Tarun Thomas George
Co-founder, Chief Operating Officer
Around March 2020, the world came to a global standstill when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel Coronavirus Disease, or COVID-19, as a pandemic. The fast spreading disease has today massively disrupted people's health and economic conditions resulting in turmoil to day-to-day operations and to life as we know it.
Governments, global organizations and businesses have all been impacted by the pandemic in varying degrees depending on the weight of impact on different geographies. In general, the evolution of the Covid-19 scenario can be categorised into four different phases1.
Evolution of the Covid-19 scenario (Image Courtesy 1: Axon Advisory Research - The Telecom Industry During the Times of the Crisis)
This was the phase when the world gained knowledge of and witnessed first-hand the fast-spreading airborne virus which eventually led to a surge of panic across nations. Due to a lack of active management at this phase, businesses and industries suffered significantly. Countries and businesses began to pause productions/operations, developed shut-down strategies and began laying down action-plans to prepare themselves for what's next.
During this phase, the number of infected cases kept soaring high by the day. Businesses as a whole experienced challenges unlike before, and keeping the staff and people safe became the top priority amongst all. A crucial objective at this point was to break the chain of the fast-spreading virus, implement nation wide lockdown strategies, and focus on critical needs of the society.
The government and health authorities across the world are today developing recovery plans and stringent rules that'd help prevent the local transmission of the virus. Governments and regulators are developing new ways of working, travelling, connecting and carrying out inevitable operations to sustain economies and lives. Businesses are fast looking to innovate and adopt technology and digitisation to their daily operations, in order to bounce back from the fallback.
Phase four marks the world’s entry into the new normal where people, businesses in general, and the global economy resumes to function, but unlike before, with a motive to avoid a second wave of impact, strict health measures would be followed. Restarting the economy and commerce will become of utmost priority, and technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) is already poised to play a significant guiding role in this phase.
As the global economy was transitioning through these phases, businesses and enterprises certainly found it difficult to withstand the impact and repercussions. In particular, the pandemic had brought about a set-back to the everyday lives of employees, nature of work operations, and processes, such as:
As a result, enterprises and businesses found it necessary to reimagine their operational structure and processes, in order to accommodate the new changes and practices.
Despite lockdown strategies and restricted mobility, several industries such as Healthcare, Media & Entertainment, and Telecommunications have proven to be rather resilient. As we are progressing into the new normal, the government authorities and supporting bodies are in the constant run to develop efficient action-plans to ensure that businesses and markets continue to function by switching into more technologically driven operations. Centralized system of operations that can be managed remotely, with ample built-in security features and legit performance, can go a long way in ensuring that business operations run smoothly by eliminating the spread of viruses.
But, is there a catch? It is certain that switching to a contact-less mode of operation which enables communicating an establishment's most confidential data remotely across smart devices and networks could bring a lot of challenges to the table. Some of the most pressing issues that global businesses and enterprises may have to face during this transition to a digital workstation is described below.
Without adequate revenue-income to meet capital and operating expenditures, OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers are struggling to keep their businesses up and running. As the demand for products and services have taken a downturn, a cost cut appears to be the only forward-looking solution in the present. With a decline in revenue being expected in the coming months, current businesses would have to maintain the regular scale of their operations while keeping the costs at bay. A business model that effectively administers day-to-day operations at reduced capital expenses is a pressing need for countries.
The manufacturing units of several establishments were the worst hit by the impact of Covid-19 halting production and distribution of supplies. While manufacturing remains to be an essential operation for production to follow, a different strategy needs to be executed. The executive director of NAM (National Association of Manufacturers)2, Carylon Lee, emphasized the need for remote monitoring and the role of technology and industry 4.0. Lee also envisions long-lasting changes for companies in the near future.
2: The Future of Work in Manufacturing - Covid-19. Generational Divides and Skills Front of Mind
With the pandemic hitting global trade at an unprecedented scale, many multinational companies are struggling to balance out a healthy chain of demand and supply. The inability to procure basic products and materials in testing times is indeed forcing governments to confront the fragility of the current supply chain systems. The need of the hour demands a smarter, stronger, and more diverse supply chain strategy in place. Lockdown enforcements resulting from Covid-19 have led enterprises to seek out technology that would help them establish trust and reliability from new partners. With a minimal human workforce on the grounds, the supplier ecosystem will also need to digitize their operations in order to provide end-to-end visibility of the supply chain. A study revealed that SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) were the ones who struggled the most due to the rising economic crisis. Although financial grants from governments may initially help them to digitize their work operations, a more off-the-shell solution will be soon required to address key pain points of the current supply chain system.
Data analytics have always been an important factor in helping businesses make the right decision and measure their key performance indicators. Data modelling is an effective tool to project future scenarios that would influence decision making processes, for example, workforce planning. While being amidst a pandemic in an environment whose priorities are constantly changing, having better visibility and access to one’s business data is crucial for scenario planning. More and more companies today would require the right kind of tools to collect and process such data, and produce effective business strategies.
With several businesses striving to protect their workforce, working remotely is expected to be the new normal in the coming years. While major business operations are changing from traditional office/on-site workstations to a more remotely managed centralized system, making this transition efficient, reliable, and secure is the key challenge. Using connected equipment and software to acquire data from locations such as farms, hospitals, industries, or factories without being physically present there at the time requires the need for robust & accessible platforms that support such connected devices. Network connectivity in remote areas is also a necessity to make remote operations happen.
The present crisis has also shifted the focus of businesses and enterprises towards hybrid cloud infrastructures that would permit flexible data provisioning and storage on demand. This transition presents itself an opportunity for enterprises to make rapid, well-informed decisions and expedite arrangements to mitigate business disruption, and ensure that critical operations are continued. Automation is also turning into an indispensable aspect of businesses, for they ease the load off the workforce. Remote monitoring, tracking and troubleshooting are all being incorporated in production units and transportation systems, to minimise the human intervention required in upkeeping the business.
Thus, it is indeed true that the event of a pandemic has drastically affected businesses and enterprises, and has hence disrupted the flow and manner of our everyday activities. Managing assets remotely has resulted in the rising need for transparency at the workplace and industrial operations. Such a level of remote visibility is certainly indicating the need for connected things.
IoT is definitely poised to transform the way how humans interact with devices/machines, simplifying life with the push of a button, and hence, it is going to be a key aspect in surviving the challenges set forth by the current pandemic and for the way forward. The past few years have already given a tiny glimpse on the solutions enabled by IoT that can pave paths toward an automated, remotely managed, monitoring & tracking of assets and processes.
With the pandemic, industries will now need to gear up their factories and operations with automated technology that can get their manufacturing units, deployments, essential assets, etc. up and running. And with such remote asset monitoring solutions set in place, businesses can stay virtually connected, thereby managing and manoeuvring their critical and non-critical operations continually.