Manufacturers Make Changes to Prepare for a Post-Pandemic World
Chad Schron, Senior Director, Tooling U-SME on
August 03, 2020
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
57% of respondents indicated their company will be putting in place a
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
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
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
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
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
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
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