Around the world, COVID, lockdowns, and social distancing are having an unprecedented impact on the business environment, redefining work, and permanently reshaping critical processes. In this brave new world, automation — from robotic production lines in car factories to SCADA solutions at power plants, to automated CAD/CAM workflows — are playing a greater role than ever before.
Today, the 4th industrial revolution and the promise of cross-industry automation aren’t a question of when or if. They’re happening right now and they’re radically transforming the nature and meaning of work. In today’s post-COVID world, automation has an impact on every imaginable sector. In this article, we’re going to take a look at just some of the ways in which businesses are impacted, and how they can strategically leverage automation solutions to turn uncertainty into opportunity.
Last year, the automation market touched $170 billion worldwide. With the rise of social distancing, as workforces across sectors are forced to operate remotely, the automation market grew at a staggering 18.4 percent. This is growth that’s attributed both to new businesses leveraging automation for the first time and mature clients expanding the role of automation in their key processes. In both these cases, clients are leveraging automation in a range of new ways and rapidly scaling up. This, unsurprisingly, can cause things to break.
One of the biggest stories this year is the rise of automation support and automation solution resellers and vendors. These solutions aren’t just technically complex: they require careful strategy and implementation to augment manual capabilities and functions. For first-time users, this often means working with an integrator like 4D Systems. By sitting down with a seasoned automation provider, new businesses understand how to fit an automation strategy into their existing process flow to speed things up and guarantee continuity with a remote workforce.
Experienced clients tend to have different support needs. When scaling existing automation solutions or expanding to new processes, things might not go as planned. When working with managed solution providers, clients have on-tap access to expertise, minimizing downtime and ensuring a rapid transition to a more highly automated process flow.
At the end of the day, your business processes and production work towards meeting the needs of (real) human clients in the real world. For manufacturers, this means that product testing has always been a critical part of the process. Your products need to be safe, perform to spec, and be comfortable and effective to use. In pre-COVID times, human testing was a viable approach. Product testers could test products for ergonomics, usability, and safety. Testers could also evaluate process chains to identify inefficiencies and areas of improvement. In the current environment, social distancing often means that businesses can no longer rely on manual human testing. In this context, automated solutions like Tecnomatix and DELMIA play a vital role. By simulating discrete process steps and human interactions, simulation solutions help manufacturers evaluate the effectiveness of their products and processes without a human presence. While certification and compliance in certain areas will likely require actual human interaction, simulation solutions are significantly reducing the need for on-site personnel during the development and iteration process. This means that manufacturers can maintain a high level of continuity, even if the bulk of their workforce remains remote.
With new businesses across sectors looking to implement automation in their processes, the automation consulting industry is also set to record significant gains. Record growth this year in the automation space is driven in large part by these new players. In earlier times, the primary goal of businesses considering automation was to improve operational efficiencies. This implied a certain degree of flexibility: these were players trying to do something new, and eager to-engineer their processes, who’ve already put work in at the strategy level. Today, a large number of new clients look at automation from a continuity perspective. COVID and social distancing have essentially put them in a position where automation is the only way to guarantee business continuity. Often, they need guidance from the get-go, in terms of understanding what’s possible with automation, and integrating it into their overall strategy.
This situation means that automation consultants often play an outsized role in enabling change. They aren’t evangelists: they’re working with management from day one to build a solution that enables continuity with a remote workforce. Expert consultants ease the change, help mitigate teething pains, and build a strong foundation for future process flows once we’re out of the current crisis situation.
Today’s post-COVID business environment is a very different place compared to just a year ago. Every variable is uncertain. In this environment, continuity – being able to get things done – is the number one priority for businesses across sectors. In a world where social distancing and remote work are the norm, continuity, ironically, means systematic change. Continuity means re-engineering processes and embedding automation into key process flows. This is an immense challenge for any business. Seasoned automation consultants like 4D Systems can help you understand your automation requirements, build an actionable game plan, and deploy cost-effective automation solutions that get you back on your feet and operating at high efficiency.