Years before all of this, business seems so good and smooth that most manufacturing leaders didn’t have time to step back and form crisis precautious strategies. However, the COVID-19 struck so quickly that most companies barely had time to develop counter-measures to coping with a terrible situation like this.
Truth is that how unprecedented and horrible 2020 is can never be described too much more.
On one hand, some companies like those that make food, PPE, and cleaning supplies, were extremely lucrative; on the other hand, many other companies are not that lucky. Some products selling out, others that had been wildly profitable not selling at all, and no end in sight. Just like everything else this year, the pandemic's impact on manufacturing was unpredictable and difficult.
Looking ahead to 2021, the recovery may take longer to reach pre-pandemic levels, as Deloitte projections based on the Oxford Economic Model (OEM) anticipate a decline in annual manufacturing GDP growth levels for 2020–2021, with a forecast of -3.7% for 2020 and -5.4% for 2021.
US Industrial Products & Construction Leader, Pail Wellener gave a summary of four trends he believes could make the manufacturing industry disruption-proof.
This trend isn't new. But it is predicted it will become more important in the next year. Customers are starting to pay more and more attention to the labor conditions, sustainability, fair trade of food, clothing, and pharmaceuticals manufacturing. And these would become vital elements of manufacturers’ brand value. Going through 2020, customers will shift their concerns to reliability and safety in 2021. Moreover, the rise of localization and nationalist sentiment will extend this trend to core manufacturing sectors.
You would find disaster recovery in any business strategy, but it only serves for a short-term one. The pandemic upended many disaster recovery plans, therefore it is predicted that long-term resilience as a strategy would replace disaster recovery by 20% of the business. A major part of that will be a shift to the ability to run and manage production floors remotely.
Manufacturing leaders cannot do it all at once and should prioritize their efforts. They have to identify the workflows that benefit long-term business resilience and equip those for remote operation. Significant investments in new smart manufacturing equipment and networking technology are needed, which will create more long-term projects and investments.
The fact is that mass unemployment cannot solve the talent issue.
Manufacturers have already started looking into more automation as a potential solution which means knowledge workers with tech skills will be in high demand. They have not invested this year as they would have, yet most are optimistic about next year.
The coronavirus has done much more to alter workplace arrangements than any period since the development of the assembly line.
Manufacturers still see Industry 4.0 (in other words Smart Manufacturing) as critical, but many struggles to know how and when to invest in it. Keeping people safe from COVID through more automation and remote technologies have raised interest in Industry 4.0 even further.
For example like desktop laser cutter for protective equipment, augmented reality (AR) headsets used to reduce time doctors spent with high-risk COVID-19 patients, and reskill machinists to build ventilators.
The Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation, MAPI did research shows that roughly 80% of CEOs claimed that unprecedented design changes will be permanently incorporated into their shop floors for workers' health and safety.
Last but not the least, a whopping 85% say their annualized investment in smart factory initiatives will be rising. This jibes with the findings of a MAPI-Deloitte study from 2019 that found more than 85% of industrial manufacturers believe that smart factory initiatives will be the main driver of manufacturing competitiveness in the next five years. The pandemic has simply pushed up the timetable for digitalization and virtualization.
Forward-looking manufacturers can emerge from this period stronger if they use it as an opportunity to invest in the technology and upskilling that can move them closer to the promise of industry 4.0.
With the first COVID-19 vaccine was injected on December 8, the end of this period is in sight. The manufacturers who emerge from it stronger will be those who invest in their post-COVID future now.
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