Current-disruptive events are transforming the global environment; we are facing mass unemployment and economic crisis. Now are the times to see machines taking over our Supply Chain (SC) processes and workforce, through the use of new automation tools that assure efficient-speed responses.
Social distancing global regulations have driven the implementation of Robotics in the short-term, for example:
· Drones are supporting the police to enforce social distancing and lockdowns.
· Specialised-robots are delivering blood samples to laboratories.
· Robots are disinfecting hospitals, supermarkets, or sanitising buildings and streets.
· Drones or automated vehicles are delivering goods.
· Drones and air taxis are transforming the way we are commuting.
The pandemic has also sped up the adoption of robotic automation processes, and companies have put money into new data systems to link all SCs. Think about this crisis more like an opportunity to transform operations into automation ones, possibly adopting a hybrid machine-workforce and allowing individuals to be more productive in other areas.
Investment in long-plan processes
Companies need to re-engineer their factories and workplaces; they necessarily have to find the financial resources to invest in long-plan processes and new automated ways of working, by purchasing edge-technology, where it is sustainable.
Not every organisation can invest in automation processes. Still, we are watching countries putting money in robot usage, which by the way, has low unemployment percent as a result of today’s crisis. However, lately, inquiries predict that global investment in IT services and products will be lower than that in 2019. Many companies are just trying to stay afloat; others could go further if investing in automation and digital technology.
Fiscal incentives such as tax credits are an option for small and medium-sized enterprises. The government’s longer-term involvement should focus on sponsoring technical-skills acquisition and should consider combining layoffs policies with training programs.
Governments need creativity and flexibility to build up the healthy-future generation of workers, relying on the advanced tech-skills to fulfill digital gaps the new norm demands. They can keep jobs without worrying about the insertion of automated processes; instead, finding the best human-machines-working collaboration.
The protection of the workforce
It is a priority to protect existing jobs while finding ways to create new ones. There is escalating anxiety about massive unemployment, as those who had expected to resume their duties once lockdown was over, were revoked. We are talking about people in lower-paid tasks that involve physical jobs, such as janitors or receptionists, and who might now be replaced by robots. Even before the pandemic, there was already concern over lower-skill workers in such areas as warehouses.
A recent McKinsey report advocates for government involvement to motivate consumer’s demand, opening the economy to restore confidence. Governments must play their part to avoid coming-potential risks which could aggravate the crisis.
The culture of resiliency
On the other hand, the pandemic has driven countries to rethink the culture of resilience in their manufacturing SCs, especially in healthcare and food. As a result, some organisations are tending to bring back their manufacturing process locally. They should foster the transforming-manufacturing system into a tech-smart approach.
Final comments: it seems Automation, AI and Robotics technologies are taking an even more active role on this transitional period going on now; hence, your company must determine the right balance of AI and human involvement in this process. Identify your long-term goals and gain better digital skills to build up capabilities further than the ones you have today.
Our workforce must be re-evaluated, given the millions of people who have recently lost their job; this crisis will be a long-term issue which speeds up the rise of robots. Hybrid-working sets new challenges for collaborative-manufacturing processes.
Are you considering your workforce and its undeniable expertise as a priority?
David Food is the Strategy Director of Prophetic Technology. He brings a significant breadth of skill, innovation and capability in the use of software and technology to improve supply chains, develop marketing and unlock business potential, whether globally or locally, with collaborative or enterprise-wide solutions.