The challenges, constraints and complex (and often contradictory) safety and productivity requirements COVID-19 presented the manufacturing industry have tested its people, its processes and its technologies like never before. It fundamentally changed the way the industry operates—it required new production systems, new supply chains and new procedures for the full market while individual companies experimented with new technologies to meet unexpected surges in demand while keeping customers and workers safe.
An interesting year to say the least.
The totality of the changes 2020 required will be studied in textbooks for years. It was a unique high-stakes, high-speed innovation race, the likes of which the world has rarely experienced. Some of these changes will likely prove to be temporary, though others—particularly around the technological and automation implementations it included—have already begun to reshape the industry in permanent ways.
To help understand these changes, we have pulled together an elite panel of manufacturing executives and experts for the closing keynote of the Manufacturing & Technology Virtual conference. The panel keynote, “The Future of Manufacturing,” takes a look back at the full 2020 experience and then ahead at the future it will create from a wide range of perspectives—from robotics and 3D printing to supply chain and smart manufacturing, and everything in between.
To help us understand the future a little better ahead of the event, we have asked each panelist to answer one simple (though also quite complicated) question: ‘What was the biggest lesson learned in your industry through all of the disruptions of 2020?”
We have included their responses below. You can also tune for the keynote panel on Thursday, Dec. 3 at the Manufacturing and Technology Virtual event where these panelists will detail their perspectives and experience through these disruptions in full.
“It became clear fairly quickly that we’ve taken much for granted in the past decade, as we’ve designed our supply networks and the systems that support them – both in the plants and throughout the supply chain. 2020 has really helped bring into focus and reprioritize where to invest for the future for a more resilient manufacturing operation and supply chain.”
"The pandemic has helped to accelerate the rise of a new type of automation – flexible, collaborative, cloud-based automation – that can better support changing operations and more intricate workflows. AMRs (autonomous mobile robots) are an example of this new wave of automation – they can be deployed remotely, their workflows can easily be adjusted to fit changing facility needs, and they work safely alongside humans (they don’t need to be kept in cages or walled off). Cloud-based AMRs are also a great platform to quickly develop new robots: We teamed up with partners and were able to develop disinfection robots in only three months.”