November 13, 2020 Last updated November 13th, 2020 742 Reads share

How COVID Forced Innovation in Digital Manufacturing

Image Credit: DepositPhotos

As the third decade of the 21st century opened, technological innovations such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things were poised to revolutionize supply networks. Then along came a pandemic the likes of which we have not seen in a century. Without a doubt, short-term productivity was rocked to its core. However, it does seem as if there might be a silver lining hidden in the coronavirus cloud.

Changing Work Styles Prompt Flexibility

Once governments and company executives recognized the seriousness of COVID-19, safety concerns compelled many to shift to a remote-only work model. As a result, people who had never fully embraced the internet had no choice but to hone their skills if they wanted to keep their jobs. At the same time, many were also coming to depend on e-commerce for their shopping needs as well as virtual solutions for off-hours entertainment. With more and more people comfortable with the digital milieu, it became easier to also incorporate it into the work environment.

Crises Lead To Innovative Solutions

During the height of the U.S. lockdown, both consumers and companies had difficulty procuring the supplies they needed to function on a daily basis. While individuals learned the value of creativity and teamwork to get the goods they needed, manufacturers found that innovating new solutions was the answer. Some, for instance, had been accustomed to relying totally on China for the components they used to build their products. Although many of them were unable to buy electronic components here in the United States, some were successful at getting the supplies they needed from other parts of the world or, alternatively, even made them themselves with 3D printing technology.

Global Crisis Demonstrates the Importance of Diversity

It was a harsh lesson to learn, but COVID-19 led to a worldwide awakening that cemented the conviction that manufacturers needed to diversify beyond China. No matter what the cost, industry could not afford to put all of its eggs into that particular basket. As the pandemic trudges on, companies in all sectors are finally beginning to collaborate with each other in an effort to find resources and arrive at logistical plans that incorporate other regions into their production and supply chains.

Hope on the Horizon

One hopeful source of supplies for a number of industries is the Indo-Pacific region. It contains half of the world’s population and has made great strides in recent years to foster a more secure, business-friendly environment. In addition to opening the world’s eyes to a China-centered lack of diversification, the pandemic may also encourage industrial players to collaborate with these nations in the developing world to promote non-Chinese supply options.

Without a doubt, the coronavirus devastated the world on numerous levels. However, the tsunami of change it engendered also shook companies out of their slumber, forcing innovation and diversification and jolting them out of their toxic dependence on China. Only time will tell just what changes hold fast and which do not, but it seems quite clear that we will never return to our pre-pandemic state.

Assembling a circuit board -DepositPhotos

Henry Brady

Henry Brady

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