The corona crisis is causing a lot of problems in the manufacturing industry. If you want to solve production problems, you need to be closely connected to the day-to-day operations of your shop floor. As COVID-19 spread rapidly around the world in February and March 2020, we are now left with very different ways of working. Companies are in disarray, production activities are limited to only mission-critical personnel. The entire production department has to find a way to work from home, and that includes chaos.
Still, there are some things you can do to keep improving your skills so that you are ready to act quickly when production starts again.
Keep employees informed
Virtual communication from the leadership team is especially important in times of crisis. Employees not only need to be kept informed about policy changes, safety and cleaning procedures, and what to do if they get sick.
Frequent communication is also important for boosting morale as more and more employees are asked to maintain a physical distance from each other, quarantine themselves and work or stay home indefinitely. Programs such as Slack and Microsoft Teams are being used more than ever for meetings of all kinds.
Learn digital production principles
Continuing education has been identified as a major barrier to increased manufacturer productivity. Specifically, manufacturing engineers around the world need to educate themselves (or be trained by their employers) to use the latest wave of technology.
Fortunately, these new technologies are often cloud-based or cheap enough to buy at home. Unfortunately, they also have learning curves that are significantly steeper than the traditional Microsoft toolset (Excel, PowerPoint, etc.). So manufacturers can use this silence in production to teach digital production skills. With a little effort, they can apply them immediately when they return to work. These skills are not theoretical. They can be applied immediately to many types of manufacturing processes and can be learned from your PC.
Make existing work instructions digitally available
After manufacturers have provided training for their most critical equipment and skill gaps, the next step is to adopt a long-term and permanent strategy. We do not know how long this pandemic will last or when another crisis will occur. Thus, all work instructions and SOPs must be directly accessible in digital form at employees’ individual stations to avoid the need for employees to consult and process printed documents, and so that newcomers can learn on their own while on the job.
After the basics are uploaded, they gradually add video micro lessons, tests and other activities over time to create a more comprehensive curriculum. So said, so done!
Shape up and shoot to the rescue
As of March 2020, hundreds of open source projects have been launched worldwide to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Many of these projects are focused on increasing the production of medical devices to serve overburdened hospitals.
Some examples of products being planned and developed by open source groups:
- face shields;
- hand-sewn face masks.
These projects are built by people with different skills. Some participants are experts in medical device testing, others are experts in supply chain / logistics, and others are doctors desperate for help.
Adding your manufacturing expertise to a project puts you in touch with a range of experts you wouldn’t otherwise be able to meet. That’s how you learn what it’s like to successfully build and distribute a medical device.
The Future in Industry 4.0
It’s April 2020 and the world is in the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic. The global supply chain is experiencing a level of disruption never seen before. Some manufacturers have stopped production completely, some have seen a sharp drop in demand, and others have seen a huge increase in demand. Every manufacturer is affected by this crisis in one way or another, and for many it poses an existential threat.
Before the crisis, Industry 4.0 was an area of great interest to many manufacturers. It was an exciting topic with huge potential benefits and was widely regarded as a “positive” and forward-looking topic.
Today, many of us are focused on the here and now. Our health and that of our family, friends and colleagues; the ability to access the food and supplies we need, our job security, the financial impact on our employers, clients and partners.
At this point, it seems insensitive and inappropriate to discuss Industry 4.0 as it was discussed before the crisis. The pre-crisis drivers of Industry 4.0 were focused on competitive advantage, cost reduction, productivity, sustainability and innovation. The goal is to make well-run companies run better. In fact, it is more necessary than ever to talk and invest about this.
This crisis will affect many companies on many levels. Investing in software to improve productivity and reduce costs will be necessary more than ever to keep their heads above water.