A number of factors have contributed to the evolution of the manufacturing sector. One of the most significant influencing factors has been the COVID-19 pandemic. Anna-Katrina Shedletsky wrote an article about these changes for Forbes around the onset of the pandemic. She wrote a follow up article this past April detailing some of the prediction she made and how they transpired.
Experts from Machinery Network have agreed with her assessment that the pandemic has radically changed the future of the industry. This is something manufacturers around the world must prepare for.
The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently altered the direction of the manufacturing industry
Businesses around the world had to react to the sudden shock of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was a crisis that few organizations ever have considered or built contingency plans for.
A number of changes were intended to be short-lived, in order to encourage social distancing, a response to temporary supply shortages and other immediate concerns brought on by the pandemic itself. However, there is growing evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic has also created a lot of long-term changes for various industries around the world.
The manufacturing sector is among those that has been permanently altered due to the pandemic. Anybody working in the manufacturing sector should have an in-depth understanding of the implications brought on by the pandemic.
Here are some of the biggest changes that have come about or are in motion in response to the pandemic.
Growing focus on putting manufacturing data in the cloud
The manufacturing sector seems like one of the industries that would be most likely to embrace cloud computing. It simply makes sense in so many ways. Manufacturing companies are highly reliant on new technology, which means that the cloud would be easy to embrace. Manufacturers also are subject to stringent regulations and safety concerns about data security, as is the case with healthcare and financial organizations.
Despite the obvious benefits and limited drawbacks of using cloud technology, many manufacturers have been hesitant to take advantage of it. Their reluctance has limited growth opportunities and other directions for manufacturers around the world.
This has changed in light of the pandemic. Many manufacturing administrators were forced to socially distance during the pandemic. They became more dependent on cloud technology and have since discovered its benefits. It will likely continue using it for the foreseeable future.
Manufacturers are more influenced by solutions brought on by technology, rather than the technology itself
Key decision-makers with manufacturing organizations usually come from a background in engineering. They have a soft spot for proposals to invest in new technology, because technology is exciting and fascinating to them. However, they often fail to do their due diligence and see what real solutions come with the new technology they are purchasing.
In the past, manufacturers had enough capital that they could afford to be somewhat careless when making new investments. The COVID-19 pandemic created a new sense of urgency. Constrained budgets and a host of new challenges forced them to take a new solution-oriented perspective instead.
Manufacturers are obviously still investing heavily in new technology. However, they are putting greater emphasis on technological pictures that offer tangible solutions to real problems, rather than buying into the fanciest technological trends.
Domestic manufacturing becomes more accepted again
Large organizations around the world discovered the benefits of sharing their production in the 1960s and 1970s. This helped them improve their bottom line considerably.
Few people thought about it downsides of outsourcing production, because it did not become evident that this could be a concern until a crisis finally emerged. The COVID-19 pandemic was an example of such a crisis. Retailers and manufacturers discovered the problems of relying too much on foreign suppliers during a global crisis win nations were more concerned about providing goods and services to their own citizens.
This has forced the United States and other Western countries to recognize the importance of localized manufacturing. They are rebuilding their domestic manufacturing facilities to become less dependent on foreign suppliers in response to the possibility of another crisis.
The benefits of digitization become more evident
Digital technology has become incredibly valuable to companies in every sector. Manufacturing companies are no exception.
Research has shown that the companies that are rated in the top 10% of those the most resilient to new challenges are among those most likely to invest heavily in new software. They have found that software technology is very important for getting a competitive edge in the market. This is especially true for manufacturers.
Artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things have been some of the most important technological breakthroughs for the manufacturing sector. They have discovered the real benefits of this technology during the pandemic. Manufacturers that invest in this technology will have a much stronger edge than those that do not.