This year has been challenging for everyone as the coronavirus has impacted our lives in many ways. Now, with the second lockdown already in place, manufacturing companies and other businesses are faced with yet another uphill battle. Disruptions from Covid-19 are unavoidable but you can plan for what has been deemed as “the new normal”.

Manufacturing companies must be flexible and resourceful to ensure they survive as C-19 is not going away anytime soon. They must find new ways to tap into the knowledge of experienced workers whilst spending time and resources on developing the more vulnerable ones. Nobody can say for sure what the future of manufacturing might look like but one thing is certain; disruption is inevitable.

Developing A More Resilient Manufacturing Ecosystem

Manufacturing companies must look at the latest technologies and establish new protocols to protect frontline employees. They have to lay the foundation for a more resilient manufacturing ecosystem that can withstand today’s disruptions while thriving in a post-Covid world. It all starts with maintaining mission-critical processes to ensure they remain operational.

The crisis we found ourselves in has amplified the need for manufacturers to be more flexible and resourceful with an ability to respond rapidly. This is the only way manufacturing companies across the world will survive now and prosper in the future.

Related: ‘How UK Companies Are Combatting Covid-19

What Manufacturing Companies Can Do To Minimise The Impact From Disruptions

As with the first lockdown, manufacturing companies are developing social-distancing strategies to protect vulnerable workers. In many cases, existing shift structures may need to change according to new social distancing guidelines. This will help reduce the number of workers allowed on-site at any given time.

Manufacturers could increase shifts while limiting the number of workers per shift. This way they can more easily keep staff at a safe distance from one another without necessarily having to cut jobs. When it comes to the older, more vulnerable employees, manufacturing companies need to pay special attention to keeping their most experienced frontline workers safe.

The coronavirus has proved it affects the older generation more severely and that could compound the ongoing issue of many businesses losing their most skilled employees. Whether this is due to retirement or illness-related absences, Covid-19 could accelerate the departure of many uniquely-skilled employees.

Managing The Inevitable Loss Of Highly Skilled Workers

Of course, manufacturing companies can hire new staff but they often lack the experience to adequately replace seasoned workers. More importantly, in lean organisations, these inexperienced workers may have to perform the duties of several individuals. All of these issues are putting more pressure on manufacturers to develop continuity of operations plans or CoOPs.

Indeed, you can’t train one inexperienced person to immediately take over from one skilled employee, let alone multiple people. However, what manufacturing companies can do is give them a tool that allows them to function like an expert performing several tasks but what does this entail?

Experience Can Help Avoid Future Disruptions

Companies will have to develop new ways of tapping into the knowledge and skills of experienced, older (and more vulnerable) workers. Leveraging their expertise, regardless of location, will play a crucial part in avoiding future disruption within the manufacturing sector.

One such method is through augmented reality (AR), a powerful technology that will help manufacturing companies benefit from the expertise of their most knowledgeable employees. Even in a different location, these senior staff members can help maintain operations even in a post-Covid environment.

Due to all the disruptions, many organisations are investing in methodical documentation of maintenance and repair procedures of frontline workers. They record this information in a way that unqualified or under-trained workers can accurately perform even complex tasks. If anything good came from the pandemic it has to be the need for efficient knowledge sharing.

Augmented Reality For Manufacturing Companies

Augmented reality can easily leverage existing expertise and share it quickly with various teams of frontline workers. For example, experts can develop a step-by-step process to help inexperienced staff manage certain tasks whether it’s machine maintenance or manifest control among many others.

This allows manufacturing companies to capture important information which they can use in operational or training around the facility, or any other similar location anywhere around the world. Thanks to AR, highly-skilled workers become more efficient and productive as they help improve the skills and competencies of less-experienced workers.

The benefit of using augmented reality in manufacturing companies this way is undeniable. By providing operational procedures based on the state of the equipment or machines, AR can assist workers while they become familiar with new processes. It can give them (and the manufacturer) much-needed confidence to complete the job at hand accurately, safely and with fewer errors.

Disruptive Technologies For Manufacturing Companies

Augmented reality and other disruptive technologies have improved significantly over the last few years and regardless of Covid-19, these will continue to evolve. This includes two-way video, real-time remote guidance, and on-demand access to instructional multimedia.

Manufacturing companies and many other businesses will benefit greatly from AR, AI and machine learning with the aid of 5G as it drastically improves throughput, reduces latency whilst increasing security.

Manufacturers will only succeed in this challenging environment through flexibility, resourcefulness and adaptability. It’s vital that manufacturers consider leveraging and distributing resources and expertise through tools such as augmented reality. Considering it is armed with real-time data and on-demand advice, all frontline workers will have the opportunity to become experts.

Final Thoughts

When facing a crisis like we are now, forward-thinking company executives must recognise the role that technology can play. Of course, the severity of the crisis will determine the necessary response but without adapting swiftly, manufacturing companies could struggle.

As manufacturers look to cope with future disruptions, we need to continue efforts to adapt and develop continuity of operations plans. This will enable manufacturers to leverage available technological tools and solutions to manage the crisis we face today while drastically increasing future preparedness.

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