Emmanuel Lagarrigue, Chief Innovation Officer at Schneider Electric, shares insights and tips with Israeli Industry 4.0 startups amid COVID-19
Author: Yariv Lotan, Head of Strategic Sector Development, Start-Up Nation Central
The COVID-19 pandemic was initially perceived as a public health crisis; then came the realization that the economic crisis is just as challenging. For the first time in modern history, we came into a crisis that fundamentally affected the demand as well as the supply; major industries came to a halt. The world’s manufacturers have moved from efficiency-only to safety, continuity, and flexibility. Digitization technologies have become the lifeline of this forced reality, and will be the enabler of the “new normal.”
In order to understand what the “new normal” might look like for manufacturers and startups in the Industry 4.0 field, we sat down with Emmanuel Lagarrigue, Chief Innovation Officer at Schneider Electric, one of the world’s leading manufacturing and energy solution powerhouses.
Question: How can Industry 4.0 solutions support the need to work remotely, in a time of quarantine and sealed borders?
Answer: It is clear that when we get out of this, there will be more need for automation in general. So, supply chains will be redesigned, and processes will be restructured and adapted to a new reality of social distancing within manufacturing operations. In addition, to be able to safely work remotely, machine data needs to be digitally collected, and employers need to know where their employees are at any given moment, and if they follow regulations and use the right protective equipment. So, we will see enhancement of anything related to Industry 4.0. There will also be a growing need for cybersecurity in the “new normal.”
Q: As Schneider works across industries, what are the unique manufacturing challenges the era of COVID-19 poses?
A: I think COVID-19 is questioning the notion of the global supply chain, in which there’s one supply chain that kind of flows through several countries. We will go towards shorter and more automated supply chains, as well as more sustainable, protected supply chains that will be more autonomous in each region. So at the end, there will be more need for technologies. The technology that will support all of these can come from anywhere.
Q: What are the most relevant industrial technologies that will be implemented as the world comes out of quarantine?
A: We will see that in different fields, in industrial automation but also in building automation, for instance, which is probably the easiest to apprehend. We started working on analytics for social distancing, for example: measuring the distance between two people, or detecting if someone has the proper equipment before engaging with another person. These would probably become the “new normal” in the next few months, even when we get the vaccine and more remedies. We are all discovering a new relationship with the workplace, and there are a lot of things that we assumed had to happen in an office or factory, which can actually be performed remotely and with a higher productivity level than at the office or on site.
Q: Finally, how should entrepreneurs adapt to this new reality?
A: We try to help entrepreneurs in our ecosystem, and our portfolio companies, understand first how to go through the crisis and come out of it in the best possible condition. Any entrepreneur knows that cash is paramount. In times like these, it's even more useful. Cash can run out fast. Sales are not going to be as buoyant as we would have expected, and in many cases the world we are going towards is going to be slightly different from the one we’re used to. So, the only thing you can do is to preserve your cash. This is rule number one.
Then, prepare yourself for what’s coming next: it's probably going to be a world of social distancing, of people working more in remote locations. In many ecosystems, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists have insisted on having people in the same environment. But I think what we are demonstrating as a society these days is that it may not be completely necessary, and I think it plays very well to the strengths of what Israeli entrepreneurs are doing. That’s because many Israeli startup entrepreneurs have been conquering the world from Israel by travelling a lot and having some people in the US, Europe or China. But basically, they’ve been doing most of the work from Israel. Many entrepreneurs can now be a bit more open about the fact that they're working from Israel and that’s OK, it has become their asset. Working remotely is probably going to be the “new normal”, and people are going to value this.
To summarize, here are the major takeaways from the interview.
Facing current manufacturing challenges would require the industry to focus on automation, supply-chain redesign, process rethinking
Social distancing in the industry will become a norm
Acquiring data on machines and workers will become more operationally important (while respecting personal info)
Cybersecurity needs will be amplified
The supply chain will have to be shorter and more local, automated, protected and where possible autonomous
Industrial and building automation
Analytics for social distancing: from measuring distance between employees to making sure employees have the right tools and protection
The industry will have to implement what we’ve all learned in this crisis – many things can be done remotely and even more effectively
Advice for startups:
Cash management is paramount as sales become slower
Preserve cash and lower expenses
Working remotely has proven to be doable, but we need more tools for that
There will be more openness to working with remote vendors, as it is perceived to be less risky than in the past. That is an advantage for Israeli startups.