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From the editor's desk: Coronavirus pulls the trigger on digital transformation

July 2020 News

The general consensus among economists is that the disruption to global markets caused by the coronavirus pandemic is going to result in economic upheaval of proportions not seen since the disastrous stock market crash of 1929, and the ensuing fallout known as the Great Depression.

I hope they’re at least partly wrong. Economists often are as it’s unbelievably difficult to accurately quantify all of the contributing parameters that make up such forecasts. They very seldom get it completely wrong though, so I think it’s a safe bet that, as a minimum, we are headed towards a recession. The silver lining is that this time our technology may save us from protracted hardship, and the recovery may be as rapid and forceful as the decline. Graphically, the curve would look V-shaped on a plot of economic activity versus time, rather than the lingering distress caused by the U-shape of the meltdown that followed the credit crunch calamity in 2008.

Another positive is that adversity often galvanises human ingenuity. And recession, while it may not change the world, has a way of accelerating trends that were already bubbling beneath the surface. Something that was considered a nice to have suddenly becomes a necessity. For instance, anyone reading this article has probably experienced more digital transformation in the last three months than they did in the last three years.

The same holds true for manufacturing. The pandemic has put a lens over what the manufacturing industry already knew; its traditional ecosystems (both in terms of value chains and shop floor production lines) are outdated, and more agile, digitally enabled solutions are required.


Steven Meyer.

All well and good for those manufacturers that already had a transformation plan in place before the disruption happened. For those that did not, the problem becomes more complex because making strategic investments during times of uncertainty is not easy. On the other hand, for those manufacturers operating with reduced staff due to social distancing requirements, this might be the perfect opportunity to get started.

Whatever the reasons, the same logic applies to digital transformation as it did pre-pandemic; just the sense of urgency has changed. Ideally, the plan has to be sustainable and, above all, make good business sense. But the overriding constraint is still there, namely: very few companies have the resources or insight to tackle digital transformation on their own. The technologies are complex and if they are not correctly applied the result could be a drop-off in efficiency, rather than the hoped for improvement. In a nutshell, finding the right technology partners is vital. To this end, we hope you find the feature we have put together on the Industrial Internet of Things useful. You will find it here. Stay safe in these turbulent times and embrace the idea that change is no longer simply desirable. Thanks to a novel new microbe, it just became an evolutionary necessity.

Steven Meyer

Editor: SA Instrumentation & Control

steven@technews.co.za


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