COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, has had a worldwide impact since it was declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020. That impact has spread far and wide, spanning from a public health crisis to an economic crisis, to a social crisis, and beyond.
The ripple effect has been an ongoing change in the way we live and the way we do business. In some cases, it has forced innovation and transformation, such as through increased public safety measures.
While some of these measures have been reduced or removed, there are still safety risks in most of the world currently. Health experts are also talking about the potential for a second wave of COVID-19 come the fall. The fact is that we don’t yet know when the pandemic will be over, and even when it does subside, we have now seen the consequences of being unprepared.
In that sense, preparing for the post-COVID-19 business world starts now.
The question becomes how we can best prepare and build stronger, more resilient businesses for the remainder of the pandemic, and whatever future changes come our way.
We’ve compiled trends for the operations of the future.
a) More Safety Regulations
One of the fallouts of COVID-19 has been the eye-opening effect it has had on occupational health and safety.
Pre-pandemic, manufacturing safety concerns had more to do with the safe operation of equipment and less to do with the spreading of infectious disease. However, during the ongoing pandemic, there have been many reports of outbreaks in factories with close quarters.
BBC wrote recently about the trend of major outbreaks at meat processing plants and abattoirs in the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, and the U.S.
Many manufacturers have responded by increasing safety regulations, including issuing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), spacing employees further apart, rotating shifts, and implementing more deep cleaning.
This may go further still.
The increased safety awareness could lead to a reliance on automation, particularly machine learning and AI that can reduce the number of people who need to be in a space at once. Roles may shift to ones that can be done in isolation or remotely to give added safeguards.
Some examples of this in action include systems, as ERP solutions, that create a connected environment.
- Drilling down consumer behaviour to a postal-code level to achieve real-time demand sensing through machine learning and IoT.
- Equipping products with sensors to track and monitor in real-time.
- Utilizing digital twins to strengthen supply chain modelling.
b) More Technology and Automation
Speaking of automation, another fallout of COVID-19 thus far has been a focus on digital.
While Industry 4.0 and achieving digital transformation have been of increasing importance for years there were still many businesses who hadn’t yet embraced it.
COVID-19 has changed that.
From simple processes, such as moving to Electronic Fund Transfers (EFT) from manual banking to the more complex, such as upgrading your ERP, digital transformation has become an absolutely essential part of the post-COVID-19 world.
It can enable businesses to work remotely through cloud infrastructure, reduce the need for in-person contact, promote supply chain adaptability, and beyond.
Bernard Marr wrote about this trend recently, stating:
“Robots aren’t susceptible to viruses. Whether they are used to deliver groceries or to take vitals in a healthcare system or to keep a factory running, companies realize how robots could support us today and play an important role in a post-COVID-19 world or during a future pandemic.”
c) More Remote Work
At the start of the pandemic, many businesses gave the option to staff to work from home where possible.
As the pandemic continues, some companies are making that a lasting change.
Large organizations, including Shopify and Twitter, have announced plans to move to permanent remote work. Their physical office spaces may be reduced, or even shuttered.
However, even for businesses that are not or cannot move to permanent work-from-home, we may still see lasting shifts to how business is conducted.
The pandemic has shown exactly how many meetings can be done online (Microsoft Teams, anyone?). Virtual events, conferences, webinars, trainings, and more have also reduced the need for business travel.
While these may not disappear altogether, there could be a large rise in digital events or events that give the option for participants to attend from afar.
Examples of this can spread into further parts of the business world, such as telemedicine, virtual consultations, remote hiring, and beyond.
d) More Adaptable Supply Chains
Even before COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic, many manufacturers felt the impact of supply chain disruptions as factories temporarily limited operations in China.
As the pandemic continued, more factories worldwide had to do the same or were unable to secure certain inventory due to restrictions.
In other cases, supply chains were not disrupted – but the inventory being created was. For example, some apparel manufacturers had planned their spring 2020 lines but then did not sell nearly as much as forecasted. Now they are left with the decision of whether to dispose of the excess inventory or to repurpose it for 2021.
In both examples, the solution lies in creating a more adaptable supply chain.
A demand-driven operating model (DDOM), for instance, can allow businesses to scale their inventory quickly and create only what is needed – so there is less excess. It could also create more resilience by working with multiple suppliers and building in buffers for stronger planning.
Demand-driven can also help save costs in the big picture, which could make it less expensive to near-shore or re-shore supply chain operations if needed.
As IMD wrote, “COVID-19 has revealed the weaknesses of a globalized manufacturing system and in order to respond we need to fundamentally rethink supply chains. Our goals in the medium term should be making them more regional, modifying the supply chain as a key business driver and putting back the human asset as the most important factor for an agile business to succeed.”
e) More Innovation
The final fallout of COVID-19 that we’ll touch on in this post has to do with innovation — and the changing needs the world will have as it recovers and builds resilience.
For example, Marr pointed to AI-enabled drug development. In the post-COVID-19 world, creating and deploying effective and safe drugs faster is imperative, both for treatment and vaccination.
We have also seen changing needs for PPE production — and some manufacturers have adapted their operations to create more equipment.
Food manufacturers have reported trends of people seeking out healthier eating options in the wake of the pandemic.
Rather than sticking with the status quo or even tried and true products, this can be an opportunity for manufacturers to ask, “what else?” What other products might your customer base want or need? What will be of importance to them in the coming months and years of recovery?
Staying on top of trends and customer feedback can help answer these questions and having the technology in place to quickly scale can help you act on it.
A trusted partner can help your business make the strategic decisions to adapt to the changing business world for COVID-19 and beyond. Reach out to us today for guidance from our end-to-end business transformation experts.