How prioritising automation and robotics is key to industrial recovery post- Covid-19

Businesses have increasingly embraced trends towards digitalisation benefitting from the opportunities offered by new technologies such as 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The adoption of these trends has accelerated more quickly during the global Coronavirus pandemic and is likely to continue to do so for the future.

The role of automation and robotics during the Coronavirus

As non-essential industries came to a halt, businesses wanting to get up and running as soon as possible are having to think creatively and respond quickly. This has inevitably resulted in companies becoming increasingly automated as they respond to the pandemic.

What does the ‚Äúnew normal‚ÄĚ look like?

Trends that have developed during the pandemic and are likely to remain for the future include:

  • Remote work and staggered shifts
  • Increasing an online presence
  • Prioritising health and safety
  • ‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚ÄčDecoupling of supply chains
  • Revival of automated domestic manufacturing 

1. Remote work and staggered shifts

With the closure of offices, warehouses and factories workers have increasingly had to familiarise themselves with working from home practices. For some, especially those in manufacturing and production, a large proportion of their work has been impossible to do remotely. However, for companies that have embraced or are starting to embrace new technology, remote working becomes far easier and more successful.

Remote working has been made possible in manufacturing with the adoption of the IoT which has enabled workers to carry out their jobs remotely. For instance, maintenance technicians can use remote monitoring to manage equipment and machinery without having to attend on-site. Using Industrial IoT sensors, real-time information can be obtained to determine when maintenance or downtime is required without the need for humans to check equipment to collect this data.

As businesses return to work this ability to monitor equipment and machinery remotely will be hugely beneficial in the face of labour shortages, staggered shifts, increased working from home and increased social distancing.

This technology has also been hugely beneficial in the healthcare industry where patients are monitored remotely so that fast decisions can be made and deterioration in health can be determined more quickly. It also ensures that patients can be cared for without always needing a healthcare professional present which has been invaluable when managing the Coronavirus pandemic.

2. Increasing an online presence

For many industries that may have relied predominantly on an offline service such as in retail and food and drink, adapting their offering and improving their online presence may have been essential to ensure some degree of business continuity. Rethinking the way in which an offline business operates will inevitably lead to increased use of technology with digitalised ordering, contactless payment and data playing an intrinsic role.

3. Prioritising health and safety

  • Ensuring stringent cleaning

With cleaning remaining a priority in the wake of a global pandemic, businesses need to reassure workers and customers that any environment that they are in is as clean and sanitised as possible. Businesses are increasingly turning to automation and robotics for cleaning to provide quicker, more thorough and higher quality sanitisation. In doing so, workers are not exposed to contamination when cleaning and can be assured that their work environment is as safe as possible without the potential for human error.

  • Using technology to reduce points of contact

As reducing contact is essential to limit the spread of the virus, businesses should be looking to find new ways to reduce and eliminate touch points within the workplace. By using sensors, automation and innovative technology employers can ensure that contact is reduced to improve safety within the workplace.

  • Promoting social distancing

Cobots (collaborative robots) are designed to communicate with humans in a shared workspace. Ideal for maintaining efficiency and reducing social contact, they help to ensure social distancing in work environments where space is limited. If reducing the number of staff is one solution for social distancing, then cobots offer a better alternative that achieves this without compromising on output.

Cobots have also been transforming other industries such as; healthcare, automotive and food and drink, by reducing the potential for contamination whilst sustaining high levels of production and service.

4. Decoupling of supply chains

Covid-19 has highlighted weaknesses in the global supply chain as a result of over-reliance on countries such as China for manufacturing. By decoupling supply chains and embracing Industry 4.0, greater visibility and optimisation of end-to-end supply chains, production lines, and servicing and spare parts is made possible. The use of such technology will therefore increase productivity, reduce operational costs and enhance work safety.

5. Revival of automated domestic manufacturing

With cleaning remaining a priority in the wake of a global pandemic, businesses need to reassure workers and customers that any environment that they are in is as clean and sanitised as possible. Businesses are increasingly turning to automation and robotics for cleaning to provide quicker, more thorough and higher quality sanitisation. In doing so, workers are not exposed to contamination when cleaning and can be assured that their work environment is as safe as possible without the potential for human error.

To be ready for a post-Covid world, we need to rapidly accelerate digitalisation. Digitalisation enables automation, and automation provides resilience to disruption.

COVID-19: a catalyst for change, Steve Sands, Festo.

Building a data infrastructure enhanced by the industrial internet of things (IIOT), data visualisation and remote AI-based insights will improve operations and provide an overview of the entire manufacturing process. This is essential to isolate areas of weakness and to aid recovery both during and after the pandemic. Businesses that are embracing digitisation are placing themselves at a competitive advantage as they reap the rewards of faster production, higher quality and more innovative products enabling them to overcome the challenges posed by the Coronavirus.

With an extensive range of products from leading brands and a hub of useful resources, Distrelec can help you to prioritise robotics and automation in your workplace. Contact us now for further information so that we can help you to digitalise your business for the future.

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