For many business leaders, planning for a crisis like COVID-19 was never on our radar. Sure, most businesses have a strategic plan or a business continuity plan in the event of a natural disaster or a recession, but who could have seen a pandemic coming? Who would have thought it could happen so quickly? Who could have had a scenario for the entire country and economy coming to a halt, as it has, built into their strategic business plan?
The simple answer is … no one! However, I can assure you this pandemic will cause most businesses to operate much differently in the future … they will have no choice!
Over the past two months, most companies have had to readjust their business and their workforce. Many companies have allowed employees to work from home. But for a lot of employees in industries like food and beverage production, their jobs cannot be done remotely or from home.
We will survive this pandemic, but it will not be business as usual once we finally get back to work. Every owner or operator will be thinking about the COVID-19 pandemic for many years to come. And every decision going forward will have a “COVID-19 what if” attached to it that reflects back on the months in early 2020, which changed our lives and the way we operate our businesses forever.
The larger food processors are already thinking about the most virus-susceptible areas within the plant – and having to send infected workers home – as well as how to mitigate such an event in the future. Automation is a big part of the answer. Automated equipment does not catch or spread the flu, does not sneeze on the product coming down the packaging line or spread COVID-19. Automation is today -- and will be tomorrow -- a bigger part of the sustainability answer in an infectious environment.
Going forward, when business owners and managers think about how to prevent future plant shutdowns due to pandemic outbreaks in food & beverage production, I suspect a large part of their strategy will be the implementation of more automation on their plant floors. Not because they want to, but because they have to.