Finding the Silver Lining: 5 Ways Technology Has Helped Manufacturers Adapt in 2020

Remote Work

Wow, here we are, the end of 2020. To say the year did not go as expected is an understatement. Thinking back to December 31st, 2019, I’ll be honest, I didn’t even stay up to watch the ball drop (one of the sacrifices of having young children – sleep just always sounds like the better option). Perhaps though, if I had known this is how the year would play out, I might have stayed up and bid 2019 adieu. 

As I sit here now, I can’t help but think “how is it already the end of December!?” The days felt long, but the weeks felt short and as we finish out a tumultuous year that has pushed us all to our limits (in more ways than one). It’s important to look back and reflect on the good or silver linings from this year. 

For my family, one of our greatest silver linings for 2020 was the ability to leverage technology. Thanks to technology, my husband and I could continue to work from the comfort of our house and my oldest has been able to participate in remote learning Kindergarten. And while technology cannot replace the experience one would have working with colleagues in an office or learning in a classroom, it sure has helped my family get through the year. As I think about how technology has helped us, I can’t help but think about the role that technology has played in manufacturing this year. 

Here are 5 ways that technology has helped manufacturers adapt this year:

1.    Enhanced emphasis on work/life balance
Managing work/life balance and flexibility is top of mind for employees, especially considering the challenges they faced in 2020. This year, manufacturers adapted workforce policies to support their employees and continued to adopt workforce management tools, like mobile technology, that enables employees to easily access their schedule from anywhere, swap shifts if needed, and remotely submit time off requests. Not only did this flexibility save employees time and give them the control they needed over their schedule, but it helped improve the overall employee experience.

2.    Continued focus on frontline employee health and safety
Safety has always been a top priority for manufacturing organizations but now, employees aren’t just concerned about being safe while on the job, they are also concerned with mitigating the risk of illness. And not just for themselves, but for their families as well.

This year, manufacturers have stepped up to drive business continuity by developing a safer environment for their workforce. From implementing new safety procedures and applying workforce management technology solutions that helps support contact-tracing efforts, to mobile surveys and attestation to ensure employees are feeling well and have not been exposed to illness before their shift, manufacturers have looked for ways to help lower the risk for transmission of illness in the workplace.

3.    Pivoted operations during times of need
At this point, we’ve all heard the stories of manufacturers rising to the challenge by making Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to ventilators to other products to help fight the pandemic. But manufacturers have also had to adapt to shifting production demands by optimizing production schedules and maximizing labor resources. To do so, many manufacturers turned to workforce scheduling software to help put the right people in the right job, matching skill supply with production demand. All while taking into account safety, regulatory, union, and company-defined scheduling policies by automatically applying any applicable rules when aligning an employee to a shift.

4.    Kept employees informed and connected
There is nothing scarier than the unknown. During times of crisis, employees rely on their organization to deliver real-time updates that keep them informed and connected. This year, it was more important than ever for manufacturers to deliver consistent, relevant, and timely information to the workforce. In order to achieve this, manufacturers have turned to technology – communicating with employees via quick updates on a timeclock, pre-shift meetings with managers, corporate emails, or mobile communications. And because communication goes both ways, manufacturers are also leveraging workforce solutions to solicit feedback from their employees as well. This allows employees to feel more connected and to know that their voice is being heard.

5.    Accelerated digital transformation initiatives
This has been the year that digital transformation and innovation has become a top priority. Digital transformation enables manufacturers to experience dramatic workforce performance improvements and cost reduction, while increasing employee engagement. All things that have been desperately needed for any organization this year.

Manufacturers are doing everything they can to keep operations running, despite massive disruption. From managing newly remote workers to new employee scheduling strategies to an enhanced focus on safety and compliance – manufacturers quickly turned to new technologies to adapt to the complex challenges they are facing. In fact, a recent McKinsey study determined that companies digitized many activities 20 to 25 times faster during COVID-19. 


Every cloud has a silver lining

While I’m genuinely looking forward to putting this year behind us, there are many lessons we can learn from 2020. This year has challenged many of us. Goals and plans have been put on hold while caring for others, many of us have lost loved ones or know someone who has been adversely affected by the pandemic, and the holidays just won’t be the same this year. When we look back on 2020, there are things I do want to remember. I want to remember the new hobbies that I picked up from being home more and all the extra time I was able spend with my husband and children. Most of all, I want to remember how co-workers, employers, and others came together to make sure that we all feel safe, supported, and connected during the year. 

On behalf of UKG, I would like to wish everyone a safe, happy, and healthy New Year. 

Visit for more information on how you can manage your workforce during times of uncertainty.