It’s certain that in the long term, the effects of the crisis will change the way we see digital transformation forever – but rather than applying the brakes, I believe it will ultimately accelerate digital transformation trends that were already underway before the pandemic.
Trend 1: Flexible Manufacturing to Meet Demand
It’s well known that the pandemic has led to extreme spikes in demand for some products – both established equipment, such as PPE, and new devices, such as testing kits. Manufacturers are having to quickly scale up production and, in some cases, pivot to create products they’ve never worked on before.
But this trend isn’t completely new. Over recent years, we’ve seen manufacturers trying to adapt in step with rapidly changing customer demands. The crisis has simply made this kind of adaptability more important.
For example, one consumer goods manufacturer has recently changed the way it designs and produces its product lines, so it can update orders for its customers every three to six months. And this is not an isolated case – across the manufacturing sector, we’re seeing manufacturers develop a much closer connection to customers. They’re producing more customised products, in shorter runs and smaller orders.
Key technologies, such as automation and IoT, are crucial here. These advancements will help manufacturers gain a deeper insight into their assembly lines and supply chains, and allow them to adapt and change course as time demands.
Trend 2: Flexible Workforces
One impact of COVID-19 has been the requirement of a more flexible workforce, as manufacturers face the challenges of:
- Maintaining socially distanced shifts
- Rapidly training replacement shifts when an entire shift is forced to quarantine
- Bringing in expertise for training and repairs remotely (to avoid the time-delay of quarantining experts who are flown in from abroad)
Again, these challenges are now more pressing, but manufacturers have been under pressure to make the workforce more flexible for some time. The need for efficient knowledge transfer as aging workforces retire has always been an issue, especially in industries where experienced generations retire and leave an experience vacuum.