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The South African manufacturing sector adapts to Covid 19 challenges

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a disruptive force, changing how we work, live and play, seemingly overnight. While trends across sectors generally evolve over time; a sudden and unexpected occurrence such as the pandemic can often fast-track certain trends.

The concept of “business as usual” has effectively been turned on its head, with the traditional ways of working, across most industries, being a thing of the past, as more and more people work from home.

As manufacturers continue to adapt to COVID-19 realities, they are realigning their organisations to quickly adapt, stay competitive, and remain focused.

Here are three key trends that are rapidly emerging to address some of the new challenges posed for the manufacturing industry in 2021.

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Staying globally competitive

As manufacturing feeds into and off the global market, the industry is compelled to be globally competitive. The local sector remains strongly centred on improving efficiencies and increasing productivity as it must compete with Asian economies, which manufacture and produce at significantly lower unit costs and at economies of scale. Following the pandemic’s devastating impact, many companies across the globe have been forced into survival mode. 

As such, there’s a renewed focus on containing costs, with the manufacturing sector seeking out new avenues including employing innovative technology to increase efficiency and improve productivity and to reduce inventories and wastage, amongst others.  The effects of COVID-19 have added a further layer to cost pressures with manufacturers facing a push back from consumers as they seek hefty discounts and the best deals.

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Investing more in the safety of workers

While health and safety has always been a priority for the manufacturing sector, as a good safety record is reflective of a reliable operation and one considered to be economically viable and worthy of investment; the onset of COVID-19 has reinforced the need for greater employee safety. 


Measures related to social distancing on the production floor and cleanliness and sanitisation, amongst others, have become mandatory.  Manufacturers have also been required to closely monitor who enters and exits their facilities and which individuals or equipment they interact with. 

Technological advancements

Lastly, the Internet of Things (IoT) devices, virtual reality (VR) and 3D printing will all revolutionise the way work is being done.

With its remote monitoring and predictive maintenance capabilities, IoT technology has become increasingly relevant; enabling manufacturers to monitor equipment performance safely and remotely. 

Aside from being able to alert you when a malfunction occurs, such systems can detect problems before a malfunction even occurs and can go so far as to indicate when a malfunction may occur in the future.

Manufacturing Machines

Although the pandemic has adversely impacted the field service segment across all sectors as it prevents technicians from getting to sites to repair and maintain equipment, it has forced many manufacturers to adopt augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). 

Technicians are now able to provide remote assistance to customers by using AR- and VR-enabled devices to guide them through basic troubleshooting and repairs. Aside from an increasing reliance on predictive analytics for more accurate requirements and to reduce buffer inventory; an increasing number of companies are adopting 3D printing to make production faster and cheaper and to produce items on demand rather than have to manufacture and warehouse them. 

As for big data – it has certainly emerged as a game-changer. The ability to collect extensive amounts of data from a variety of sources, combined with cloud computing capabilities, is providing manufacturers with real-time insights into their business operations as it helps them make informed decisions in real time on a daily basis. Big data also helps in forecasting and scenario planning.

Being able to adapt to the changing needs of our customers to ensure that they still meet their obligations is key. Astron Energy’s expertise, agility and in-depth understanding of market dynamics means we are able to customise solutions that ensure the continuity of our customers’ operations.