses that want to continue to survive and even thrive in the coming post-pandemic era of manufacturing should spend the necessary time analysing their operational structures and processes in detail. How flexible, agile and robust are operations going forward? How can they potentially react to and support teams in other future black-swan events? This may seem like a paranoid mindset, but when seeing how quickly industries crashed with this global crisis, it only seems natural to prepare for the potential of future major events. We only have to look at the emerging crisis in Eastern Europe to see that these can be lurking around any corner.
Preparing for the post-pandemic era of manufacturing
Industries across the board are gearing up to move into a post-pandemic stage of business readjustment. Instead of the substantial changes of emergency tactics used in rapidly responding to the pandemic, 2022 marks the dawn of the next stage of operational change – this time being a period of steady and structured tactical changes as part of a unified, complete future strategy. Manufacturers should take this time to perform a root and branch audit of their operations, their processes, their platforms and their technology infrastructure, to ensure they are fit for purpose well into the future.
To find a way forward, manufacturers should begin by looking back to identify weaknesses across their operations, both before the pandemic ever began in addition to how successful they have been throughout the past two years. Where were the weak points? Where was data access found to be limited? What disruptions could have been avoided entirely with better technology platforms and processes? In understanding where your operational limitations lie, it becomes possible to formulate sustainable, tactically-driven improvements that eliminate these risks and constraints once and for all. Organisations can then build a tailored strategy of short and long-term transformation opportunities, allowing them to truly transition from reactivity to proactivity in the post-pandemic industry landscape.
Digital transformation at the forefront
It’s clear that over the last two years, digital transformation initiatives have been reprioritised within company budgets and agendas to combat previous deficiencies in their technology and infrastructure. The pandemic has been an eye-opening experience for those that were, understandably, unable to foresee a need to pivot their operations in response to the global change in workplace practices. Manufacturers turning to the potential of data-driven processes and automation, as opposed to the continued investments in electro-mechanical automation over recent decades. They want flexible, proactive working environments that can bring increased levels of efficiency and productivity to their businesses.
Optimising manufacturing processes and work environments is the key to the future of manufacturing, more than just simply automation. As we move into a new, data-driven era of manufacturing where workers can make informed decisions due to information and intelligent insights being directly delivered to them, manufacturers that are the best equipped to leverage that asset to circumvent any future disruptions will be the ones to stay at the top of their industries.
Jason Chester, Director of Global Channel Programs at InfinityQS