back to future car

Ready for the Covid 19 technological disruption?

Article

A parallel could be made between the Back to the Future movies and our current situation. Even when Marty McFly fixed the disruptions of his time travels so that the major life events would play out with the original outcomes, the movies always end with him getting back to his own reality, but that reality was never completely the same as it was before. It was always a little different. A little better. 

Many of us thought (or hoped) that COVID 19 was going to be a V-shaped crisis, with everything returning to the status quo ante in just a few weeks or months. However even when the economy does bounce back, we know from history that after a major crisis life never looks quite the same again. We’ve also seen these times of crisis spark major technological advancements that have changed our world for the better.

As states start to reopen we are witnessing our current new reality unfold, where business, social life and travel looks very different than it did before. To navigate this successfully we must individually and collectively identify the challenges and adapt. Technology will save us again! (And again.) 

 

Here are some of the key challenges that technology may help resolve: 

Global supply chain: The U.S. imports 30% of its medical devices and 25% of its pharmaceuticals. While we’ve seen companies grapple with a shortage of these imports during this crisis, we’ve also seen how fast automakers have been able to shift into making medical devices. We can thank automation (robotics, 3D printing, AI & IoT) for this one. This ongoing trend will likely accelerate and increase domestic manufacturing capacity. The new output will curve some of the imports.

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Physical distancing employees: Prior to COVID 19 about 16% of the workforce telecommuted (fully or partially). That number likely more than doubled over the past weeks. Global Workplace Analytics reports that 56% of the workforce can incorporate some level of telecommuting and predicts that about 25-30% of the workforce will continue to do so post-COVID 19. Many companies have already begun to reduce office space and invest in robust remote infrastructures such as cloud, DMS, remote supervision and collaboration tools.

For jobs that require employees to be at work, personal protection equipment (PPE) and strict guidelines are the first line of defense. However employers still need to minimize physical points of contact as much as possible by replacing keypads and switches with digital touchless devices and consider digital tracing systems to discourage guidelines and OSHA violations.

social distaning

Physical distancing customers: We’ve seen the major shifts adopted by retailers and grocery chains that have been able to remain open since the onset of this crisis. Limiting the number of customers inside, implementing curbside pickup, and increasing e-commerce capabilities are amongst some of the main responses. Much of these measures still present inconveniences for both the business and the customer. These businesses will be updating their systems, portals, and apps to work together and dramatically improve efficiency in this new normal. 

 

airport empty person

With technological advancements, for example, employees won’t need to monitor the line, and customers will be able to make an appointment to come into a store via app and will be geolocated when nearby. Currently much of curbside pickup still requires the customer to make a phone call. Again, geolocation will phase out that unnecessary call. Many e-commerce portals do not provide access to real-time inventories which decreases customer loyalty. Retailers will need to digitize the annoying return process, eliminating the need for the customer to have to come in. Food and beverage establishments must also harmonize with an app their reservations systems, being able to reassure customers where they will be seated, provide touchless payment, and improve the overall takeout order process.

Companies should be on the lookout for technologies and software solutions that solve their new pain points. Disruptions can be uncomfortable at first, but they can lead to more seamless and efficient futures.