Chinese factories are working at 80% capacity or more, according to the Economist, They’ve focused on hygiene and screening tests. They’ve worked to separate workers, too, producing cages like those that keep robots away from human workers.
But they’re also looking to technological improvements. And economists at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management believe that this is what it will take for manufacturing to bounce back around the world.
The first step toward reopening a factory safely, they figure, is a clear map of the processes. This creates a clear visual of the steps involved in making the product, which can then be broken down into six-foot chunks, one per human worker.
Human workers will be costlier under those circumstances. The processes will have to be more efficient, and investments in automation the were too expensive before coronavirus may be just right once the factories reopen.
Ford Motors is testing wristbands that let workers know when they are within six feet of another worker. Cleaning robots are becoming commonplace. Sensors gather information from machines hands-free.
How long a shutdown?
China suffered a widespread industrial shutdown for about six weeks, but now is facing a lack of demand from customers in Europe and the Americas. The US could see the same pattern. However, estimates range from “If you waved a hand and got rid of the virus tomorrow we’d be back to normal in a week,” a prediction from Yale’s Timothy Guinnane, to predictions that the fashion industry will experience “a Darwinian shakedown” with no chance of normalcy this year.
On the other hand, President Trump has used his executive powers to insist that meat processors stay open or reopen when some haven’t yet had a chance to clean their plants and test workers after outbreaks.
It’s fair to say that we don’t know what will happen. And it’s also fair to say that a nimble approach will be required. If you use Rexroth motion control, this could be the perfect time to think about factory repair and reman. Call us at (479) 422-0390 to talk about maintenance and upkeep for your components. When it’s time to reopen, you’ll be ready.