Manufacturers Make Changes to Prepare for a Post-Pandemic World

Posted By: Chad Schron, Senior Director, Tooling U-SME on August 03, 2020

Manufacturing Post-Pandemic World

In our continuing series around findings from the SME 2020 COVID-19 Future Outlook Study, today we look at how companies, post-pandemic, will shift company operations.

Survey Highlights:

  • 57% of respondents indicated their company will be putting in place a disaster-readiness plan
  • 52% of respondents indicated that their companies will allow some employees to work remotely

Change is coming in various forms. Earlier, I wrote about how some manufacturers are planning to reshore production to the U.S. and/or shift to more U.S.-based suppliers. Companies are adapting to the new environment which means new products and priorities continue to impact the supply chain and their operations. Here are the four ways manufacturers are adapting to the post-pandemic world:

1. Disaster-Readiness Plans

Another example of change is that about one in two (57 percent) indicated their company will be putting in place a disaster-readiness plan for catastrophic circumstances.

This is a good chance to brainstorm other possible crises besides a pandemic in order to be prepared. A long-term strategy is needed. While every situation is unique, manufacturers that outline possible operational protocols and communications strategies in advance will more quickly adapt to changing circumstances.

2. Remote Work Continues

The study also reported that half of respondents (52 percent) indicated that their companies will allow some employees to regularly work remotely.

Larger organizations are more open to this idea. Companies with 1,000 or more employees are significantly more likely to allow employees to work remotely in the future, while companies with 100 employees or fewer are not.

While work-at-home options have been routine in industries like tech for a while, this is a huge cultural shift for manufacturing.

This may mean that some non-operations people will work from home all or some of the time. Some operations people may also spend time off site.

The technology available today — much more affordable than in the past — ensures the transition is seamless. Until recently, it was impossible to perform certain jobs from outside a facility, but with the advent of Industry 4.0 technologies, workers can even operate some systems remotely.

3. Prioritize Manufacturing Training

We are seeing companies taking advantage of the time employees are working remotely to upskill them. Feedback shows this is seen as a positive way for workers to learn at their own pace.

The race to Industry 4.0 has accelerated during these coronavirus days so more than ever workers need to upgrade their skills related to robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, data analytics, digital security, additive manufacturing and more.

Remember that it is important to reinforce to employees that these learning and development opportunities are in place to help enhance and build their careers. Think about how you can build incentives into your plans.

4. Technology-based Learning

Even with employees back onsite, new guidelines around social distancing mean changes to manufacturing training to ensure safety.

On or off-site, going with technology-based manufacturing training options is an advantage. Consider:

  • Elearning is a great way to learn general concepts and terminology as well as standardized methods without bringing everyone together in a crowded classroom. It’s a format that especially appeals to newer generations.
  • Virtual reality teaches job skills in safe, controlled environments where mistakes can be made and confidence built.
  • Augmented reality can effectively push just-in-time training to employees when they need it. And, you don’t need to track down an instructor.
  • GoPro cameras are being used by trainers to keep them safely distant during training sessions.
  • A platform for virtual communication, such as Microsoft Teams, can ensure relationships between mentors and workers continue to develop.
  • Safe onboarding programs accommodate surge hiring. Our Turnkey Training for common job functions can support your onboarding programs.

A final note, if you need to use a classroom, find a large enough space to maintain distance between new hires.

Based on manufacturer feedback, the world we see on the other side of the pandemic will look different from today. Changing times call for flexibility and adaptability, characteristics manufacturers have in spades.

More insights from the SME 2020 COVID-19 Future Outlook Study are still to come.

Tags: "additive manufacturing", "artificial intelligence", "augmented reality", automation, COVID-19, "COVID-19 Future Outlook Study", "data analytics", "digital security", elearning, manufacturing, "manufacturing training", "Microsoft Teams", "remote work", reshoring, robotics, SME, "Tooling U-SME", upskilling, "virtual reality"