The Bright Side of COVID-19 - Opportunities for Digital Manufacturing Solutions
The world is suffering from the dark side of the coronavirus pandemic. Factories are shut, businesses are collapsing, schools are closed and healthcare systems are overwhelmed. For sure COVID-19 has found and exploited the cracks in global business and societal structures. This has highlighted the tremendous need to restructure in order to survive the ongoing and any future disruptions.
In this grim situation there are some glimmers of hope as well. From a personal perspective of course, this pandemic has brought us more time to spend with families, reflect on things that we take for granted and reconsider what we do, why we do it and how we do it.
From a business perspective, especially in the manufacturing sector, it seems there are two major activities right now: (1) Adapting production activities to comply with governmental guidelines and the new social norms; and (2) Restructuring the supply chain to be able to continue producing the same products as before.
Regarding the first major activity, there are several encouraging things happening in Europe:
● Companies are changing what they make to meet the demand for items necessary to combat the crisis, for example:
o Many manufacturing SMEs are now making personal protective equipment
o Many large manufacturers are working together to make ventilators
● Companies are changing their production activities to comply with safety standards, and they need to do this faster than in normal circumstances e.g. weeks instead of months
o Collaborations with partners with the right knowledge helps to navigate the complex systems and procedures
● Logistics are changing to deliver products and raw materials as soon as possible e.g. some products are being sent by air instead of sea
For the second major activity, the coronavirus pandemic has created opportunities for solutions that can address emerging needs for:
● Identification of business opportunities or new supply chain partners to meet new demands
● Identification of fracture points in a supply chain, and matching fractured pieces from other supply chains which might fit together
● Knowledge exchange to facilitate adaptation e.g. by identifying what others have done in similar circumstances
In addition to the above, the manufacturing companies in the eFactory project have highlighted the emerging needs for the following digital solutions:
● The monitoring and alerting of machines in production via a web platform – using both sensors and multimedia feeds
● The simulation of the planning and testing of production processes; to eliminate the need for physical presence of employees at the machines
● The enforcement of social distancing through monitoring and alerting of employees on the shop-floor
● The increased automation and connectivity of systems for faster response times, reduced paperwork and better customer services - without the need for everyone to be physically available in the offices
● The exhibition of products and services through virtual reality and augmented reality solutions – since the traditional trade shows may not be as successful as before
The above opportunities are definitely of interest to the digital solution providers in the eFactory project and beyond. Of course, who acts first has more chances of success.