A Shift in Precept of Industry 4.0 in the Post-COVID-19 Market

The onslaught of the Coronavirus pandemic earlier this year came as a major jolt to the manufacturing industry all over the globe. A few months down the line, the sector is still reeling under its effects, resulting in the inception of changes towards the overall functioning henceforth.

Traditional manufacturing processes employ a plenteous workforce. The process was severely impacted by the enforcement of regional and nationwide lockdown measures in several parts of the world. The overall operations were halted abruptly, leaving manufacturers in a lurch, resulting in the lay-offs of scores of employees. The impact felt across all industries differed: with some completely shutting down operations, and others witnessing a surge in demand for their products & services. On the other hand, some experienced a reduced demand, and the rest transitioned to manufacturing an altogether different range of products to cater to the ongoing requirements.

All in all, the current scenario of challenges has further ignited the need for smart manufacturing more than ever before. And, manufacturers are resting their hopes on Industry 4.0 to revive themselves amid this flailing economic situation. This fourth leg of the industrial revolution, also now the ‘new normal,’ takes digitization a level higher with the integration of automation, thereby making the business stronger and more armored to face future uncertainties whatsoever.

Ongoing Efforts 

Industry 4.0 helps enhance traditional manufacturing & industrial processes with budding technologies. Therefore, several companies have shown interest, but many remain in the nascent stages.

Inkwood Research estimates investments in the field of smart manufacturing to augment abundantly over the coming years. It pegs the global market for smart manufacturing to generate a value of around $371.78 billion by the year 2027, with a growth rate of 9.04%. 

Long-term Plans

To fulfill the obligations towards government lockdown measures and with the incurring revenue disruption, organizations were forced to lay off their workforce. However, on the other hand, the demand for goods continues to surge. In such a scenario, companies are resting their wheels on Industry 4.0 tools to recuperate from the Coronavirus-related issues with longer-term plans by assessing their advantages and limiting the overall damage.

Our analysts project companies will focus on investing in industrial robots. These machines can work for much longer hours than humans, with higher speeds, thereby boosting the output and streamlining the processes. Thus, players in the field of Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) will find a plethora of opportunities to consolidate their presence in the post-COVID marketplace. 

It cannot be predicted for how long the pandemic will continue to impair the economy. However, it is expected to create lasting changes for the years to come. It, therefore, becomes crucial to chart out an approach to recovery and assess revenue generation strategies, along with this new landscape.  

Sometimes, work can come to a halt due to the impaired functioning of machines. For instance, a machine may report increased temperature or vibrational activity, indicating the need to get it serviced at the earliest. Predictive maintenance tools can be used in such cases to assess the performance of the factory equipment and estimate when servicing will be required. Thus, in an i4.0 scenario, the application of predictive maintenance will help extend the asset life.

Internet of Things – A New Tool in Rule

One of the mammoth changes to have occurred during this time is the consumers’ shift in preference. Frequenting physical stores has taken a backseat, with companies offering no-contact deliveries. E-commerce sites have witnessed a surge like never before. However, the delayed deliveries have made them re-evaluate the efficiency of their supply chain network. US-based eMarketer, in its US E-commerce 2020 report, puts forward that the country’s click-and-collect e-commerce sales would reach $58.52 billion, witnessing an upswing of 60.4%, states an article by Business Insider.

Technology that enhances the supply chain workflow, and thereby ensures efficient delivery, will help consumers thrive in this period of hardship. An intelligent supply chain incorporating advanced logistics features, such as automated warehousing, cargo tracking, and remote fleet management, will prove to be extremely beneficial. Developments to the supply chain process can help companies gain real-time insights about product location and status. For instance, IoT-based sensors would provide a much-needed respite. These can be attached to shipping containers, and will help companies know the package’s accurate geographical location, as well as, handling. This will also increase the level of trust between companies and customers.

Future Outlook

The concept of i4.0 has existed for a while, and pre-COVID, had garnered the attention of many manufacturers, as a solution to scale up their business. However, the unprecedented effects brought about by the virus outbreak have disrupted workflows and caused permanent changes in processes. Thus, the outlook towards Industry 4.0 has now drastically changed. This process was earlier looked upon as a way to gain a competitive edge over other players, reduce costs, optimize operations, and focus on innovation. Now, the primary focus that remains is survival. The incorporation of i4.0 offers manufacturers numerous benefits, such as enhanced productivity, increased efficiency, flexibility & agility in the manufacturing process, and better customer experience. Therefore, the companies that are yet to invest in this technology should invest in it at the earliest to reap its benefits.