The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected not just individuals but entire industries and systems. Manufacturing has not been exempt; reduced work forces, social distancing and altered supply chains are just a few of the factors that are complicating the industry. Recovery depends on several factors, but the participants in a recent webinar agree on one thing: advanced manufacturing technologies are likely to play a large role.
The recent Webinar on Restoring Manufacturing Operations Post-COVID-19 opened with a question asking attendees if they believed advanced manufacturing would increase as a result of the current pandemic situation. The vast majority answered yes, kicking off a presentation given by three Dassault Systèmes employees: India Customer Process Experience Senior Director Arun Rao; DELMIA Sales Director Kiran Divekar; and SIMULIA Sales Director Bhavesh Kumar.
“In the post-COVID world, simulation is playing a very important role to ensure that office spaces as well as factories are safe for everyone,” Kumar said.
He gave a few common scenarios that simulation can be used to assess in an office or factory space. How will operations be affected if everyone is socially distanced? If a person sneezes or coughs, how fast and how far will particles spread? A multiphysics simulation with a 3D office layout can easily answer this question, as well as predict whether adding a wall or partition in the middle of an open space can reduce the spread. (The answer is yes: by about 10 percent.) Other possibilities included modifying ventilation systems.
Other advanced technologies discussed included 3D printing/additive manufacturing and cloud technology. More people are working remotely because of the pandemic, and many experts have predicted that even after the danger is over, a large percentage of employees will continue to work from home, finding that cloud technology makes remote work just as effective as traveling to an office every day.
Even within a physical workspace, cloud technology can support social distancing, Divekar pointed out in the panel discussion that followed the main webinar. Due to the current situation, employees cannot exactly crowd around whiteboards to discuss strategies, so remote meetings and collaborations are taking the place of crowded conference rooms.
As advanced technology use increases in manufacturing environments, one challenge is finding employees who are skilled in the use of these technologies. Many companies will need to upskill and reskill their workers, but online training, especially as more people work from home, can accomplish this, perhaps just as effectively as in-person training, particularly if simulation is involved.
Simulation, Kumar said, can be used to address many of the issues facing manufacturing companies in the current environment, including costs reduction, material supply, and more.
“One of the advantages of looking at simulation is that simulation pervades everywhere,” he said. “It can be used not just to test the product performance but it can be used all the way up front from the requirements to the functional and logical specifications…at all stages simulation can be used in reducing costs, which is very important in the post-COVID world.”
You can see the entire webinar here.