In a new monthly column, Nikesh Mistry reports on the increased productivity GAMBICA’s member companies have experienced due to remote working and ponders what Industry 4.0 means for field maintenance.
Adapting to the ‘new normal’
GAMBICA has surveyed its members numerous times since the global pandemic has struck. According to GAMBICA’s Chief Executive, Steve Brambley; “On average, the industry is now running at more than 80% capacity, as orders slowly start to increase from the low point of mid-April”.
There are some positives to come out of this situation, such as one in 10 members seeing an increase in orders, mainly in the areas of healthcare and research, for sales of laboratory technology and PPE.
While remote working has started to form the ‘new normal’ for many corporations who can, 45% of GAMBICA member companies’ employees continued in their usual place of work throughout the lockdown.
Many manufacturing and distribution sites still required a physical presence in order to operate at their highest achievable capacity.
Astonishingly, more than half of the GAMBICA members have reported an increase in productivity due to the reduced time spent commuting. While we are unable to physically meet and build networks, the transition to working remotely has been accepted and implemented with less effort than originally imagined.
Many companies have realised the ability of their workforce to continue their jobs as normal from home, and with that came an increase in productivity. An increase in webinar and virtual platforms is leading to a change in how meetings and exhibitions are hosted. Is this a trial of the future before the future has arrived?
Urgent need for transitional arrangements
GAMBICA and BEAMA have jointly written to Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Alok Sharma warning of escalating regulatory compliance costs at the end of the transition period for the UK’s exit from the EU.
As our industry prioritises bringing staff back to work and ensuring UK supply chains are running at normal capacity again, businesses face significant compliance costs as new UK regulations come into force once the UK exits the European Union.
Particular focus is paid to REACH chemicals regulations and the replacement of the CE mark in the UK with the UKCA mark from 1 January 2021.
This tight timescale risks not only increased costs during a time of economic instability, but that products cannot be made available on the UK market and resources are diverted from other essential activities to maintain business competitiveness.
Therefore, GAMBICA calls for derogations and transitional arrangements for specific regulations to allow manufacturers in the UK time to prepare and to limit the financial burden this will incur.
The end of on-site field service?
Site visits are hugely important for helping to foster good customer relationships; and for field maintenance, there’s no substitute for getting a first-hand look at misbehaving equipment. Or is there?
Having to travel to all ends of the country whenever a fault is flagged by a customer takes time, ties up skilled technicians, and incurs great cost. This is made more frustrating when arriving on site only to discover the fault is a simple fix or was caused by avoidable user error.
Maximator UK, saw an opportunity to extend its long-standing working relationship with B&R Automation, by integrating a Secure Remote Maintenance service into some of its specialist machines and systems.
The Cheshire-based business can now remotely access its installed base of machines via the service and view customer’s HMI remotely in order to support and guide them through production tasks or provide programming and diagnostics of the software.
Customers frequently request to add functionality to further automate their processes, which often entails writing new software. This new remote infrastructure allows Maximator UK to connect through Secure Remote Maintenance and help them solve the problem in minutes.
Moreover, end users can be alerted to any upcoming service or maintenance issues, well before they turn into faults, while simultaneously updating the software.
How has it performed so far? Customers are loving the improved level of service; the cost and time saving has allowed them to support far more customers than ever before.
With technology like this available, what does it mean for site visits in the age of Industry 4.0? Clearly, there’s still a need for on-site service, at least for the foreseeable future, but having the ability to carry out maintenance from any location that would otherwise require hours on the road is most certainly an exciting development.
We’d be keen to know if other companies have similar stories to share. If you do, get in touch to share yours with GAMBICA and like-minded companies.
Nikesh Mistry, Sector Head, Industrial Automation, GAMBICA – the UK association for instrumentation, control, automation and laboratory technology.
*’Flag’ image courtesy of Depositphotos, all other images courtesy of Shutterstock