Smart factory control screen

Manufacturers get a coronavirus wake-up call

Image credit: Dreamstime

Covid-19 is forcing firms that had relegated digitalisation to the back burner to think quickly about the value of investing in smart technologies.

The current pandemic is forcing the manufacturing sector to re-evaluate its traditional production processes. A combination of supply chain disruption, shortage of materials, dependence on globalised production, and a national workforce with restricted movements, is affecting not only industry, but the wider economy. While many have struggled to adapt, there are those taking the opportunity to transform.

Manufacturers are collectively being forced to devise and implement new and agile approaches to product monitoring and quality control. One of their biggest logistical challenges involves ensuring their production lines are running, despite the lack of available staff due to social-distancing rules. This is where digital innovations in smart manufacturing can offer many benefits.

Before the lockdown started, business continuity in the event of a global pandemic wasn’t a priority, as the risk or likelihood wasn’t deemed high enough and the return on investment wasn’t clearly evident. Very few organisations were investing in the tools and technologies they needed to effectively respond to such a crisis situation on the scale that we are witnessing today.

Covid-19 has forced the industry to think smarter and ultimately build more resilience into production environments. The rise of digitalisation and steady move towards cloud-based software-as-a-service solutions have thrown manufacturers a welcome lifeline to help them stay afloat and maintain continuity against a challenging environment. Those who haven’t yet started to develop a smart production environment are finding it difficult to cope and are looking for new ways to adapt.

Organisations are trying to achieve a level of robustness and flexibility that will help them respond to future internal or external disruptions, and those who are proactively investing in smart production lines have a distinct advantage over those who aren’t. We understand it isn’t possible to plan for everything, but you can start prioritising the key areas of your operations to ensure you can remain as agile, responsive and efficient as possible.

Today’s digital cloud-based technology services and solutions offer an unprecedented level of flexibility, with factory managers able to remotely monitor and manage their production lines from any location with an internet connection. This allows resources to be deployed effectively, as staff don’t have to be on the actual production floor. Instead they can use remote access cloud interface dashboards from the comfort of their homes to monitor production and pinpoint areas of improvement or quality issues.

Now, anyone has the capabilities to easily spin-up highly capable manufacturing and quality intelligence solutions in a secure cloud architecture. This quickly enables an agile environment to be created which helps to ensure yield optimisation, product quality and production efficiency, which are all vital for those within the manufacturing community to succeed at this time. Additionally, the real-time remote features of these solutions mean staff can also be trained in using these systems and upskilled from anywhere in the world.

Factory workers are essential to the nation’s health and prosperity. Regardless of the products you’re making or the size of your company, you need to reduce the impact of potential disruptions by investing in the tools and talent to build a ‘factory for the future.’ This will enable you to keep things moving, even if the unexpected happens.

Jason Chester is director of global channel programs at InfinityQS.

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