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The future is now for manufacturers because of COVID-19

The future is now for manufacturers because of COVID-19
Reports indicate COVID-19 is accelerating Industry 4.0 adoption, leading companies across industries into a more mature state of IoT technology and workflow.
Before COVID-19, company heads, analysts, and the media spoke about IIoT and Industry 4.0 as the future of manufacturing. There was great interest from manufacturers, and some had even begun to implement it. But for the most part, it was considered the next big industrial revolution to look forward to.

The pandemic may have fast-forwarded us a bit in this direction. For once, we are more bothered about how to get manufacturing back to what it was than about what it will be in the future. We are bothered about the health of employees and how lives can be saved. We are bothered about how employees can maintain social distancing and still work together.

And this is where IIoT is set to play a more significant role.

A report from Keypoint Intelligence recently published states that COVID-19 is accelerating Industry 4.0 adoption, leading companies across industries into a more mature state of IoT technology and workflow.

“Although businesses have had reason to embrace digital workflows in the past, COVID-19 has provided another strong incentive to move toward a smart factory, complete with smart manufacturing or smart printing processes,” the report said. “While conventional wisdom says that dedicated office space is required to maximize productivity, this theory is being put to the ultimate test as we speak.”

What can IIoT do now

The conventional approach to IIoT has perceived it as a slow but natural evolution of the manufacturing industry. The benefits were improved efficiency at lower costs. But now, there are more important things.
  1. Business continuity plans

The COVID crisis has had companies across the globe scrambling to put together business continuity plans. For many, this meant sending employees to work from home. And while it has worked in many sectors, manufacturing in its current form cannot happen unless factories run with a minimum required staff.
With the proper use of IIoT, manufacturers can reduce the number of staff in factories to a bare minimum or even not have them on the floor at all. There are already factories that are entirely run by robots, and these offer the perfect solution to ensure a healthy environment. 
  1. Recovery period

The pandemic continues its destructive trajectory in several countries across the globe. But given the broader economic and social impacts of continued lockdowns, governments are planning to open businesses and get everything up and running.
But many companies are on the verge of bankruptcy. Stimulus packages may help them to an extent, but they still need to reduce costs. Hence, lowering labor costs is a matter of survival in the recovery period.
Automated systems will help manufacturers reduce their dependency on human labor. This will not just reduce their costs but also increase productivity as machines don’t get tired and don’t need breaks. A factory can run 24/7 without changing the machines.
  1. Prepare for the future

COVID-19 may or may not be something that happens once in a lifetime. But outbreaks of diseases like Swine flu continue to have a regional impact on businesses. There are also political and social issues that disrupt industrial activities, even if it is for a much shorter period compared to a pandemic.
Until now, short disruptions to businesses were not seen as issues that would justify investment in IIoT. Of course, companies would have been better off with automation when staff couldn’t come to work for one or two days due to any disruption. The IIoT systems that this pandemic could bring to factories will help manufacturers continue their operations even when there are short disruptions in the future.

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