Is the manufacturing industry recovering from COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the manufacturing sector. According to a report on the ‘Economic and operational impacts of COVID-19 to manufactures published by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), it is estimated that 78.3% of manufacturers expect that the pandemic will have a financial impact on their business and 53% expect COVID-19 to impact their operations. The disruption in manufacturing caused by COVID-19 has severe operational, social and financial consequences and is forcing manufacturers across the world to rethink their contingency plans, risk management, and new ways of operating in a digital-first world, all at the same time. 

Why is the manufacturing industry one of the worst-hit sectors of the pandemic?

The manufacturing sector, especially the US manufacturing sector, which employs about 13 million workers in the US is one of the hardest-hit sectors during this pandemic. It includes the automobile manufacturing industry, machinery manufacturing industry, pharma manufacturing industry, food & beverage, paint & coating manufacturing industry, and much more. The main reason for this is because manufacturing jobs are on-site and cannot be carried out remotely and slowed down economic activity has reduced the demand for industrial products globally. Another reason is that the novel coronavirus is claimed to have originated in China, which is home to the majority of the factories that supply raw materials to several manufacturing units across the world. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has estimated that the COVID-19 outbreak could cause global FDI to shrink by 5% to 15% due to the factory shutdown.

How is the manufacturing industry recovering from COVID-19?

As an immediate response to the crisis, the manufacturing industry has accelerated its pace towards industry 4.0. Under which industries will adopt the use of connectivity, advanced analytics, automation, and advanced engineering. It has also accelerated the digital transformation in manufacturing by leveraging numerous technologies. These changes are will help the manufacturing industry increase efficiency, improve speed to market, create new business models, and enable high-levels of product customization. Here is how industry 4.0 and digital transformation 

  1. Improved connectivity, data, and computational power

This improved connectivity, data, and computation power in the manufacturing industry can be achieved with advanced technologies such as IoT, cloud, and blockchain. Many manufacturing enterprises across the world have successfully integrated IoT tools into their infrastructures. IoT can also be used with cognitive operations, resource allocation, and in promoting a safe working environment. Many manufacturing plants are already utilizing connected control systems for procession and supervision. Furthermore, with some parts of the world returning back to normal and manufacturing plants opening again, they have to deal with shorter product cycles and time to market schedules due to increased demand. This is where cloud computing comes into use, it can change the way manufacturing plants operate and integrate into supply chains. Cloud computing enables the usage of on-demand computing power in a flexible and scalable manner and thus makes manufacturing cycles more efficient. Blockchain technology can also add value to the manufacturing industry as it can increase transparency and trust at every stage of the industrial value chain. This improved connectivity, data, and computational power help optimize the production process, reduce delivery time, and lower the expenditures.  

  1. Analytics and Intelligence

One of the crucial areas where Analytics and intelligence can be employed in the manufacturing industry is in cutting unplanned downtimes. They need a predictive maintenance solution to predict the next failure of a part, machine, or system to better equip themselves to reduce the losses. Artificial Intelligence-powered analytics can provide predictive maintenance solutions that can be employed in manufacturing plants to improve efficiency, product quality, and safety of the employees. Machine Learning also has the potential to become more prevalent in building and assembling items that help to reduce the length and cost of manufacturing. 

  1. Human-machine interaction

Industry 4.0 will be characterized by Human-machine interaction as industrial robots and other machines are expected to enter the production floor alongside human workers. Automation technology in the manufacturing industry has the capability to unlock value across a range of business functions. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can be especially useful in performing complex and time-consuming processes. Adopting RPA can help manufacturers reduce human errors and increase productivity. In addition to this, chatbots, Virtual reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies can also add value to the manufacturing industry post-COVID-19 as they can increase the overall productivity and efficiency of the employees.

  1. Advanced engineering

Industry 4.0 supports faster manufacturing and increased customization. This is where additive manufacturing can help. It enables the creation of products that are first-to-market, fully customized, and dynamic. Additive manufacturing works by using digital 3D models to create parts with a 3D printer layer by layer. This is a valuable digital manufacturing technology in the era of smart manufacturing. This is a huge development in the manufacturing industry because, with additive manufacturing, a designer or manufacturer needs only to change a design file digitally to customize or improve products. This can reduce transportation costs and simplify inventory management.

The role of digital transformation and industry 4.0 has become more critical in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital Transformation in the manufacturing industry is bringing new challenges and opportunities for those ready to seize them. With more than 15 years of deep manufacturing industry expertise, we combine our manufacturing and technology knowledge with the latest industry trends to apply innovation, transformation, and digitization to enable superior growth, differentiation, and unsurpassed operating performance. Whether it’s helping global manufacturing and chemical companies with mergers & acquisitions, optimizing plant operations, creating solutions for RPA and supply chain optimization, digital engineering, and manufacturing, artificial intelligence, and data-driven analytics, we have dedicated partnerships across the globe and are driving positive change through the world’s largest manufacturing companies.