The COVID-19 crisis is having a dramatic impact on the economy, particularly German industry. But that’s no reason to abandon hope!
Although there’s little we can do about the current situation, there are plenty of valid reasons to be upbeat about the future. History has shown us that things tend to pick back up again after times of crisis. Speaking of crisis, it’s interesting to consider the original meaning of this word. It actually comes from the Greek “krisis” meaning opinion or decision, and was initially used as a medical term to refer to the peak or turning point of an illness before it was appropriated by other disciplines. So as you can see, it has nothing to do with being trapped in a hopeless situation. In fact, the forced slowdown resulting from the corona crisis offers companies a unique opportunity. Has there ever been a better time for businesses to calmly and collectedly rethink their processes or even their business model? Or even a situation that offers such great scope to pursue digitalisation and creative ideas?
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1. Use the scope offered by the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity for digitalisation
“We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months,” said Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft, commenting on the company’s latest business figures at the end of April. It’s a similar situation across the entire world of work. Everyone seems to be working from home, and video conferences have become an almost equivalent alternative to face-to-face meetings. Training webinars (including on mechanical engineering) have never been so popular. Digital education, which until recently was still in its infancy, is now coming along in leaps and bounds in Germany. As a result of the pandemic, previous concerns and bureaucratic hurdles have vanished into thin air. Looking at it that way, COVID-19 hasn’t just opened up opportunities, but also sped up progress.
Make use of this forced standstill and ask yourself key questions. Test out strategies and ensure your company is ready to adapt to what the future will bring.
Despite all this, we must not forget that digitalisation (see our compact guide on the topic) is not an end in itself. The phrase “anything goes” does not apply here. It’s always about achieving specific set goals. In production, such goals could be supporting staff by boosting efficiency in material supply operations (for example with automated guided vehicles (AGVs)) or optimising communication and documentation processes at shop-floor level. By providing time-saving functions and simplifying coordination, online tools are revolutionising the fields of engineering (a pertinent example here being the item Engineeringtool), customer support, and training. But what should be your first step in terms of digitalisation?
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2. Use opportunities opened up by the corona crisis and get fit for the future
First of all, you need to understand what digitalisation really means. It can refer to both the digitalisation of existing internal company processes and the adaptation or modification of business models. Since every business and sector is unique, there is no one set magic formula for a successful digital transformation. In principle, optimising processes using digital tools naturally takes far less time than adapting a business model. Yet, companies tend to underestimate themselves in this regard, too. Has the pandemic led to a company-wide digital meeting culture? If so, that’s the ideal starting point for tackling other processes. Another thing to bear in mind is that developing new business models is a skill that can be learned. With a bit of training beforehand, an informal workshop can bring a whole host of innovative ideas to light.
We expect to see a significant surge in the progress of automation and digitalisation in German industry.
The study “Corona restart: German industry will move full steam ahead after the crisis”, recently published by the Association of German Engineers (VDI) and consultancy firm agiplan, highlights the optimistic mood in industry and the simultaneous focus on digitalisation. As part of this study, 169 industry decision-makers took part in a survey. The following results are particularly insightful:
- 6 percent want to focus on projects relating to (IT) security and digitalisation
- 68 percent have learned from the crisis and now attach greater importance to digitalisation
- 80 percent are planning to digitalise their processes further
- 74 percent would like to further intensify efforts to digitise interactions with customers and service providers
3. Actively tackle the COVID-19 crisis with a growth mindset
Times of crisis highlight the difference between a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset” – a concept made famous by Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University. Those with a fixed mindset believe that their personality and thus their talents and successes are to a certain extent predetermined. They do not believe they have the potential to develop. In contrast, those with a growth mindset seize opportunities and take on challenges, and are therefore continuing to grow despite the current crisis. It is this very way of thinking that we will recognise in people and companies that were able to make use of the upturn expected once the pandemic is over.
People with a growth mindset gratefully take on challenges and continue to grow with every crisis.
What’s more, advancing digitalisation has nothing to do with making a break with your company’s past. The concept of ambidexterity comes in useful here. No, we’re not talking about which hand you write with – this is about “pursuing contradictory or contrasting approaches at the same time. So, for example, optimising the current business model whilst also working on innovations,” explains German digital expert Andreas Diehl.
4. Make employee involvement and New Work top priorities
All the above-mentioned aspects very much depend on the workforce. Companies can only pave the way for a successful digital transformation if they successfully empower staff and get them involved in the action. In addition, the corona crisis has brought about long-lasting changes in the workplace culture. Key components of New Work, such as remote working and flexible working time models, have finally entered the mainstream. And with many people currently taking the time to reassess their lives, mindfulness and ergonomics (including for desk jobs) have become more important. Unprecedented insights into colleagues’ homes have also led to team members getting to know one another better. In many areas, the current crisis has brought people closer together and issues surrounding childcare have significantly intensified the focus on diversity. Loyalty to employers has increased in many cases, too. Companies should build on this and once again take advantage of the many opportunities being opened up by coronavirus.
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