Economic cycles are a reality in business and our world of manufacturing and production. In a Forbes article, Economic Downturns And The Opportunity For Innovation, Emerson’s Peter Zornio shares how the falling part of the cycle enables fresh, innovative thinking.
Peter opened by noting how external events, such as the global COVID pandemic, drove innovation.
This rapid innovation over the past few years in response to the pandemic is proof of something fundamental: “Necessity is the mother of invention—and adoption.” When problems arise, our world responds with solutions. The same can be said for economic downturns.
In economic downturns:
- Investment options are more tightly scrutinized. A clear business case becomes a more critical criterion for a proposed expense.
- If companies feel they’ve done everything they can to achieve efficiencies and still fall short of their goals, they look for new ideas with clear returns to drive down costs—even if that means investment.
- Downturns provide the impetus for industries to try new ways of getting things done. This may include implementing new technology that a company was hesitant about (often because of the people and work process changes required) but becomes open to it due to the cost savings or pure necessity.
- Technology developers turn their focus to developments that can show faster ROI to customers.
For example, the COVID recommendations and edicts drove innovation.
Many companies accelerated digital transformation plans to enable remote operating models to comply with social distancing mandates and limit the number of people needed on site. This helped maintain business continuity and contributed to safer working environments. Rich manufacturing process data and asset health analytics were made available to experts no matter where they were, allowing vital teams to continue working and collaborating to keep the business running.
Another example is in automation capital project execution.
In industrial environments, I saw many project teams implement tools like our remote virtual office (RVO) platform that enables project personnel around the world to collaborate securely in a virtual engineering, commissioning and testing environment. Tools like these not only reduce travel requirements but can also significantly help teams maintain project schedules and costs as well as reduce risk. At the onset of Covid-19, we all saw how companies immediately pivoted to virtual meeting technologies that may not have been common before. In the same way, industrial companies that had insisted on “in-person” project checkouts were suddenly pushed into virtual checkouts. This rapid adoption of a new process was driven out of necessity, but it is unlikely anyone will completely return to the “old way.”
Read the article for more examples of innovations driven out of necessity. As the economic downturn continues, it forces a rethinking of current practices and work processes and the opportunity to move forward with digital transformation initiatives.
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