There’s a war on―a new kind of war. The enemy is sneaky but deadly, taking thousands of casualties. A new breed of soldier fights for us, on the hospital ward front lines, equipped with specialized weapons and armor. Every country is on high alert, fighting this war together. And, as in many other wars, manufacturers are deeply involved.
A recent survey conducted by ARC Advisory Group and Automation.com asked over 100 manufacturers large and small around the world what’s happening with them right now, and what they are doing or should have done to prepare for this pandemic. The results show a wide range of responses, with a common theme―do what it takes to stay safe.
Some firms have had to decrease production and lay off workers. Others, with the ability to do so, are moving production to locations less impacted by the virus. Quite a few companies have gone on the offense, switching production to high-demand items. Car makers are turning out ventilation equipment. Distilleries are providing alcohol for hand sanitizers. Some fashion and textile companies are focusing on personal protective gear. The pharmaceutical industry has ramped up production of test kits and other medical supplies. And of course, producers of disinfectants and paper products are working overtime.
Employees Need to Stay Safe
Almost all companies are also on the defense, trying to stay safe, protecting employees who must remain on-site with distancing and physical barriers, installing robots where possible, and by speeding up digital transformation programs, allowing people to work remotely.
“We learned that some manufacturers wish they had put more thought and effort into digital transformation prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report said. “But many of these companies have since adapted and are now adding new digital technologies and digitally enabled solutions as opportunities arise.”
What kinds of technologies? They are using artificial intelligence (AI) software to gather real-time production data to calculate risk for what-if scenarios and market fluctuations. They employ optimization software linked to online processes for in-plant predictive maintenance and off-site supply chain management. They are connecting OT staff to production data for remote monitoring, and IT staff to analytical tools. All of these technologies rely on secure, real-time connectivity to process data, which Skkynet provides.
The current situation for most companies is in flux. In-house changes happen daily, while product demand and supply chains are also variable. At the time of the survey many companies were still preparing for the pandemic, or were operating with reduced staff, shortages, and lack of market data. Among employees, for over 80% of respondents, the three main changes were new sanitation policies, social distancing, and working remotely.
Based on this survey, the ARC Advisory Group recommends increasing adoption of digital technology. This will allow companies to provide their staff with the abilities to stay safe by working and collaborating remotely, monitoring production systems through digital dashboards. Along with this recommendation comes moving data and applications to the cloud, as well as improved IT capabilities and cybersecurity. Most companies surveyed were either grateful to be on the path to digital transformation, or making it a top priority to be there.