Home office: how the metal industry can leverage digitalisation now
The once so traditional metal industry is suddenly being forced to shift to a home office setting. Workers in automotive factories, foundries, steel mills alongside those of other industries are now bound to their homes. Businesses that rely on the physical world are being obliterated while the digital world is thriving. It is expected that in a post-pandemic world, technology and digitalisation will cut even deeper into our lives than before.
The coronavirus has forced people and business around the world to rethink supply chains, investments, entertainment, socialising and working models. In response to travel bans, social distancing requirements and business closures to limit the spread of the virus, people are turning to digital tools to get back to business as usual, or something close to that. In these critical times where the human factor equals risk factor, we turn more to technology. Along with it, more digitalisation of commerce, public services and manufacturing will follow. During and after the ongoing crisis, individual companies will find themselves hard pressed to resist digital transformation in every aspect they do business – prosper or perish.
The trend of digitalisation is now extending to all aspects of the working world. The way we use tech in our daily work will increase exponentially, almost substituting traditional working patters we have grown accustomed to.
As a result of this, we will be seeing a sudden jump in usage of all kinds of digital platforms:
- Conferences and trade events going virtual
- Increasing demand for marketing via digital media channel
- Sales being done online via Internet and video conference meetings
- Staff training, team calls and management meetings increasingly relying on video conferences
- Implementation of intelligent production, R&D, logistics systems across entire value chains to be able to manage all aspects of procurement, production and shipment remotely
- Purchasing can tap more into online trading platforms and to e-procurement systems to avoid travel and health and geopolitical risks from various locations
This acceleration of tech adaptation has far reaching consequences for our society and business as a whole. It will usher in the new industrial era - Industry 4.0 - faster than expected. It will involve a complete integration of IT into all areas of business operations; production chains, fostering a vertical and horizontal integration of processes while allowing holistic optimization of R&D, production, sales, logistics and procurement.
The steel and metals industries can benefit from harnessing more digital tech into their business models. It is evident that there can be huge benefits of having a geographically widely dispersed workforce that manages different projects and processes entirely via digital platforms. Digital literacy within the industry will also help to attract a younger workforce who wants to become involved in the industry´s digitalisation efforts.
The winners in the new global race for technical optimisation will be those who can leverage systems that simplify entire trading processes. Intelligent procurement and trading will offer the advantages of working from multiple locations through unified platforms where users can benefit from quick global supplier access and vetting, real-time product and pricing information, logistics and insurance cost calculations and finally effective analysis of purchasing processes. B2B trading platforms can be surprisingly resilient in times of crisis. Metalshub with its online platform for buying and selling metals and ferroalloys, is still on the path of steady increase in activity: listings climbed by 51% from Q1 2019 to Q1 2020, the number of transactions grew by 57% from Q1 2019 to Q1 2020.
There will be a pressing urgency to catch up when markets have been cured back to a new normal. There will be a need to achieve more efficiency to catch up the loss of productivity during the crisis. The focus will be on cost-cutting in terms of working processes. This will prompt a race for optimisation within the metals industry. Those companies able to use technology to keep going and rethink their business model for the future by fast-tracking digital transformation will emerge out from this crisis with a head-start on their competition.