Automation Could Be Key to Recovery for Small Manufacturers |

A recent survey by Thomas Industrial examined impacts of COVID-19 and revealed one in four U.S. manufacturers are considering expanding industrial automation as a result of the crisis, while one in five already has automated systems in place.

“As the virus hit, many smaller manufacturers were likely caught off guard with no plan in place for their supply chain, their production or their workforce,” says Dave Rowland, president of the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance. “These companies will need to take a hard look at their operations coming out of this crisis, because they must be able to conduct business as seamlessly as possible going forward. An important part of any step forward should be a certain level of automation.”

Post-crisis, manufacturers will need to ensure they have the flexibility to deal with portions of their workforce being out and have ways to keep their employees safe. They also will need to accommodate changing customer demands as production increases.

“One of the positive effects that may come out of the COVID-19 crisis is that manufacturers could become increasingly interested in how robotics and automation can help their business, both from a production and workforce augmentation standpoint,” Rowland says. “The Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance has the expertise and many resources to help state firms adopt these technologies.”

In addition to its own manufacturing extension agents and applications engineers, the Manufacturing Alliance works closely with OCAST and its partners in the Oklahoma Innovation Model.

“As part of the national Manufacturing Extension Partnership, we are able to leverage an abundance of national resources on the local level,” Rowland says. “We are able to reach all areas of the state and are uniquely able to support small manufacturers who wouldn’t ordinarily have access to advanced manufacturing tools.”

Automation—when properly adopted—has the potential for ease workforce needs. It allows for greater human distancing while maintaining reliable production. “I think most small manufacturers would be surprised at what kind of processes can be automated and at how affordable that automation can be.”

For more information on how the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance can help your company adopt new technologies or ramp up production after the COVID-19 disruption, contact your local manufacturing extension agent or email