There is no doubt that we have all encountered difficult times over the past year with Covid-19, numerous lock-downs and the knock-on effect on thousands of businesses in the UK.
The pandemic has hit manufacturing particularly hard. But despite incredibly turbulent times, manufacturers have proven time and again that when faced with adversity, they rise to it. In Spring 2020, when we went into our first national lockdown, advanced technologies helped the Government, and essential services, to manage the huge disruption. Fortunately, manufacturers had been embracing cloud computing, wireless connectivity, cybersecurity, automation, robotics and supply chain technologies for some time. These technologies directly aided manufacturers’ efforts to manage the complex issues related to the pandemic.
The Ventilator Challenge was a proud moment for the industry. A consortium of 20 firms, including the likes of Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Ford and McLaren, designed and produced 14,000 ventilators for the NHS. From cars and aircraft engines to life-saving respiratory equipment, this initiative displayed astounding adaptability and innovation.
Smaller companies, too, stepped up to the plate to help in this crisis. Independent breweries and distilleries such as BrewDog and 58 Gin used their premises and equipment to produce hand sanitiser when there was a national shortage in early spring 2020.
Smarter Ways To Work
Digital transformation played a vital part in keeping the wheels turning for many industries affected by Covid. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had this to say: “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months. From remote teamwork and learning, to sales and customer service, to critical cloud infrastructure and security—we are working alongside customers every day to help them adapt and stay open for business in a world of remote everything.”
The necessity of remote working also resulted in huge constraints or opportunities, depending on your viewpoint. Pre-Covid, the acronym WFH was pretty much unheard of in the industry (as it was for many sectors), yet leaders in manufacturing have acknowledged that not all jobs have to be performed onsite. A potential hybrid-working future may present additional benefits to both business and employee; cost savings and greater flexibility to name but two.
Based on this year alone, business has shown the kind ingenuity which suggests a positive future. The way forward should include a carefully integrated set of policies that address these substantial cultural challenges. Targeted solutions could involve boosting knowledge with specific technical training, enhanced inclusion and diversity, focus on leadership skills, and cultural alignment across divisions/geographical sites.
More than ever before, there is much to be excited and optimistic about.