Manufacturing's Digital Transformation Post Pandemic

Mila Budeva
Mila Budeva
Dec 15, 2020

In 2020, a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, many organisations witnessed the overhaul of normal operations – transitioning to remote work wherever possible, implementing even stricter safe workplace measures and limiting human-to-human interaction.


As a result, the implementation of video conferencing, virtual training, remote assistance and document sharing solutions skyrocketed, leading to the widespread conclusion that COVID-19 is a powerful catalyst of digital transformation.


Has this also been true of the manufacturing industry?

In her overview of the pandemic’s impact on the adoption of digital technology, Anna-Katrina Shedletsky predicts that:


...because of COVID-19, manufacturing will experience five years of innovation in the next 18 months.


Indeed, the “new normal” has created a sense of urgency for manufacturers to map out that digital journey and embark on it. As Dave Evan, CEO of Fictiv, suggests in his analysis of a post-COVID manufacturing world:


Digital transformation has always made sense but adoption has been slowed as people deal with some of the overwhelming concepts around Industry 4.0 ... and struggle to figure out where the value is coming from... Now the needs are compelling and urgent and those that fail to transform will likely be left behind and risk becoming irrelevant and uncompetitive.


So where can manufacturers direct this momentum of digitization to experience the greatest ROI the quickest?

McKinsey & Company’s piece on Reimagining manufacturing operations after COVID-19 predicts a “two-speed adoption” of technologies, where digital solutions that require little to none existing infrastructure and offer quick safety, productivity and visibility gains take priority:


Accelerated adoption for quick-win solutions that help companies respond and adapt to the new norms—such as tracking employee health, enforcing safe distancing on the shop floor, and supporting remote collaboration. Deferred adoption is more likely for solutions that require higher capital expenditure and have unclear or long-term payback periods.


What does a "quick-win" solution look like?

Some connected worker solutions fit well into the quick-win category and can be a great starting point of a digital transformation journey as they can be deployed quickly and remotely with minimal training and without the need for a dedicated IT team and ongoing maintenance.

A connected worker solution can help to quickly digitize use cases such as daily management systems and shift handovers, work instructions and troubleshooting guides, autonomous maintenance and tagging etc. - use cases that have a direct and immediate impact on safety, efficiency and traceability on the shop floor.


In trying to respond to the 'new normal', we have learned that functionalities such as immediate access to data, improved metrics and alerting, one-click access to guidance and a remote capability are essential to maintaining business continuity. They are also key to laying the foundations of further digital transformation. 


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