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Manufacturers May Turn to Digital to Recover From Pandemic

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

Manufacturers may look to investing in digital technology as they seek to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, consulting firm Deloitte said this week in a report.

“Digital investments can help to address the ongoing challenges of managing through unknown disruptions,” according to Deloitte’s 2021 Manufacturing Industry Outlook report.

“Areas of investment can include adding sensors and machine learning to production lines to predict, prevent, and even prescriptively fix problems before they occur,” the consulting firm added. The report also identified digital twins, or digital representations of parts and processes, as one technology of interest to manufacturers.

Deloitte surveyed 350 executives and other senior leaders of manufacturing concerns last month after the U.S. presidential election. The survey said 24 percent of executives who plan to invest in digital technology believe digital twins “will be the most important technology in which their company will invest in 2021,” according to the report.

Digital twins were tied with “augmented workforce efficiencies,” the report said.

“Perhaps the greatest opportunity for digital twins in a post–COVID-19 world is their ability to enable the flexibility and agility that manufacturers may need to respond to the unknowns of the constantly shifting ‘new normal,’” Deloitte said.

“The pandemic is driving investment in digital,” Paul Wellener, a vice chairman of Deloitte, said during a presentation about the report.

According to the report, digital twins may mitigate the impact of future disruptions such as the pandemic. However, the report said using digital twins “would require an investment for manufacturers to digitize their product plans, production processes and production environments.”

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