How Manufacturing Is Helping Lead a Healthy Global Recovery
By now, the overt effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are clear. The public health crisis has taken millions of lives around the world and affected countless more. The status quo has completely changed, with people widely practicing social distancing measures and quarantine procedures.
Through the crisis, manufacturing has been a key industry with the potential to aid the world in the enormous undertaking of its recovery. With technology and progressive practices, manufacturing is a reliable source to keep consumers and businesses moving forward through the ups and downs of the pandemic.
Pillars of Manufacturing
The road to global recovery ties into the four pillars of manufacturing, which are:
- Materials and processes
- Product, tooling, and assembling engineering
- Systems and operations
Each of these pillars must be innovative and aligned with current events and consumer interests for manufacturers to stay ahead of the pandemic. For instance, competition and the omnipresent Amazon Effect drive the supply chain to work faster. Manufacturers want to compete with Amazon’s fast e-commerce processes and delivery.
Elsewhere, the materials and processes pillar has been growing more and more sustainable over the years. Amid the current public health crisis, renewable energy sources and eco-friendly materials are gaining more mainstream attention.
The products, tools, assembly, and systems entail new technological approaches to manufacturing. The Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics are the systems and gadgets that facilitate production growth at any scale.
Supply chain workers can focus on making fleets more sustainable as a large-scale change. On a subtler level, data analytics can help manufacturers predict and supply items that are about to see high demand.
Supply chains are resilient and adaptable. They bounce back better than ever, using new resources and technologies. The pandemic put all supply chains to the test — and it still does so with spikes in cases and challenging vaccine distributions.
When COVID-19 first came to the States, people flocked to grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations. Demand was higher than supply could handle.
Then, workers began to wear masks, disinfect facilities, and socially distance to stop the spread of the virus. Inevitably, these protocols caused delays, and virus outbreak mismanagement hindered the supply chain further.
Things continued to worsen as e-commerce increased by 44% throughout 2020. Global supply chains quickly had to adapt to these never-before-seen supply and demand levels, all while trying to keep the pillars of manufacturing in place.
Despite already having analytics systems and IoT sensors, manufacturing needed to take on even more tech-based solutions.
When it comes to a manufacturing-based recovery, technology and new jobs are two main elements. They both show the way to the bigger picture — sustainability.
Technologies for Change
Emerging and existing technologies have come together like never before, making manufacturing a fully smart sector.
Employees can use IoT sensors to track the performance of machines and systems within the warehouse. If the system detects a lack of optimal performance, it’s a sign the facility needs to replace a part. This predictive maintenance feature is vital for keeping the supply chain running without interruption.
IoT sensors like Cloudleaf’s can also attach to shipments and products. That way, manufacturers can track the items and make sure they get to the proper locations on time. This tracking is now ideal for monitoring the storage and location history of COVID-19 vaccine vials.
To properly monitor the highs and lulls of supply and demand, data analytics systems come in handy. They allow workers to see which items are likely going to be high in demand for however long. For instance, as new information about the virus emerges, people may change their spending habits. As vaccines become more widely available, people are going to need more masks when waiting at vaccination sites. Little factors add up. Thus, manufacturers are essential for saving lives.
To connect the entire supply chain, edge computing and 5G are working side-by-side. These two new network types are still in development, but they help manufacturers transfer data and store it locally without latency. They’re also now vital for fast communication across supply chain steps.
With such immense pressure on manufacturing facilities, it’s vital to pay close attention to the workers that make the supply chain run as smoothly as it does. Without them, this manufacturing-based recovery wouldn’t be possible.
An economic recovery first requires improving the pay and working conditions of current manufacturing workers. They also need better physical protection from the virus and job security if they get sick or need to report violations without fear of retaliation. Employees are the gears that keep turning to meet supply and demand. Adding more of these jobs will only be possible in the right conditions.
Better work environments, benefits, and protections will make the supply chain run even more efficiently. Then, manufacturing can collectively move on to the biggest factor in the global recovery.
The Big Green Factor
The way to fully recover from the pandemic involves three main areas — public health, the economy, and the environment. As the pandemic affects all three fields, manufacturing solutions must also take them into account.
Most obviously, COVID-19 is a human health crisis. Less obviously, pollution and emissions from fossil fuels can worsen the virus’ effects and even lead to a higher mortality rate, according to a Harvard study. As of 2018, industry pollution accounted for 22% of all greenhouse gas emissions, second to transportation.
After slowdowns, setbacks, and countless obstacles, manufacturers must address their harmful impacts on the environment.
One primary way forward is to focus on a green recovery — where manufacturers provide new jobs as they switch to renewable energy, which in turn reduces emissions and improves human health. Alongside the distribution of the various vaccines, green technology is the most important and critical way for manufacturing to help the world recover.
With stricter government regulations, manufacturers can get on the right track to using sustainable production practices. However, manufacturers can get ahead of the curve in subtler ways, too.
For instance, “farm to table” shopping is now spurring a trend of more localized production. From such radical disruptions from COVID-19, having the facility closer to consumers cuts down on emissions, costs, and shipment times.
On top of all other tech efforts, manufacturing can then truly become the key to recovery.
The Healthiest Recovery
Manufacturing is a vastly influential industry. It affects how the entire supply chain operates. With a wide-scale focus on technological solutions, the industry can then benefit public health, the economy, and the environment. Now is the time for manufacturers to make the biggest changes. Then, the world can see the pandemic through to the best recovery possible.
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