Manufacturers thinking holistically about opening in the New Normal

A report published by Purdue’s DCMME ( describes an approach to leverage smart technology to enable manufacturers to operate as they open after the pandemic. The report describes process adjustments to prevent infection spread and rethinking the economics of technology adoption including cobots, sensors, video technology, cleaning robots etc.   Is fast adoption of technology to protect employees a competitive need for manufacturers ? Will technology adoption reduce headcount and thus be resisted by employees ? Will the products have to be redesigned to work in this environment ?

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48 Responses to Manufacturers thinking holistically about opening in the New Normal

  1. Guillermo Cerutti says:

    I believe that adopting technology to protect employees is a competitive advantage, a new one let’s say, in the context of this pandemic. I had the opportunity to work for a food company, a very work intensive type of industry, and the companies that adopted technology could remain afloat while others were closing.
    Of course, change will always be resisted. The managers will have to be first the ones believing that change is good and second the ones coaching the employees into accepting the changes. In the case of food companies, they had to let the employees understand that the change in schedules and the use of technology would let them remain employed while protecting them at work. Moreover, this changes ended up accelerating some process where everyone at the company should learn new tools like online meetings for example.
    As for the products themselves it depends a lot on the type of product. Some might have to undergo a redesign process while others may stay the same.

  2. Yuchen Zhang says:

    During the pandemic, protecting the employees is every company’s most important objective. By quickly adopt technology, it separates the company to others. Employees’ moral, productivity and publics’ image can be improved. Technology adoption will eventually reduce headcount and those employees who are struggling to adapt will resist it. Therefore, the company should focus on developing these employees and let them work with technology instead of getting them replaced. For example, janitors may not be necessary if there are cleaning robots everywhere in the factory. The company can keep the janitors to let them communicate with the programing team to find the optimal cleaning procedure for the robots thus continuously improving efficiency. For product redesign, it might not be easy to switch overnight but it is essential for a change to suit the environment. The product design must be optimal for the environment to achieve efficiency.

  3. Szu Han Huang says:

    I think the safety of employees is essential to a competitiveness of a company because I believe that workers can offer better quality and work more efficient if they think themself safe and comfortable. And an adoption of technology can effectively helpful for the company to accomplish the goal. It not only saves time but also saves the cost for redundant process. The technology brings out negative impacts somehow and one of them is that some labors will be replaced by it. Also, it takes time to make the employees get used to the new process or system. I think the internal communication within a company play a big role during the change. However, I think this kind of change will be more acceptable since the change is related to providing a more safety workplace for the employees. And sometimes the change will affect the supply chain as well, leading to redesign of the products.

  4. cpeplin21 says:

    Determining if fast adoption of technology to protect employees is a competitive need for manufacturers depends on the nature of the manufacturing plant. This summer I interned with General Motors at their manufacturing plant in Marion, Indiana. We were able to produce sufficient quantities of parts and maintain the safety of employees without the use of technology. To be exact, we had only two cases of COVID throughout the entire plant all summer. When thinking of the situation GM was in and other manufacturing plants I have been in I do not think fast adoption of the technology to protect employees is a competitive need for employees. The PPE, social distancing procedures, and temperature checks proved to be enough for GM to remain competitive this summer.
    When technology is introduced into the workplace, there is a great chance that it will reduce headcount and be resisted by employees. In a union environment, such as GM, even when introducing a simple process change the perception is that management is trying to reduce headcount and it is met with great resistance by employees. For example, cleaning robots could reduce the headcount of janitors needed in the manufacturing plant.
    Products, like cobots, would likely need to be specifically designed to serve their purpose in the manufacturing plant. Each different manufacturing industry would have different specialized needs for products like cobots. Products, like sensors and video technology, would likely not need to be redesigned to work in the environment. They would just need to be setup to serve the purpose they were intended for.

  5. Adam Hupp says:

    Manufacturers must quickly adopt new technology to protect employees, but the scope and complexity of the technology can very greatly. Many manufactures need “new” technology in the sense that it is new to them: temperature scanners, infrared cameras, antiviral materials, etc, but these are not new innovations. Some manufacturing centers and warehouses where workers travel greater distances, such as Amazon fulfillment centers, are more likely to see increasingly advanced technologies employed to keep employees safe. Most of this new technology and measures are designed to protect the existing workers, not to replace them. Robots have always been used for tasks deemed too dangerous for humans, and workers will appreciate technology that helps them do their job safer.

    It is possible that some tasks previously done by humans may be permanently replaced by robots during the pandemic. While this is certainly possible, my opinion is that more jobs will be complemented by robotics and technology, not supplemented. Workers must learn to use new tools and interact with cobots, which could lead to tension among manufacturing employees. However, if managers can build trust and prove that the technology is not meant to kick people out of their jobs, they will show how technology can help keep employees safe as they work.

  6. Zhewei Tao says:

    Besides achieving the positive numbers in the net income in the income statement for companies, companies should also pay more attention to their employees. Employees are one of the most valuable assets to the companies and they are fulfilling the companies’ principles and values daily. Especially during the pandemic, everyone is facing the risks to be infected. Companies should regard protecting the employees as an important procedure. By adopting newer technology can create a safer working environment and generate confidences. When we are talking about new technology, it doesn’t necessary to be something just got invented. Especially in this unique situation, companies can use forehead temperature gun, arrival camera, and mandatory masks to create a better working atmosphere. Talking about the usages of robots, I think robots can be used some unfavorable scenarios for human like extreme unsafe and required perfect executions. Robots are designed to help people instead of replacing people. It can be the situation seeing both human and robots working together to better help companies to develop and grow.

  7. Rustam Kalimzhanov says:

    The report describes the benefits of using the TP3 approach during a pandemic. We’ve all witnessed supply chains malfunctioning. Shop counters turned out to be empty, and if there were any “essential” goods left, then restrictions were imposed on the number of goods sold in one hand.

    At such times, it is very important to maintain the stable operations of vital supplier companies. I believe that protecting employees during such periods is undoubtedly a strategic measure. Uninterrupted operations, and therefore profit, as well as goodwill for an enterprise can be ensured by the stable use of resources, including human resources.

    Moreover, I believe that additional measures to maintain a stable operations also need to be taken. For example, the use of technology. Unfortunately, the use of technology can meet with resistance from employees, as it can lead to job losses in the future. However, if one always remember that the main strategic reason for the business is making a profit, as well as goodwill, then the business should continue its activities, flexibly using different tools. Since if the supplier cannot meet the customer’s demand for an extended period of time, when needed, then the customer most likely will not comeback.

    if necessary, supplier should redesign tools, benchmark approaches, and adopt them. In other words, I agree with the report that in times of uncertainty, companies need to be even more flexible in order not to lose customers and maintain profits. Otherwise, having closed the enterprise once, one may have to no longer open it.

  8. Zi Wang says:

    During the pandemic, the importance of employees’ safety has been risen up to an extremely high level. Although machines can finish plenty of work, front-line employees are irreplaceable, especially in those key departments. The fast adoption of technology is necessary for two aspects. First, most of these tools have already existed for years, companies just need to adapt them to the specific working environment. And these tools will enable employees to be more efficient while maintaining the VSMI process under the situation of not enough employees. Second, these tools act as essential ways to protect employees, reducing the panic during this special period. Machines don’t feel frightened in front of the pandemic, thus more professional and reliable technology will come out to reduce headcount. In this scenario, companies need to first let employees know the role that technology plays to accept the change, then motivate employees to expand their abilities to do something else and learn to cooperate with machines. Even if some employees must leave their jobs, there’s no doubt that industry development is happening. Pandemic happens of a sudden, so some technology still needs time to improve to accurately serve different environments. In fact, the pandemic is such a catalyst that will stimulate the revolution of technology, the transformation and upgrading of industry, and the behaviors of people. It seems like some changes come out as contingency measures, but those efficient and beneficial changes will have a long-time effect and become continuously accepted even after the pandemic.

    • Jorge Chamorro says:

      Zi touches on a very important point: some workers are just irreplaceable by technology. It is important to promote a change of paradigm in what the labor is specializing on. Inevitably, some jobs can and will be automated in the near future, which can ultimately reduce manufacturers’ headcounts. However, labor can still be competitive in some cases in which humans can provide better flexibility and resilience in the manufacturing floor. Overall, manufacturers need to think about the right amount of automation in their processes so as to fully leverage both technology and human workers.

  9. Diego Palacios says:

    Every change tends to come with resistance; more over, in an extreme situation like the one we have been through, it is important to manage carefully stakeholders and perform and assessment on what will be the expected outcomes of implementing the technology, what are the quick wins and what would be the potential fears/ resistance that may come from employees to make a decision of changing.

    As Chandler mentioned, technological implementations made in each site, might be seen in a different way and could even let people to think that they are trying to cut costs for the company. In many cases this is not true and positions can evolve into ones that generate more value, but again, by thinking that employees are rational, it is natural to fear that a change that affects what you usually did for work might leave you out of a job. Having the right message across the organization can help employees to be more open to change, and will be happier to change if the change forces are higher than the restraining forces. It is important to manage resistance and show how technology can be an ally for the people to carry out their tasks.

    It is true that after the pandemic we will see some changes in operations. We will see more technology involved, but this comes along the trend of the past years of companies adopting “new” technologies faster and faster. I believe that robots will tend to work more on day-to-day tasks to allow people to focus on more challenging, and higher valued activities. From my perspective, several changes will come after people’s lifestyles have been affected during the pandemic, and allowed them to solve issues in a more creative way.

  10. Vincent Coltellino says:

    I am sure there would be resistance from employees with the implementation of these technologies, especially those that can fully replace or partially replace traditional manpower. Some classmates above have mentioned that this might open up more employment opportunities in robotics, etc., but this is not an comparable position for those that may be on the line in a factory. These positions would be more technical and require a wildly different skill. Therefore, it would be a challenge to switch the roll of the employee so drastically. Diego mentioned something that is the key to implementation in my opinion. The message from management. Change management is always difficult, but it is the manager’s job to sell the change to the employees as something that will benefit them. If the organization does not create buy-in from the employees then these changes will be very difficult.

  11. zhixinli says:

    It is the manufacturers’ responsibility to provide a safe working environment to ensure the safety of their employees. Adopting technologies in manufacturers’ operations to prevent the spread of the virus is definitely going to make them productive and efficient during and after the pandemic. Although this change is effective from the manufacturers’ perspective, it may be challenged by the employees. Many employees want stability in their careers, so when a change will bring uncertainty, employees are very likely to resist it, especially this change may threaten their job opportunities. The manufacturers’ goal is to keep employees and technologies not on the opposite side but to make them assist each other, and increase productivity on the premise of ensuring employment.
    For the products, I believe most of them are unnecessary to be redesigned since many manufacturers have already implemented technologies in their operations even before the pandemic, so most products should have been able to adapt to this working environment.

  12. tiandai says:

    First of all, in my opinion, protecting employees during a pandemic is a choice that all responsible companies should make. Employees are not only the source of labor, but also the core competitiveness of the company. At the same time, in the process of enterprise development, the pursuit of higher productivity is also very important. Enterprises try to introduce high technology and new skills, which can save costs. In the process of technological innovation, it is inevitable that part of the original occupation or work content will change. It should be noted that technological progress is a trend and will not be stagnated due to resistance from individual companies or employees. On the contrary, if the company cannot actively improve in time, the company may lose its competitiveness. I think that although some positions will disappear due to changes in technology, new positions will also be created.

  13. Shrey Bansal says:

    In my opinion, fast adoption of technology to protect employees is indeed a competitive need for manufacturers. Cobots that enable enhanced performance by individuals, could enable productivity to be improved and thus justified on an ROI basis. Such tools enable employees to be more efficient. A sense of security could also increase employee’s morale and his/her productivity.

    As businesses have been compelled to re-evaluate their business models, many have adopted technology to counter difficult market conditions. Such technology adoption would eventually reduce the workforce and thus could be resisted by employees. Vast majority of people readily embrace technology in their personal lives. This suggests that employees simply need the right incentives from their workplace, or assurance from managers that technology adoption is a change required not to kick the employees out of their jobs but to help them and keep them safe. Careful communication planning within the company and effective training for employees to work with new technology and tools is very much required in order to make them more comfortable.

    Businesses should be ready for increased product competition post pandemic. This may require greater reliance on technology and redesigns to save costs. Having said that, such product redesigning should enhance customer experience.

  14. Yuanyuan Hu says:

    I think fast adoption of technology to protect employees is a competitive need for manufacturers. Technology is developing in a fast pace, and technology being applied to factories is going to be the trend. Applying smart technology could not only improve factory efficiency and accuracy, it could help the company build a better company image as well. Besides, applying smart technology, for example like cleaning robots, could prevent employees from exploring in the atmosphere with virus, and thus could prevent infection spread, and this is a good benefit to employees. I believe that technology adoption would reduce headcount, since robots could take over place of some dangerous work or simple work. This would cut down labor cost. Thus, resisted by employees could be seen as well. However, it would also create new positions related to robot as well. Therefore, a company should save employees who could adapt to work with technology, and replace whose who resist changing to adapting. Also, i think it is important to know the strength of human labor and technology, how to assign tasks to make employees cooperate with technology would be the key point to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

  15. Wenzheng Jiang says:

    For manufacturers, the fast adoption of employee-protecting technology is a competitive need. Safety is one of the top priorities for employees. If manufacturers fail to protect their employees, it will lead to the loss of employees and a bad effect on the manufacturer’s reputation.

    There may be some employees who have a negative attitude towards technology adoption. But as the DCMME report shows, the management team can build trust and address concerns by communicating with employees and increase accountability by engaging employees in decision-making. This prevents the technology from being resisted by employees.

    I don’t think all products have to be redesigned to work in this environment. It depends on the specific characteristics of the product. Some products may need to be redesigned while others do not. Companies need to be flexible to change in order to survive in this environment.

  16. Zihan Lin says:

    The smart technology such as artificial intelligence will be the trend of manufacture development. It will be the competitive advantages to protect employees. The utilization of smart tools reduces labor cost in the long run and provide standard service quality. While, it will be resisted by employees because these tools will replace labor and then people will lose jobs. However, people whose job replaced could move to another position which the factory needs. When the smart tools do the basic tasks that done by labor before, people will have a chance to be trained as an advanced employee and increase the production efficiency. The products need to be designed to assist workers instead of replacing workers.

  17. Mengwei Li says:

    Generally, I think companies should be more flexible specially during this hard time.
    The fast adoption of technology to protect employees is a competitive need for manufacturers, such as checking the safety distance, monitoring deliveries and reducing queuing.
    Since technology adoption replace partial positions and thus be resisted by employees. In this case, the company needs to evaluate its core value and balance the needs. The company can not sacrifice the employee‘s benefits in order to only increasing company’s short term profits.
    I agree that the products should have to be redesigned to work in this environment but should consider specific situations.

  18. qiyaoliu says:

    Employees’ safety is highly essential for manufacturers. From a competitive perspective, employee safety is one of the critical components that guarantee daily manufacture. During the pandemic, a lot of factories shut down because their employees got infected by the virus. if the daily operation is not guaranteeing, customers or retailers would turn to consume the competitors’ products. lt would also harm the brand image and reputation among the industry and the market.
    Fast adoption of technologies that aim to provide employees a safer working environment can lead to a reduction of headcount in short term. However, for the long run, technology adoption would help the manufactures to reach their goals more efficiently. And the overall working environment would be improved by adopting the technology. Since the product is applied to improve the working environment and productivity, redesign might be necessary.

  19. Karan Shah says:

    During this pandemic, I think the adoption of technology to protect employees from infection is a competitive advantage for manufacturers. With changing demand across different end-consumer markets, many companies need to focus on managing the net cash flow of their businesses. This can be achieved if workflows are optimized to have the same throughput with full employee safety.
    Technology adoption will assist employees in being safe and more productive at work through optimal scheduling, contact tracing, etc. Some employees might also be able to work remotely and this may cause process changes.
    It may not be necessary to redesign all products to work in such an environment. For example, changes in office spaces may affect the selection of materials that can withstand heavy cleaning using caustic products and preferences may shift towards stone or laminates.

  20. chizhang says:

    From my perspective, the fast adoption of technology to protect employees competitive needs for manufacturers. As the 5G is set for commercial availability, the technology such as IoT will be spur and become an important part of our life and industry. If the manufacturers have those cobots, sensors, video technology, cleaning robots, etc combine with the 5G network which has high-speed connectivity, very low latency, and ubiquitous coverage, employees can operate the machine remotely. Furthermore, these technologies will enable manufacturers to save more cost in the future, for example, the engineer could help maintain or upgrade the machine in the headquarter, so they don’t need too many engineers in each plant; reduce the lead time of manufacturing customed product, the customers’ requirements could direct send to machine in the factory and the production process could start immediately.

  21. yujintao says:

    During this pandemic, it is important for manufacturing companies to keep their employees safe if they want to stay in operation. That’s why manufacturers start to adopt technology and I think it’s quite necessary for them to take steps to do this because it not only helps keep their employees safe, but also increases their competitiveness in the business. The key to prevent the spread of this pandemic, is to keep people separate wherever and whenever they are. Those technologies, most of which aim to help people work safely, can help them realize the ‘danger’ in the workplace and make adjustments in time.
    I don’t think using new technology will reduce the headcount and employees will resist it. Like I said, most of the technologies aim to help people work safely in the workplace. Those cobots and sensors are just auxiliaries and most of the work still need to be done by people. For people who work remotely, they may want the adoption of technology more than companies do because this could enable them to get new ability to do their job more effectively and efficiently.
    I think there’s no need to redesign the products if the company already get enough capacity because the reason why they need to do that is that the needs may change during stage 1 and stage 3. They need to redesign the products so that they can increase their capacity to respond to the change. Besides, if their current process doesn’t fit the requirement of preventing the pandemic, they have to redesign. After all, their first priority is to keep the cash flow and their employees safe during this difficult time.

  22. Haowei Lai says:

    During these harsh times, adoption of technology to protect employees is an essential need for manufacturers. As an obligation to shield employees from harm and danger, it would be without a doubt that businesses should adopt to protective technologies. Only when a safe work environment exist, can employees willingly work at the business.

    I believe these technologies will not reduce headcount as all of the technologies provided are guided toward protection of employees. Although I do believe that proper training and introduction will be necessary to gain the support of the employees.

    I do no think there is a need for redesign because as it would be more reasonable for implementing these devices to be incorporated in production. Managers should come up with solutions to make sure these measures impact production as less as possible.

  23. yutzu_huang says:

    The adoption of technology can protect employees. For example, sensors are set by the computer which tells them when to spray the cleaning sanitizer or how big the area should be clean. If human do it, there is risk of not cleaning well or being lazy to clean less. I believe that technology adoption will reduce the headcount of easy replaceable job, not all jobs. But if we see those technology adoption as temporarily setup for pandemic time, employees might be happier since robots will have less body contact than extra labors who are hired to clean.

  24. XuanMai Nguyen - nguye685 says:

    In the middle of reopening after the pandemic, fast adoption of technology is an absolute competitive need for manufacturers not only to protect employees but also to obtain productive operations with minimal costs to ensure the company is making enough profits to keep the business open while maintaining proper social distancing for their employees within the closed environment of a warehouse. Adopting technology such as robots, sensors, video technology, and cleaning robots will promote efficient operations while making the cleaning job is done properly and effectively to ensure employees’ safety. Technology adoption means headcount reduction for replaceable jobs, however, many essential jobs still need the intervention of humans. The jobs that are taken over by robots can also create new types of jobs that companies can train employees for transferable skills such as device maintenance. Even without the pandemic, our economy has been moving toward an economy of technology adoption, it is only a matter of time for jobs to be replaced and the workforce to shift their skills into a new area. Another matter is product design, business priority is always to focus on productivity and efficiency, in order to adopt new technology into the manufacturing processes, some parts of the process might need to be redesigned due to the technology, however, it will create a positive impact for the business in general.

  25. Felix Fu says:

    In the middle of a pandemic, keeping your manufacturing facility open is a competitive advantage. If adopting the new technologies could make for a safe reopen, facilities that have the means to do it should adopt them. However, it should be a complement to proper PPE and worker protection policies rather than a replacement. While the technology may replace headcount in the long run, they could get employee approval if they were presented as a means to keep the facility safe and open for business. Companies first may try to whichever technology fits into their process before attempting to do a redesign of their process around new technologies. The pandemic may force companies to consider redesigning if they don’t find anything that can be put easily into their processes.

  26. Miheeth Gala says:

    During this times of Covid pandemic it is evident that companies have to be prepared in the best possible way. They do not want to be caught in the same chaos again. Cleaning and sanitizing is the biggest task which is in grave need for any organization. Companies have changed their business models to survive this dire situation. Companies that could not transform to beat the pandemic environment have closed business.

    So the first step to sustain this downfall is to use technology. As during these times there were a lot who were laid off too so it makes sense to use technology to cover for them. Also there is a lot of labor shortage in the United States as such, so at this moment being completely ready to open fully is important. Depending on the industry products also have to be redesigned as the demand and supply curves have already gone haywire. Since most industries are going to move to more techie ways, every organization has to move ahead with the mass so as to sustain the competition.

  27. Karun Nambiar Manikoth says:

    I do believe fast adoption of technology to protect employees a competitive need for manufacturers. Specifically during this pandemic, considering how companies around the world have laid-off many workers, it is important to keep the morale and motivation and job security of the employees up so as to obtain maximum efficiency as possible. All this will lead to a good company public image, on-going operations and utilization of their workers.

    The technology adopted here is more so intended to protect the employees and allow for operation to continue without further interruptions that this pandemic would entail. It is not intended to reduce the headcount. But obviously this is not the case everywhere. Robots are being utilized to achieve greater capacity and efficiencies that humans cannot. If that is the case, then there may likely be resistance from employees, especially at a time where employee morale is low and they face genuine lay-off concerns.

    I don’t believe products have to be redesigned to work in this environment, unless they specifically see a need to. It fully depends on the product itself and if it may violate any safety norms during this pandemic. However, companies should be willing to adapt necessary changes required to a product to keep business up, operations on-going and customers satisfied.

  28. Aishwarya Marreddi says:

    Change is the only thing which is constant. Surviving this pandemic was a win in itself. Businesses which thrived through these hard times are the ones who could adapt to the changing scenarios. But as in any business, there is no one fit for all solution. I see adoption of technology to protect employees a competitive need for manufacturers. This ensures employees boost their morale that the organization does indeed care about them especially if the technology helps them with the social distant normal at plants. Now to what extent and type of technology depends on the unit we are considering. Well, technology adoption such as cleaning robots would reduce the headcount but in the current scenario of shortage of labor the manufacturers do not really have an option. In fact reducing the manpower at sites is one way to decrease the chances of spreading the virus therefore thriving in this scenario. Yes, products have to be redesigned to work in this environment. There is lot of change in the work pattern and automations in a plant. Therefore plants might have to work around the patterns and ensure maximum utilization through re-designing. But plants need not blindly adopt the technologies coming in the market, they can pilot test the products and see to what extent they need such changes.

  29. Atharva Sabnis says:

    Ramping up production, as manufacturers open in the new normal is going to take more than just increasing capacity, utilization and service levels, thereby blindly following standards. Safety measures, and infection monitoring and control are going to be a pivotal part of this phase. In this age, where Industry 4.0 takes center stage, can technology be leveraged to ramp up production while effectively managing safety protocols? This article indeed describes VSMI, a combination of the lean VSM and infection control as a way of moving forward. Taking a TP3 framework in implementation of technology to cater to the safety and control requirements is a holistic approach that does have a lot of promise. Once technology is leveraged to take care of infection control, firms can maximize their production with the given constraints. It is similar to an optimization problem where you can maximize your outputs with employee distancing and surface touch time as parameter constraints. If technology can execute this well, it gives firms a great competitive advantage over others. However, the cost of implementation and the profits (through “people bottomline” and financial) should always be factored in before making this decision.
    As far as history of lean goes, changes are always resisted. The promise of its implementation in terms of safeguarding employee health and companies’ sustainability needs to be properly communicated to the employees to win their trust. The products can be tweaked to meet the specific need of the business, which may or may not warrant a change in design of any kind.

  30. Shannon Hadley says:

    Considering the amount of manufacturers that have already started to adopt technology into their operations even before the pandemic, fast adoption of technology is becoming increasingly necessary for manufacturers to stay competitive and optimize their efficiency. The use of technology like cobots, sensors, video technology and cleaning robots will inevitably decrease the need for the same number of employees to be in warehouses at the same time or cause layoffs due to the obsolescence of some positions due to the new technology so there will most likely be some form of push back from employees, but this will increase efficiency and decrease any spread of infection. Like any new implementation in process flow, some restructuring will need to be involved in order to utilize new technologies for them to be used at their maximum efficiency.

  31. Aakash Jangir says:

    The growth of supply chain in the past 20 years was at a very slow pace as it is going to be in the next 20 years. Fast adoption of technology is going to play a huge role in the growth of supply chain. However right technology is important. Data like lead time, INCO terms, etc are changing on a monthly basis now and it is not easy for humans to manage the log of these data. Moreover, machines are quicker at adopting change especially during a pandemic. Hence, it gives a competitive edge as some production can still be continued with machines as compared to humans.
    Moreover, taking about product design if technology like 3-D printing is adopted then it doesn’t affect the design of the product as anything can be printed without going through all the conventional process hence reducing the number of touches during the production which is need of the time.

  32. Mathews Oommen says:

    Adopting technology to protect employees have always been a competitive need for manufacturers. However, the need for it has been prevalent at the time of the pandemic. All companies must quickly adopt technologies to stay in business. It helps to improve quality and efficiency at the workplace. Also, the employees will feel safe at the company premises. However, one can expect resistance when a change is introduced. The company must make sure that the employees are aware of the benefits it can bring to the organization and for themselves. Employees can be retrained/reskilled to perform new tasks and the manual tasks can be automated using technology.

    In previous weeks we talked about drones used for light weight knitting. Although it requires an initial investment, it will improve the productivity. Similarly, it is essential that companies adopt technology to remain competitive. Companies can first look for technologies that can be adopted without major redesigning, but in case they do not find anything suitable they may have to think about redesigning the processes.

  33. Sayak Mishra says:

    The paper describes three stages through which industry had to or will have to go through during this pandemic. The TP3 model definitely seems interesting, and it will be enlightening to see how it works out. The paper mentions a focus for companies to work on technologies or future investment. A major manufacturer of automotive engines in Indiana recently took a step to utilize this pandemic in creating new avenues for implementation of six-sigma in it process. These kinds of initiatives will definitely allow the companies to flourish when they hit the stage three. Also, some companies are showing a return to stage 1 after stage 2 in that they are starting with limited capacity while being shut down for a few months. These companies are introducing technologies in the VMSI system mentioned in the paper. They are deploying sensors embedded in the ID card of employees, and the sensor triggers an alarm as soon as it finds someone within a close proximity of six feet. About stage 3, I am not very sure whether heavy investment in technology would be a sustainable model, especially if the vaccination comes in. One the vaccination comes in, there won’t be a need for technologies that `are going to help the companies during this pandemic. One way to mitigate that risk is to have additional components of technologies that can come handy even after pandemic is over. To conclude, an implementation of technology should not only address this altered reality but also the normal reality.

  34. Aman Arora says:

    Due to the pandemic, flexibility has become very important for companies. Technology is crucial in helping maintain this flexibility. The nature of work that does not require physical presence has already seen a shift to work from home. This was also possible due to advanced tools of video conferencing. Apart from this, live applications for scheduling and monitoring status for all kinds of jobs will also help employees not come in contact with each other. Amazon has implemented “Distance Assistant”, which is an AI based tool to monitor whether associates are socially distancing or not. Tools that are not up to mark will definitely need to be replaced in order to make a safer environment for employees, which is ultimately crucial in keeping our economy running.

  35. Abhishek Tripathi says:

    It was a good time reading the document. I really like the concept of TP3 and how the three stages of pandemic have been categorized. One important aspect I would like to add here. The paper mentions use of AR/VR in leveraging technology to survive the pandemic. But I would suggest companies choose technologies that can be tested effectively without requiring a moderate group of people to go on-site. If a company is investing in technology that require on-site testing for different work zones, it might have to wait for the technology to be tested, which may impose a risk on cost and time. A better approach, as the paper mentions, can be training of employees and driving plans for improvement projects. So that when the pandemic is over, these companies can run more efficiently. Companies can also focus on a ‘5s-ish’ model for its employees. What I mean is companies can ‘sort’ employees according to work area, ‘set them in order’ to maintain the social distance (VMSI model), and ‘standardize cleaning process’ for both the employees and the tools they are using. This can help companies create a work environment that is more effective and efficient and help them manage the surge in demand post-pandemic.

  36. Ali Amer says:

    I strongly feel that adopting technology to protect employees is a great competitive advantage, especially in todays day and age, amidst a pandemic. The people, especially the employees at the front lines pay a pivotal role in shaping the companies future in the years to come, post COVID.

    As for technology being resisted by the people, i was of the same opinion but lately i had the opportunity to witness a completely automated Fulfilment Centre deploying hundreds of robots, did not reduce the need for manpower, but instead increased it. This technology adoption does not work again manpower, but with it. Assisting the associated in menial tasks and reducing their travel times as well as monotony in everyday work.

    Thus, this adoption of technologies should be embraced by the employees, rather than to resist them.

  37. Achraf Lokmani says:

    With the spread of COVID-19 and the ease of transmission, especially in close areas, manufacturing organizations face operational challenges. The focus for every manufacturing organization is to keep their manpower safe. The adoption of technology to protect employees is for sure a competitive need for manufacturers. These changes need not be expensive, for instance, monitoring how often teams are cleaning, checking, and adjusting critical parts of the equipment by using sensors is something that could be implemented with relatively low investment. Technology could also facilitate the tracking of safety KPI’s of the plant using only remote monitoring. That being said, I don’t believe the products would have to be redesigned to work in this kind of smart, adapted environment since technology can offer excellent alternatives and solutions to tackle the the challenge of COVID-19 without a complete redesign overhaul and reduction of staff.

  38. Nagendra Kumar says:

    At the onset of the pandemic, companies struggled to cope with the new rules and restrictions that were imposed to reduce the infection rates. During this “Stage 1”, production lines of many companies were hit due to social distancing and lack of operators on-site due to lockdowns/shelter-at-place. This is when companies started to think out of the box to leverage technology to keep the operations going. Manufacturers need to focus on implementing technological solutions such as cobots, sensors, etc to remain competitive during “Stage 3” when manufacturing returns to the new normal. The key focus of manufacturers should be use technology to return to the same level of operational capability as before the pandemic, or exceed it.
    The fear of technology replacing humans at the workplace has been around for decades and we still do not have any manufacturing sites that are completely free of human intervention. Implementing robots may require fewer operators than normal to carry out the tasks, however, these operators can be reassigned to other tasks to improve productivity of the overall line. While it may create short-lived fear among employees, it is the companies’ duty to reassure their workforce about their job security.
    The products may or may not require design changes to accommodate the new processes. Processes need to be redesigned but I believe product designs generally would not require an overhaul.

  39. Robert Waggoner says:

    Because of the pandemic and focus towards preventive spread of covid-19, business across the US have taken great measures to implement safe work spaces for their employees. Whether it was working from home when possible, mask requirements, temperature checks, or reduced workforce in the business, majority of companies made drastic changes to their operation.
    Fast adoption to technology is a competitive need in the short term in my opinion. Large outbreaks of flu or other viruses occur every decade, it just so happened that Covid-19 was something we had not seen before and was impossible to properly prepare for.
    We can already see various states across the U.S. going back to full capacity and normal operation, but it will take a little time for all of the U.S. to go back to that standard.
    I don’t think the increase technology used specifically for this pandemic will decrease headcount, but rather open new opportunities for people to work with the new technology. Some jobs may be replaced, but in my opinion most jobs will be switched around, and possibly require current employees to learn new roles.

  40. Sheng Yu says:

    Based on my experience using technology to protect employees is a must for manufacturers. In June this year when China was almost cleared with the infected cases, seafood imported from foreign countries brought in another wave of infections, and it was clear that infected workers contaminated the product which brought the virus across borders. What is important is in this case we can see, protecting employees means not only protecting employee and their direct family members but it also means protecting the manufacture’s products and business. A dropped sales of imported seafood can still be observed in China, and countries exported contaminated seafood were under serious trade ban or strict quality investigation – definitely not good for seafood manufacturers.
    In my opinion technology adoption, for the most part, means reducing in headcount and this is a trend that no single employee can stop. And this ongoing trend has been going on from when the industrial revolution has started – it’s not about the pandemic or anything. The employee might be resisting the trend but they have done so for centuries, and their resistance is not a reason to stop technology adoption.

    For the products, however, what I believe is the production method might have to be redesigned – not he product. Redesigning a product meaning new suppliers, new customers, new market strategy, and everything – too much risk involved in this process rather than a new production method that does not alter the final product.

  41. Antoine Minier says:

    Because well being and work environment is more and more important with new generations, a company that protect extensively its workers can gain a competitive edge against other company less proactive in that subject. However, the use of technology to protect worker could threaten some jobs that can be automatized with a high level of social interactions. Therefore, this use of technology could be resisted by some employee that see their position threaten, Indeed, if the same job required now additional skills to use those new technologies, it could be a reason to replace a aging workforce by a younger one more tech-savvy Finally, to use correctly those new technologies, companies need to rethink the way they operate and the design of their products

  42. Technology is the trend for improving future life of human-beings. More importantly, it’s the way to prevent big incidents such as COVID-19 pandemic that negatively impact our life. With cutting edge technology, we can reduce errors and reduce mistakes that cause problems to inventory policy and people can usually get merchandise they need in life. However, it also causes reduction of need of employee, which lead to the rise of unemployment rate, especially to those whose jobs are easily replaced by these technologies. In view of this trend, we should also redisign the structure of employment. For example, employer could figure out more related jobs that will use of human’s brain that could not be replaced by technology, such as analytics or operators who should be better have judgement. Also redesigning products also helps to reduce the negative effects of developing technology. Employers should always give more training lesson to those workers who are likely to suffer from being dropped due to development of technology.

  43. Sheng-Yang, Chou says:

    During this pandemic, it is important for manufacturing companies to keep their employees safe if they want to stay in operation. Adopting technology such as robots, sensors, video technology, and cleaning robots will promote efficient operations while making the cleaning job is done properly and effectively to ensure employees’ safety. However, there may likely be resistance from employees, especially at a time where employee morale is low and they face genuine lay-off concerns. In my opinion, companies should still adopt necessary changes required to a product to keep business up, operations on-going, and customers satisfied.

  44. Rujuta Mamadapur says:

    Fast adoption of technology to protect employees may not be a competitive need yet, bt it certainly hold value in the long run for manufacturers. The disruptions caused by this pandemic have helped a lot of emerging technologies, especially touch free ones to grow. Lets take the example of cleaning robots and self sanitizing work stations. This technology will help protect the employees from coming in contact with contaminated surfaces. This technology adoption in my opinion will not reduce headcount. Primarily because these machines will also need maintenance and repair, refilling with chemicals and disinfectants for which manual intervention will be required. The article talks about flexibility and adaptability. I believe that adopting this technology will be conducive for the safety of employees and would also help to reallocate resources to other tasks.

  45. Pooja Gupta says:

    The world may never get to experience the previous normal as it prepares itself to function again after the pandemic. Big tech companies are already hinting on continuing the remote work culture The impact will be seen in manufacturing, education and other areas as well. Because of the nature of work, it is certainly not plausible for this sector to completely eliminate human interaction with people, products and technology within workspaces, however in order to remain functional competitively, companies would surely require to adjust their operations to the modified norms and behaviors in the new normal. A part of this transformation would see incorporation of protective technology like robots, sensors, etc and some change in procedures. Will the adoption of technology reduce headcount? In my opinion, this would probably see a shift in the kind of work and labour demanded by these companies. So, a section of workforce which is technically proficient to handle the maintenance of these digital machines might seek replacement of a section which does not possess such skills.

  46. Matt Wright says:

    A report published by Purdue’s DCMME ( describes an approach to leverage smart technology to enable manufacturers to operate as they open after the pandemic. The report describes process adjustments to prevent infection spread and rethinking the economics of technology adoption including cobots, sensors, video technology, cleaning robots etc. Is fast adoption of technology to protect employees a competitive need for manufacturers ? Will technology adoption reduce headcount and thus be resisted by employees ? Will the products have to be redesigned to work in this environment ?

    Fast adoption of technology now, whether it is intended to protect employees for pandemic purposes or for the replacement of those jobs, will likely be a lasting decision. Many decisions made now will carry over beyond the pandemic and the “new normal” and into the future decades as well. Companies that decide that technology should be implemented must consider this fact, that after a significant period of time adapting to the new methods which are implemented, the company will likely stick with these options as long as they are equal or greater to previous efficiencies. Technology adaption may be embraced or resisted by employees, this will likely depend on the situation. When it comes specifically to cobots, sensors, and other complementary technology, workers appreciate the implementation of these tools as they increase their own productivity without replacing jobs. When technology is implemented to replace tasks, employees will obviously not have the same positive reactions. Regarding the design of products, companies will always consider design changes if they can decrease costs without jeopardizing quality or sales. Constraints on supply chains due to the pandemic may force companies to consider design changes more frequently that in a normal period.

  47. nishchaykhona says:

    I believe post the pandemic, permanent changes are expected in the work environment, with usage of robots etc. being one of the changes. I feel during pandemic, level of automation really helps companies to continue production due to less human interactions. Specifically in material handling where a lot of interactions is involved, I feel they are being automated for the future as well. I feel that due to this automation there might be initial job losses but the safety of employee is quite critical and automation really helps in ensuring it.

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