Manager supervisor and worker discussing about production results and new strategy in factory industrial hall.2020 was a remarkable year. Covid-19 disruptions of the economy and industrial operations have been a wake-up call for the need to embrace automation more fully across the industrial landscape. The pandemic has served as a catalyst, steering technological advancement across nearly all industries. We already have robots helping with social distancing, and AI and remote collaboration technology assisting workers in the construction industry to resume duties. With these advancements already taking shape months after the pandemic necessitated change, experts believe the future of automation, access, and security is a strong one.
Since going back to the old way of doing business is not a viable option, it is now apparent that companies must develop new ways of operations and leaders must adopt new strategies. What was once a necessary, short-term change must transition into a permanent shift that will forever alter how businesses operate. So, how can organizations implement industrial automation in readiness for any future operational disruptions?
Here are five lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic that can help organizations implement industrial automation strategies for the future.
The Rise of Automation
As more and more organizations encourage their employees to work from home, the idea of maintaining a physical office is becoming irrelevant. With the need for social distancing and working from home to curb the spread of the virus, remote access technology is currently a hot topic for industries across the board. Of course, the idea of developing more extensive remote access technology has been around for some time. But Covid-19 has been the driving factor behind accelerated development and adoption. Incorporating remote access technology into operations will ensure uninterrupted production, especially for industries that produce essential goods.
Robotics and machinery are not susceptible to infections. This has prompted organizations to incorporate technology into their operations to ensure sustained and optimized employee productivity. Investing in industrial automation equipment remains a priority for businesses across most industries, with the global market surpassing $16 billion as of 2019. There is no doubt that Covid-19 has been a significant catalyst for driving organizations’ adoption of automation and robotics. Pursuing greater automation has proven to provide a framework for growth, both for companies and the economy, as new opportunities arise in areas like AI and systems integration.
Revolutionizing Future Interactions
As social distancing becomes the new normal in social interactions, industries are discussing the role that behavior modification can play in distancing efforts. As experts have noted, maintaining social distance is a long-term strategy that will require the aid of technology. Critical considerations are centered on automated devices that employees can wear to ensure adherence to every guideline designed to mitigate infection.
Although initially intended to track assets, Bluetooth devices and ultra-wideband technology could work effectively in the initial phase of getting employees safely back to work. The idea of using these devices to track people within a specific distance has become a very real option, and may well be part of the next new normal.
The emerging automation trend will not be limited to warehouses, manufacturing plants, offices, or similar facilities. It is a process that will extend to everyday life, envisioning a world where cars will need no human drivers, where drones will make deliveries, and where robots will be useful helpers. For instance, the world’s first automated cargo ship could be the pioneer of a new generation of ships without crews. Such vessels could mitigate the risks of spreading diseases such as the current Covid-19 pandemic, reduce operational costs, and boost revenue.
Another adverse effect of Covid-19 is an upsurge in cybercrime. The disruption and increased digital connectivity gave unscrupulous individuals the time and opportunity to capitalize on the crisis and exploit unsuspecting people and organizations. For years, top manufacturers have demonstrated a keen interest in investing in technology to enable remote access. Just when the pandemic kicked plans for deploying such technology into high gear, cybersecurity proved to be the next stumbling block.
Since cyber-attacks come in myriad forms, they can disable the digital system, causing malfunction and further disruption of operations. To this end, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) developed an Integrated Resilient Security and Protective Technology (InteRSepT), a high-tech cybersecurity system that protects data across networks. InteRSepT can intercept security breaches and protect vital information. Other companies have joined MHI in developing the Charter of Trust, an initiative geared toward strengthening cybersecurity across organizations. Similar collaborative efforts are being spearheaded by various industry players and governments of affected countries.
Thinking Globally, Acting Locally
The global supply chain remains a long and complicated process that is vulnerable in the wake of pandemics and similar threats. This necessitates the need for a change of tactics by industries and investment in domestic production. This approach will most likely change the face of Industry 4.0 with the new pandemic operational guidelines serving as a roadmap forward.
The coronavirus pandemic has proven to be a great catalyst in driving change and industrial transformation, leading to enhanced security and averting health risks through digitization and automation for organizations willing to adopt new technologies. Contact us for more information on how industrial automation can benefit your business.
Image Credit: Freepik @ Creative Commons