We are all dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in our own ways, but struggles for members of the manufacturing community share similarities. With that in mind, we solicited insights on a few topics from a broad spectrum of industry stakeholders in order to provide perspectives that can help you navigate this unprecedented period.
This is Part One of a four-part series. Subsequent features will run in the coming days.
HOW IS COVID-19 AFFECTING THE MANUFACTURING SECTOR?
“With the COVID-19 situation changing by the hour, it’s difficult to speculate on what the manufacturing sector will look like in the coming months or years. What we do know is that manufacturing is making adjustments—whether that’s ramping up essential products as we’re seeing in the consumer packaged goods space, or adapting output entirely—as we’re seeing automotive manufacturers commit to making ventilators. This is a trend that was already taking place in the manufacturing industry—how you can more rapidly adapt to demand signals.” Pat Byrne, CEO, GE Digital
“While we cannot truly predict the full impact, we can expect that manufacturers will fare better if they have the ability to remain flexible and adaptable to real-time and, at times, volatile market shifts, as major changes in the economy have proven in the past. Companies that have invested and continue to invest in cutting-edge capabilities that allow them to quickly respond to production changes often come through these difficult times strong and as industry leaders. These manufacturers characteristically are able to monitor their operations, including their supply chain, in real-time and adjust their operations accordingly.” Stephen Greene, vice president of global marketing, Stratus Technologies
“As with most sectors of our economy, the long-term manufacturing fallout from the coronavirus is nearly impossible to predict. The intensity of the impact will come down to how individual manufacturers have structured themselves financially and their ability to weather the storm. However, early projections are that the impact will be severe, particularly for smaller manufacturers.” Benson Hougland, vice president of marketing & product strategy, Opto 22
“I think the fallout will be much slower and drawn out than in other industries that consumers might be familiar with. Some companies may be working hard to fulfill contract terms that will keep them busy for months, but some of those contracts may not return. Some industry verticals may be hit hard, while some may see an uptick in quote volume and order size (oil & gas vs. medical).” Eric Fogg, co-founder and chief connectivity officer, MachineMetrics
“We anticipate that the manufacturing sector will begin with the prioritization of resources, contracts and spend. We might see greater priority given to limit-setting, refocusing on critical items, technology integration (such as warehouse-to-transportation systems with location-based services) and critical-asset monitoring. The increased use of remote technology—autonomous equipment and sensors such as forklifts or robotic cleaners—all wirelessly enabled with valuable data insights streaming into organizations for better decision-making and productivity.” Romil Bahl, president and CEO, KORE
“Overall, the manufacturing sector will experience a significant contraction as a result of the virus. Hopefully it will be limited in duration. With globalization, supply chains have become so specialized and geographically dispersed that any slowdown in the movement of goods and services is going to have a big impact. That’s on the supply side. On the demand side, what we’re seeing is unprecedented. With people staying at home, consumption will shrink significantly. In the energy sector, the timing could not have been worse, as the pandemic is coinciding with a price war between OPEC and Russia. The ‘OPEC+’ had previously collaborated to slow oil production and shore up prices that both economies are heavily dependent on. But the impact will stretch to all oil-producing nations. For example, the shale oil industry in the US and the Canadian oil industry will suffer as production costs are higher for these unconventional sources.” Paul Donnelly, industry marketing director, Aspen Technology
“COVID-19 presents a prolonged reality of businesses needing to find and onboard new manufacturers, partners and suppliers. As we’ve seen, countries that have been heavily impacted by the virus, such as China or Italy, have restricted trade and closed their borders, causing a huge disruption in supply chains and commerce. Since no one knows how long the pandemic will last, in order to stay in business, companies that rely on trading partners in these countries must quickly onboard new trading partners to fill in the gaps in their supply chains. Because of this, manufacturers are being inundated with replenish requests, days or sometimes weeks after a supply shortage occurs. Furthermore, businesses are tapping multiple manufacturers for supply to manage the overwhelming influx of demand. This ‘bullwhip effect’ creates an unpredictable and unstable manufacturing environment, wherein suppliers struggle to intelligently predict demand as a result of panicked buyer behavior. Suppliers will need to adopt a more intelligent process for managing unpredictable demand and will need to rely on complete end-to-end visibility into the supply chain in order to better meet consumer demand.” Frank Kenney, director of market strategy, Cleo
“In the manufacturing sector, we anticipate that remote access will play a more critical role during the pandemic and post-resumption to ensure operational resiliency. We are seeing an increase in the use of service technicians, who will remotely access ICS (Industrial Control Systems) devices rather than go on-site in order to solve issues, such as configuration changes and other production concerns. As secure remote access increases as a priority for manufacturers, IT managers will need to impose more granular access controls as to who, what, when and how ICS devices can be managed remotely. IT departments will need to account for any service access. Manufacturers must implement security solutions that provide user and device authentication and operation visibility, as well as offer continuous user authentication and device-security-posture assessment functions to reduce risks such as phishing, ransomware and unauthorized access.” Scott Gordon, CMO, Pulse Secure
“Critical manufacturers that support essential infrastructure should remain open and operating for the foreseeable future. For nonessential manufacturers, the fallout will be different. Our economy has already experienced negative effects. The hope is that the cases will diminish, and we can all get back to some normalcy. Of course, the timeline for this happening is unknown.” Chris Wilder, CEO, Sealing Equipment Products Company (SEPCO)