Automotive manufacturers also have been inching toward another goal in recent years: implementing Industry 4.0 operations. But the pandemic was no time for that trend, the experts say.
Industry 4.0 uses advances in computing power to make plants more impervious to market blips and changes. The approach brings together factory floor connectivity, automated production processes and big data management to alert managers of problems anywhere in the system, from raw material supply issues to consumer sales developments to problems in the factory itself.
But converting factories to sophisticated Industry 4.0 models requires time and money. And manufacturers have had little of either during the COVID-19 crisis.
Those who already have adopted 4.0 practices will continue to do so, and others will start to look at them more closely. But the manufacturing revolution will not come anytime soon, said Mike Ger, managing director of automotive and manufacturing solutions at software company Cloudera in the Bay Area.
"When you look at Industry 4.0 types of initiatives, they tend to have a fairly long lead time," Ger said. "There's a mix in terms of implementation maturity in the marketplace."
But the opportunity is still beckoning, IBM's Wright said.
"The ability to coordinate into the Tier 2 and Tier 3 is really tough," Wright said. "COVID has shone a light on the very significant risks of that complex ecosystem in the supply base.
"It will be really important for organizations to create this technology-driven transformation," he predicted, "to allow them to have the flexibility to survive any future disruptions."