The Internet of Things technologies played a decisive role in the pandemic response at several industrial enterprises. According to Vodafone’s 2020 IoT Spotlight Research, 84 percent of IoT adopters believe that the technology was important to maintain business continuity during the crisis. And almost three quarters expect Covid-19 to accelerate their adoption plans beyond the pandemic.

Here are five ways IoT is transforming industrial manufacturing operations to help shopfloors navigate the post-Covid World:

Build Digital Twins to Monitor Assets

Digital twins — virtual replicas of physical devices that can be used to run simulations and understand the current and future performance of a product or process — can be a crucial tool in helping industrial enterprises future-proof their operations and build more resilient contingency plans long term. Gartner estimates that by 2023, one-third of mid-to-large-sized companies that implemented IoT will have implemented at least one digital twin associated with a COVID-19-motivated use case. Already, several manufacturing operations use digital twins to recognize equipment failures and enable repairs to be made early — before they cause any delays in the production schedule. Digital twins don’t just identify problems but can also automatically schedule repairs of multiple pieces of equipment in a way that minimizes production stoppages.

Integrate across the Value Chain

Covid-19 is causing a hard reboot of how manufacturing supply chains are being managed. According to a survey conducted by the Institute for Supply Chain Management last year, 97 percent of companies reported disruptions in one form or the other in supply chains due to coronavirus-related transportation restrictions. And IoT seems all set to play a pivotal role in identifying, locating, and tracking the status of shipment until delivery. Gartner estimates that installed IoT endpoints for manufacturing and natural resources industries will grow to 1.9 billion units in 2028 and facilitate real-time data exchange between all supply-chain participants, creating an integrated view of production programs, scheduling, inventories, quality, and anticipated delivery times.

Optimize Inventory

While always critical, inventory optimization and planning process faced unprecedented pressures during Covid-19 and the resultant disruptions in supply and demand. IoT devices, coupled with the growing bandwidth offered by 5G technologies, can continually monitor material flow accurately and order raw materials as and when they are needed. For an industrial company, this means better availability of materials needed to keep the factory running, while reducing inventory and thus freeing up liquidity. According to McKinsey, industrial IoT can help reduce overall inventory levels by up to 36 percent, although results vary by industry and company.

Manage Employee Health

As shopfloors opened, several companies started deploying thermal imaging systems to prevent sick people from entering premises. Now several shopfloors are using wearable IoT devices, such as Safe Spacer, that can be worn on a wristband, lanyard, or keychain, that can alert wearers if they come too close to others. Others use infrared sensors or Bluetooth beacons to monitor worker presence at specified spots, with a dashboard for managers to observe sudden gatherings without violating employees’ privacy.