Editor's comment: Smart manufacturing in a post-pandemic world…

Author : Mark Gradwell | Editor | EPDT

02 October 2020

MG lockdown headshot_580x280
MG lockdown headshot_580x280

After a gradual relaxing of the lockdown & coronavirus precautions over the summer months, cases are on the rise again as we head towards autumn & winter. As this issue went to press, the Prime Minister had just announced a tightening of restrictions aimed at heading off a further COVID-19 public health crisis & a potential second lockdown.

This editorial was originally featured in the October 2020 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

The impact of this pandemic on our way of life – and work – has been substantial. Indeed, many things will arguably never be quite the same again…

With the possible exception of Brexit, it’s hard to think of many subjects in recent history that have so obviously dominated both the mainstream national news media and more specialist industrial trade press – but such is the pervasive nature and impact of both topics. EPDT is no different – and has covered, in particular, electronics and manufacturing-focused COVID-19 news and stories extensively throughout the last six months. Indeed, in this column over the last few months, I have written about whether COVID-19 will accelerate technology adoption curves and how it is impacting UK manufacturing.

I have also discussed how it is affecting the take-up of IoT & Industry 4.0 technologies in a guest blog for EPDT sister title, Connectivity and in my intro to EPDT’s own IoT & Industry 4.0 supplement. This is a theme I have heard repeatedly from both trade associations and those in industry over recent months – and it was repeated again this week as I attended a press conference that wrapped up automated & embedded computing solutions provider, Advantech’s first Global IIoT Virtual Summit.

Jash Bansidhar, Managing Director of Advantech Europe talked about how a flywheel had been activated in terms of COVID helping accelerate IoT adoption, driving innovation in industrial automation for manufacturers. Jerry O’Gorman, leader of Advantech’s IIoT business in North America talked about how growing anti-globalisation sentiment in the US, coupled with a trend towards developing more resilient supply chains as a reaction to the uncertainty and disruption caused by a succession of unforeseen global events over the past few years (including natural disasters and US-China trade wars, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic), was accelerating the reshoring of manufacturing operations. He emphasised how it will only be possible for domestic manufacturers to compete with their low labour cost country rivals through better use of industry 4.0 automation technologies.

A recent survey by US B2B trade press publication, Supply Chain Dive revealed that 64% of interviewees believe reshoring will be one of the most likely consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation has exposed the fragility of long, complex supply chains, highlighting the potential domino effect of disruptions in global supply chains, where one vulnerable node can impact the functionality of the whole chain. It has also shown how reliant many US and European companies are on overseas supply of critical items (for instance, PPE).

And as 5G ramps up again, and network operators try to figure out how to monetize their investments in 5G infrastructure, Advantech IIoT Group President, Linda Tsai pointed out that telcos looking for new revenue streams and models would likely look to the industrial space to offer the services needed to implement smart manufacturing and connected end-to-end supply chains. According to Advantech, to deliver sustainable success in the post-pandemic era, manufacturers should look to exploit the IIoT technology ecosystem through the adoption of AI, 5G and edge computing.

EPDT October’s issue also contains features on Power technologies & Automotive applications, plus EPDT’s electronica show preview. Read more on what's inside EPDT this month...

Mark Gradwell
EPDT Editor

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