If you consider the changes that have hit over the past ten months, I think you’d agree that the human race has proven its adaptability. Adaptability to new technologies such as Track and Trace; adaptability towards wearing face masks; towards hand washing and the difficulties of isolation. In fact, many people found such developments to be a reassurance in these worrying times.
We discovered that when our health is at stake, human beings can change their behaviour in quite fundamental ways to ensure improved standards of safety. A huge focus for this behaviour change has been to bring in infrastructure to enable deeper levels of control and transparency.
And it is my belief that this new approach to control and transparency will be ingrained on the human race long after the tumultuous events of 2020. Indeed, it will be one of the hallmarks of post-Covid life.
Industries will be judged by how they respond to this new challenge. Technologies that enable in-built data-driven diagnostics will become the norm for all industries as they move towards better levels of safety, thanks to transparency and control. But in factories, traditionally much of the decision-making can be based on trust, estimation and opinion, without hard data to inform those decisions.
That is slowly changing. For example, Lifting Equipment Store US has recently started stocking a new electric chain hoist from Columbus McKinnon that features interface technology developed to enable simple connection using a laptop or tablet via an easy-to-access port. This interface gives the operator full ability to quickly and easily adjust the hoist speed and performance parameters such as overload protection and limit switches as well as access condition monitoring.
I also expect to see weighing scale pallet trucks and forklifts with load weighing technology to be very popular. For instance, our UK store stocks the Pfaff SILVERLINE weighing scale pallet truck, which features a built-in LCD screen and a scale that goes up in 1kg increments for an accurate reading. By providing clearer indications of cargo weights, such innovations are bound to stop accidents from occurring.
There will be much more of this kind of equipment that has intelligence built into it. I expect to see more use of QR codes on equipment, now that people have finally learnt how to use them when they were trying to order a pint in the pub.
We will also see greater use of technologies that will help organisations to maintain safety, despite having downsized their workforces due to the economic fallout of Covid. Apps that make two-man jobs into one-man jobs, for instance, and increased levels of automation across manufacturing set ups.
In this way, manufacturers will cram new technologies into products to give users more control and monitoring. After all, we are now living in a more controlled and monitored society, and so our products must adapt to the same principals.
But technology can only go so far – what is also needed is a change in attitude. There needs to be a willingness to embrace transparency and control in our working lives, in the same revolutionary way that the general public has done in its day-to-day lives.
As the industry faces the future, it too needs to embrace control and transparency to encourage people to follow safety guidelines, and to lock safety into supply chains. But all sides of industry, from the equipment manufacturers to the workers on shop floors need to be responding to this new agenda.
My experience of working with our customers is that it they are mostly exemplary in their health and safety procedures, but still I see customers cut corners from time to time. I’ve learnt about lots of accidents and near-misses in my time, and on many occasions they could have been stopped through preventative maintenance and periodic inspection.
In order for manufacturing to succeed in the challenges of this new world that we are facing, it needs to embrace the safety measures brought by control and transparency today. This is the future – and we have a lot of catching up to do.