Smart Machines & Factories
COVID-19: The importance of digitalisation
Published:  01 April, 2020

In these surreal times that we are all living through and equally adapting to, it is hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel. But as editor of a magazine dedicated to the digitalisation of UK manufacturing, there are uplifting stories which give me a  significant amount of hope that when this period begins to abate that the UK will enter a period of reflection about the importance of manufacturing to not only our economic prosperity but also the significance it plays to the social fabric of our nation.

The Government’s call for manufacturers to adapt their production lines in order to produce much needed ventilators highlights the importance of digitalisation and the ability to adapt to meet changing demands and needs. The flexibility of smart manufacturing processes has enabled companies around Europe to switch some production lines to the manufacture of disposable face masks for example to help combat the global shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as highlighted by some of Italy’s and France’s leading luxury fashion houses, who are also about to manufacture hand sanitisers.

Smart manufacturing is allowing countries around the globe the ability to limit disruptions caused by COVID-19 as much as possible in the circumstances, however it must also not be forgotten that the investment in robotics and sensors and other technologies assumes that production lines receive a steady flow of raw materials. COVID-19 demonstrates that manufacturers also need to be as focused on their supplier's capabilities as they are on their factory floor, as highlighted by Michael Larner, principal analyst atABI Research.

The virus will have both short and long-term ramifications, but the over-riding message coming out of these most troubling times is that UK manufacturing has a significant role to play and that digitalisation need to be seen as pivotal in the post-COVID-19 world. No one can predict the future - all predictions are meaningless until some sort of stability returns at a global level - but we can all reflect and to find some element of opportunity in these times that we can build on.

Only then can we derive something positive from this unparalleled period.

Aaron Blutstein, Editor Smart Machines & Factories