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COVID-19 expected to drive automation, impact industrial automation

COVID-19 expected to drive automation, impact industrial automation
More automation is expected to be deployed due to COVID-19 and a need for manufacturers to stay productive and efficient.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, manufacturers must find ways to improve operational efficiency. This is expected to accelerate trends such as automation and remote management, which could not only help with efficiency but also with new social distancing and health safety norms.

Accelerating adoption of automation

Curtis Simpson Armis
Curtis Simpson, CISO, Armis
Factories have been becoming more and more automated for years; however, COVID-19 is expected to further drive automation.

For one, automating warehouse operations, especially amid COVID-19, enables businesses to maintain their supply chain while cutting costs and eliminating human-borne business risks, like illnesses or strikes, according to Curtis Simpson, CISO at Armis.

“As we’ve seen with numerous manufacturers, employees in tight, enclosed spaces have the potential to get sick, which by extension, can impact a company’s ability to make and distribute products. I anticipate manufacturers will increasingly look to automate industrial operations, as it’s an opportunity to both reduce costs and fortify their business,” Simpson said.

Adrian Lloyd, CEO of Interact Analysis, suggests that any factory production line constructed in the next three years will include significantly more automation than it would have without COVID-19. “The effect of this will be to ‘bed in’ automation as a strategy — even in companies that would otherwise have been skeptical,” he said, adding that many companies across the manufacturing space are bringing forward their automation plans.

More remote solutions

One of the ways the coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact is with remote workers. In pre-COVID-19 days workers were able to physically walk up to the equipment they needed access to; now they need to be able to access it remotely.

Many companies like Bayshore Networks offer remote access solutions that can “assist in helping workers access equipment in a much more granular and secure manner than even VPN technology can do,” according to Kevin Senator, CEO of Bayshore Networks.

“Access can be controlled by operations and by equipment type, protocol, user type and even down to what they’re allowed to do while remote, giving encrypted, end-to-end cybersecurity while absent from the office,” he said.

More focus on cybersecurity

More remote access comes with increased cybersecurity concerns. In fact, the pandemic has led to a dramatic rise in cyberattacks by opportunistic cybercriminals and nation-state hackers.

“Cybercriminals are more than aware that most enterprises have limited capabilities in terms of being able to detect and respond to cyberattacks affecting IoT and OT devices, With limited visibility and a heavy workload, both the desire and opportunity for bad actors to materially impact manufacturing environments in this current climate is high,” Simpson said.

So while manufacturers explore adopting more robotic arms or autonomous devices, they must also double down on cybersecurity efforts.

COVID-19 in the long term

With no end in sight, what impact COVID-19 will have on the manufacturing sector in the long run is still unfolding. Yet, Senator pointed to there being some “obvious repercussions on supply chain, competitive forces and the broader interconnectedness of manufacturing endeavors.”

In the meantime, manufacturers will have to keep factories prepared for new normals, and up to speed with industrial automation trends, if they hope to remain competitive and operationally efficient.

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