A recent survey from the National Association of Manufacturing has highlighted the impact of pandemics on manufacturing chain and manufacturing operations across the world. According to the survey, 80% of manufacturers are expecting the ongoing pandemic and the corresponding lockdown to have a financial impact on their businesses. 53% expect COVID-19 to directly impact their operations while 41% believe it will drain its workforce.
The imminent retirement of Baby boomers and early-stage Generation-X workers has been moved ahead of schedule as lockdowns have forced many considering retirement to take that final step. This is expected to leave huge gaps within the manufacturing industry’s workforce and capacity to compete at pre-2020 levels once global lockdowns begin to ease. With these unexpected changes on the way, businesses including manufacturers are expected to struggle with the new economic developments.
While getting manufacturing to its optimal production capacity also depends on consumer confidence and funding, emerging technology can help with easing some immediate concerns. For companies susceptible to viral outbreaks, automation technologies such as robotics, the industrial internet of things (IIoT), and edge computing can help with reducing risks.
These assets, alongside facility-wide operations, must also be adequately monitored and properly managed if manufacturing is expected to reach its optimized production capacity in record time. This is where the digital twin and its ability to create working representations using real-time data have an important role to play for manufacturers affected by the pandemic.
Optimizing Manufacturing Capacity after Lockdowns
Although most businesses have contingency plans, these plans general account for downtime and limited supply chain challenges. Available contingency plans are unlikely to take into consideration extended lockdowns, extended quarantines, and the retirement of experienced employees.
The first step to developing functional contingency plans is gaining real-time insight into the situation at hand. This includes an understanding of the pandemic’s effects on your supply chains and entire operations. A digital twin serves as an excellent risk-based analytical tool for gaining real-time insight into your entire business operations and how every aspect of it affects production capacity. Since the working representation or digital twin is fed by real-time data, manufacturers will see the effect of reduced demand, reduced supply or non-functioning workstations/assets on productivity.
The data got from a digital twin of the manufacturing operation following insights:
- The knowledge needed to make business decisions and remain flexible with production capacity after quarantine measures are eased.
- Insight that spearheads the search and deployment of funds. Deploying scarce resources to the appropriate stations or departments will ensure the tools needed to optimize productivity are constantly available.
- Update best practice policies such as reducing shop floor traffic to handle social distancing challenges or planning for supply chain pivots as the situation evolves.
- Seek innovative alternatives that sustain the business through the initial stages after lockdowns have been lifted.
Educating Tomorrows Workforce with today’s Brains
The accuracy of a digital twin depends on the amount of data collected from assets on the shop floor and its operations. While machine data may be easy to capture, creating operational flow models for specific processes such as the flow of manufacturing materials and operational schedules require hands-on knowledge. Thus, the digital twin provides an avenue for manufacturers to capture tribal knowledge that leads to productivity.
Accurate digital representations can then be used as training and onboarding tools for the new workforce that will be taking over from retiring employees. The digital model can provide new hires with the following learning opportunities:
- The opportunity to learn about the shop floor layout, asset functions, and operational schedules remotely before resuming once lockdowns are eased.
- For managerial hires, it provides insight into the challenges he or she has been hired to solve and also serves as a powerful predictive analysis tool for providing solutions to manufacturing challenges.
- A realistic representation of a new work environment using 3D visualization and the ability to walk through industrial processes.
- An interactive experience into field service management and remote monitoring which will attract a more tech-savvy crowd to the manufacturing industry.
Planning for the Future with the Digital Twin
Today’s uncertainties are expected to disrupt the manufacturing sector in diverse ways and it is expected that resuming normal activities will take time. The digital twin offers manufacturers the opportunity to re-imagine tomorrow’s workforce by looking at today’s challenges in new ways. The leaders of the future will be those who embrace the use of analytical tools to enhance their management strategies.
Depending on the digital twin to provide essential insights into intelligent facility management will speed up the transition process for manufacturers looking to hit optimal capacity after the pandemic.
The timing is right. The importance of the digital twin as a tool for business insight and transferring new skills will play a pivotal role in assisting the manufacturing industry to shake off COVID-19 inspired operational challenges. The Simio software is a best-in-class digital twin platform you can deploy for complex modeling activities. You can request a free demo of Simio in action here to know more about what to expect from the digital twin.