The pandemic altered reality, bringing a new normal that may last for a long time. Not two years, but possibly several more.
This is no longer surprising. We thought the vaccines will bring us back where we left off, but instead, the COVID-19 virus just mutated. It’s almost taking us back to square one once more. And while another lockdown isn’t likely to happen, it could be considered if we don’t flatten the curve anytime soon.
Manufacturing was among the industries gravely affected by the pandemic. When borders closed down, exporting and importing were disrupted. It rendered factory workers practically useless. They couldn’t go to work because of the lockdown and social distancing protocols. But luckily, the manufacturing industry is far from collapsing.
In fact, the pandemic made it stronger. The health protocols prompted manufacturing giants to adapt quickly. They created new products, which had a high demand, and forged partnerships that would’ve never existed if the pandemic didn’t occur. While the pandemic hardly had a silver lining, at least, it challenged the resiliency of industries and made them stronger.
So if you’re going to venture into manufacturing during this period, here’s what you need to know:
1. Reducing Supply Chain Risks Should be Your Top Priority
The pandemic restricted the transportation of shipments around the world. To prevent this challenge in the next crisis, many industries are rethinking their sourcing and manufacturing strategies. They rely heavily on data and analytics as they plan their strategies in case another global crisis occurs. So if you’d create products to import, for example, you should focus your strategies on minimizing supply chain disruptions if borders close down again. Consider catering to local businesses as well to keep your operations active whatever happens.
2. Remote Work in Manufacturing is Now Normal
While it’s impossible for all manufacturing personnel to work remotely, some roles turned out to fit the work-from-home setup. And manufacturers saw great results from adopting it. Productivity and collaboration didn’t suffer; they even improved in many cases. Since remote work reduces cost, increases flexibility, and boosts efficiency, some functions in manufacturing may operate remotely from now on.
3. Safety Measures Leveled Up
Work safety has always been a crucial issue in manufacturing. But the pandemic urged manufacturers to increase their safety measures further. In turn, manufacturing plants employed contactless processes in handling equipment and producing products. They automated many tasks to reduce person-to-person contact. This allowed manufacturers to follow social distancing protocols and keep their products safe from human contact.
Even if they can require their workers to wear PPE, it’s still safer for the products to avoid being touched and passed around by many people. So manual tasks, like putting products inside their packaging, have been automated. Manufacturers used equipment such as folder gluer machines to ensure product and worker safety.
4. Automation is Here to Stay
It’s normal to start with manual operations during your early days. But automation should be among your short-term goals. Automating tasks has proven beneficial in many industries. In manufacturing, it increased productivity, reduced downtime, and cut down costs. Consider combining automation with artificial intelligence (AI) and other high-tech software. It will streamline your operations to the highest levels. Automation is more of a necessity than a choice today. That said, look up the best technologies as early as now.
5. Excel in People Management
The manufacturing industry is one of the riskiest industries in the world. Its workers are susceptible to work-related injuries and health conditions. To ensure their safety and health, you should train them in proper machine handling, and address the things around your workplace that contribute to your workers’ health issues. For example, handling products require repetitive movements that can hurt their backs and necks. If that’s causing rampant absenteeism and thus, poor productivity, you should find solutions to that, such as automation.
But other than that, there’s a new HR challenge manufacturers now face: work-from-home challenges. Since this setup is new to most manufacturers, their HR managers probably didn’t prepare for the issues that will stem from it. Contrary to popular belief, working from home isn’t necessarily easier for employees. For one thing, homes aren’t equipped with the same technology workplaces have. If employees experience tech-related challenges at home, they may not be able to deliver like usual.
So before starting your business, anticipate this kind of issue from your remote employees, and prepare for them. You may be dealing with more products than people, but that doesn’t give you a free pass for disregarding HR challenges. Even if you can rely more on technology than manual labor, employees will always remain essential in your operations. To thrive in the pandemic era, you should balance being a strategic entrepreneur and an empathetic leader.