Odds are good that you’re reading this in the comfort of your home office. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began just a few weeks ago, we’ve all experienced a dramatic shift in what business collaboration entails in a manufacturing environment. Meeting-filled days around a conference table to discuss products and processes have been swapped out for videoconferencing and other remote-work tools.
At the same time, there has been an urgent shift in manufacturing unlike anything we’ve seen since World War II. Fulfilling the essential needs of the healthcare system in a time of crisis has taken precedence over customary drivers such as speed to market or product innovation. Apple and Nike are making face shields, Ford, Tesla, and General Electric are manufacturing ventilators, and spirits manufacturers such as Diageo and Anheuser-Busch have begun producing hand sanitizer.
While those multinationals may be the most visible examples, small- and mid-size industrial organizations who pivot quickly have a similar opportunity not just to survive but to thrive, no matter what the future disruptions are in store. Once the current market needs are satisfied, the national stockpile of coronavirus-related supplies will need to be replenished. As of early April, signs are pointing towards the first wave of the COVID-19 having been mitigated. The reality is that epidemiologists warn of a second wave of coronavirus emerging in the fall of 2020, and a reliable vaccine still may take some time. The time to prepare is now.
3 Key Challenges to Manufacturers During Coronavirus
Even in a best-case scenario, manufacturers will need to be able to pivot quickly between online collaboration and integrating more-traditional office clusters or decentralized clusters—particularly if plans include a change in focus in what they’re producing. As the situation evolves, that will require addressing three key challenges:
1. Shortcomings of existing tools. With the rapid and massive shift to working from home, most companies have relied on familiar tools such as email, IM, Slack, Zoom, WebEx, and Microsoft Teams, which saw a 200% increase in usage during the last two weeks of March alone. For manufacturers, however, cross-silo collaboration is more difficult—particularly when it comes to version control for critical CAD files. Moreover, regulated enterprises require secure connections that may not easily be addressed for employees in home offices, not to mention the inherent security issues that have put Zoom in the headlines.
2. Disruption of the global supply chain. According to a March 2020 ISM Survey, more than 44% of respondents did not have a plan in place to address supply disruption from China, and 23% reported current disruptions. This has created a need for sourcing with new suppliers, new locations, and alternative manufacturing methods.
3. Shifting production from non-essential to essential. Even in a face-to-face office environment, re-thinking your core competencies represents a significant hurdle. Halting production of non-essential goods to shift capabilities and produce urgently needed goods comes with risk as well as opportunity. In addition, changing from a pull- to a push-production mode requires a different corporate mindset as well as processes.
In Part II, we’ll discuss some of the strategic steps you can take now to overcome these challenges of operating in the COVID-19 era—and become more nimble and competitive in the manufacturing arena.
Want to hear more? Join our webinar “Gaining Control of Your Business in Times of Unprecedented Disruption” with Persistent’s Michael McKittrick and Lewis Breeding as they discuss how Collaborative Product Development on the Cloud will help your business to go on.