04 Aug 2020, Blog

Industry in the new COVID world order; A way forward through digital evolution

There’s no question: COVID-19 has resulted in massive changes to the way we live and work as individuals. Industry has also endured a tectonic-level shift and critical lessons in the way to approach operations going forward. Key among those lessons is the urgency for digital transformation in today’s industrial world.

Recently, Schneider Electric hosted a digital event called Innovation Talks: A Way Forward for Industry to provide a practical roadmap in the current and post COVID-19 world. In his keynote address, Peter Herweck, Schneider Electric’s executive vice president of industrial automation, emphasized the importance of seizing this unusual point in history. “Some of the most significant shifts in market share occur when coming out of downturns, when leading companies can balance resilience,” he said.

Here are a few of the ways Herweck and other presenters at the event stated that industry can find opportunity in these challenging times:

Empower your team to be fast, decisive and informed

The push for digital transformation isn’t new to industry, but the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the need to get on the digital train — something Herweck says industry has failed to embrace. He cites a 2019 LNS Research study that shows only 25% of industrial companies have successfully implemented digital transformation. To be successful, said Herweck, employees need the tools to make fast and informed decisions.

“Consider a factory worker who gets a notification on their watch while sitting at home after work hours. They know whether they need to connect to the factory remotely, or if it’s something minor, and doesn’t need to be addressed immediately,” Herweck said.

Adjust cybersecurity to the “new normal”

These days, more employees are working remotely than ever before, leaving networks more exposed to threats than ever before. The more people connecting across networks in an enterprise, the greater the need for precision cybersecurity. “In the next normal… an educated and aware workforce will be the best protection against cyber attacks,” said Jay Abdallah, Schneider Electric’s vice president of cybersecurity services, in his session.

To reduce this exposure, organizations need to create a culture attuned to cyber security, where employees are hyper aware of the security of their systems in their remote, work-from-home environment. This includes patches and software updates as well as ongoing risk and threat assessments to identify and address gaps.

Lessons from a disrupted supply chain

If the events stemming from COVID-19 have taught industry anything, it’s that robust, resilient sustainable supply chains are essential. Mourad Tamoud, Schneider Electric’s executive vice president of global supply chain, spoke in his session about the need for organizations to embrace the concept of “business as unusual.” Tamoud stated industrial companies need to focus on a balance between what worked prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and what will be needed in the future. He suggests companies need to embrace the changes brought about by COVID-19. “Just-in-time” supply chains, offshoring to low-cost countries and cost containment as a competitive advantage are no longer viable business practises. In today’s environment, organizations gain the competitive advantage by implementing “just-in-case” supply chains in multiple countries to reduce risks.

Cloud-based IIoT technologies can help organizations gain the transparency they need across the supply chain to solidify these new approaches for the long term.