The use of automation in industry has been expanding for quite some time, but the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath will significantly speed up innovation and adoption. For the past several decades, manufacturing and engineering companies have been required to be agile and innovative, designing their systems and processes to be flexible and efficient to meet fast-changing market demands. More and more, companies are developing connected systems that collect and distribute data, helping internal and external customers to monitor and optimize productivity and safety. Now that the world has been dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, the question is, how can automation help us recover faster and keep our workers safer?
Today, IoT has made its way into industrial applications, using sensor, GPS, Bluetooth and wireless technology to monitor and predict maintenance issues, automate processes, track inventory and waste levels, and monitor human activity. Forward-thinking companies in the business of production, maintenance and transportation of physical goods will be looking to the industrial IoT to expand their capabilities, create efficiencies and cultivate game-changing business models.
By now, most of the industrialized world understands the future workforce is changing due to demographics, technological advancement and recent pandemic considerations. Smart technologies will open doors to new ideas and ways of working, enabling more efficient and sustainable manufacturing and safer delivery of products, maintenance and systems.
Using automation and technology has drastically improved worker safety and worker injury rates have been dropping for years. The advancement of technology will continue to improve these statistics. The use of sensors and software to monitor potential failures can reduce catastrophic accidents. Using robots to perform work in unsafe environments can reduce or even eliminate exposure to high-risk activities. The safety benefits of industrial automation are plentiful.
As the IoT takes hold, new jobs will be created to analyze performance data and manage systems, and workers can be retrained and find upward mobility by moving from physical labor to software, data and systems management. Shifting the workforce away from hazardous and grueling operating conditions might also increase employee retention, enabling companies to better leverage their investment in employee development. This transition won’t be easy, nor will it be well received by everyone, but this is what comes with a dynamic and evolving economy. The burdens and benefits of future ways of working must be distributed as thoughtfully and fairly as possible. Rather than denying the future of automation, we must prepare for this future, focusing our resources on retraining the workforce, enabling technology, and developing more sustainable products, processes, systems and shared prosperity.