Pandemic Accelerating Move to Industry 4.0

Posted By: Chad Schron, Senior Director, Tooling U-SME on August 18, 2020

machinist using augmented reality to learn and assess a mechanical problem

It’s hard to believe how much has changed in the manufacturing industry in less than six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Take supply and demand. The global health crisis has moved masks, testing swabs, ventilators and a vaccine (which means more syringes and needles) to the top of the priority list, while purchases of less urgent consumer goods fall lower. Manufacturers continue to shift production priorities to help support national needs.

Manufacturing facilities have seen the biggest transformation in decades as employees are working from home, shifts are staggered, and the workforce has shrunk temporarily or permanently. Companies are impacted by production slowdowns and are cautious returning to work.

Safety precautions are the focus for employers, with new work processes being phased in to accommodate social distancing, increased cleaning and sanitation, and more.



Industry 4.0 | Fresh Look at Technology

All these changes have inspired companies to look for new ways to increase productivity, quality, and safety while maintaining or lowering costs. Technology is the answer for many, accelerating the transition to Industry 4.0.

According to the SME 2020 COVID-19 Future Outlook Study, three-in-five indicated their companies plan on investing in at least one technology post-COVID-19, with most planning to invest in two.

Technologies include additive manufacturing/3D printing, digital security, robotics, IIOT solutions, and 5G networks and infrastructure. Often, this varies by industry.

For instance, study respondents from the aircraft/aerospace industry indicated their companies are significantly more likely than the study average to invest in additive manufacturing/3D printing post-COVID-19.

It’s a growing area. The European Patent Office study just reported that the US and Europe are leading in additive manufacturing innovation, based on filed patents for the technology.

Survey Highlights:

  • Three-in-five respondents indicated their companies plan on investing in at least one technology post COVID-19
  • Study respondents from the aircraft/aerospace industry indicated their companies are significantly more likely than the study average to invest in additive manufacturing/3D printing post-COVID-19
  • Companies with more than 2,500 employees are significantly more likely to invest in digital security and IIoT solutions


Industry Looks at Digitization, Other Technologies

A recent Aviation International News article outlined how engine maker Pratt & Whitney is using digitization “to adapt to the new realities with lean automated and connected production cells.”

According to the article, COO Shane Eddy “noted that the use of automation and robots assist in challenging processes such as fitting large engines together, particularly parts with tight tolerances. Such automation has contributed to increased yields, improved on-time delivery, and cost performance improvements, as well as better safety.”



Focus on Digital Security

Digital security is another growing area. Companies in the defense and education/academic industries are significantly more likely than the study average to invest, 71 percent and 64 percent more, respectively.

Companies with more than 2,500 employees are significantly more likely to invest in digital security and IIoT solutions.



Meet Demands with Manufacturing Training

Over the last weeks, we have been talking about the important role of manufacturing training to ensure that employers upskill their workers to meet the growing technology needs that come with Industry 4.0.

This includes prepping for surge hiring through developing a strategic onboarding program and investing in cross-training.

At Tooling U-SME, we have dozens of new elearning classes available on various aspects of Industry 4.0, including additive manufacturing, cybersecurity, data collection and machine learning, and more are coming.

Manufacturers will see more of these types of technologies both for training and operations. For example, Nestlé is using augmented reality technology to offer remote support to production and research and development sites due to COVID-19 travel restrictions – but why shouldn’t this become the norm?

Despite the challenges during the pandemic, it is also a time of great innovation. Giving employees the tools to tap into the potential of new Industry 4.0 technologies will build excitement and confidence for them which translates to positive results for your company.

Reach out to us at 866.706.8665 to learn more about smart manufacturing training programs and register today for our upcoming webinar on August 27 at 1:00 PM EDT and learn how additive manufacturing provides cost-savings opportunities.



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