How Coronavirus Crisis Can Spike Innovation In Product Development and Supply Chain Technologies

How Coronavirus Crisis Can Spike Innovation In Product Development and Supply Chain Technologies

The big innovation is usually crisis-driven. Many researchers suggest we need to have a bit of kick to start changing and innovation. We are good at solving problems, but we are also lazy. We need a crisis moment to start moving faster.

Sometimes there are alternative solutions, but we need to be stuck to find a solution. In product development, constraints can foster a lot of innovation. One of the lessons I’ve learned over time is that when you have too many resources, you get too much freedom and your creative focus is lost. Some barriers can create a better environment to innovate.

Back 10 years ago Haiti earthquake, mobile phones created a platform for effective communication and crisis information systems. Mobile phones used as a communication device for reuniting families, also it was a substitute for the banking system, food distribution, and many other functions. It was the innovation created based on necessity.

Earlier today I read about Ebola Challenge. Relevant companies threw out traditional playbooks to respond to the spread of the virus. The situation created a special response. As such, my favorite example is how some companies borrowed best practices for extreme sports gear to make highly functional, comfortable personal protective equipment.

For the last several weeks, Coronavirus (or COVID19) becomes a perfect crisis that can create a huge moment to innovate. Earlier today, I’ve seen on Facebook a recipe on how to make hands sanitizer out of the components you can buy on Amazon. Nobody would be thinking about that just a few months ago.

The current Coronavirus crisis is a perfect moment for innovation in digital technologies. The virus creates constraints on travel and as a result boosting a variety of technologies enabling digital processes, connectivity, autonomous delivery mechanisms, and many others.

I can see immediately several areas in the business product lifecycle management is touching that can be stressed by the virus spreading even after the time virus will be contained.

Remote access to the information

For the recent years, digital transformation and introduction of cloud technologies made significant progress, but larger companies still didn’t set a sense of urgency to make information digitally available to people in the remote use case scenario

Supply chain transparency and optimization

Supply chain network optimization can be another area that will get a significant boost as companies will be struggling to manage their supply chains at a time of uncertainty. Stable networks require less maintenance and optimization. Fragile networks and stress can create an opportunity for optimization

Online design, product development and collaboration

With many people restricted to travel, the demand for tools enabling work online, collaborate globally and achieve the same or even better results can be skyrocketing. For the last decade, we’ve seen how improved video communication helped to increase remote work scenarios. Still, product design and development work tools were slow to ramp up. It can change now.

What is my conclusion?

Historically, the crisis and turbulent time was always a source of innovation and new development. Stress is usually a big contribution to the success and pushing the limits of reality. It looks like, we have a perfect stress moment in developing online design tools, collaboration technologies and new ways to optimize manufacturing and supply chain. Just my thoughts..

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups, and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.

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  • Kostya

    A small example from me. We are small engineering company. Due to the virus outbreak we switched to home office work. We use online services like trello and airtable, but most of the working processes are still tied to local server. I had to urgently arrange remote access to the server coping docs and drawings to cloud (all dwg links were broken). I cannot even imagine how painful will be moving everything back to the server trying not to lose information.

    So, I would say we were not ready to situation like this. Going to discuss it with management and hopefully they will agree to invest to some cloud-based solution. Lesson learned? Will see 🙂

  • kfmcgahey

    The Coronavirus, by disrupting supply chains in China, has illuminated the risk in the concentration of production there. It’s reasonable to think that a lot of products will be coming back to the US, or distributed to other countries. Distributed collaboration in design is also going to accelerate.

  • beyondplm

    Agree. Also, it will raise a question about manufacturing transparency. It is a very sensitive topic, because most of companies keep their supply chain relationships confidential.

  • beyondplm

    @disqus_X9VsaJApGO:disqus Make total sense. You can use openbom.com for your remote work. It will help you to collaborate online while using desktop CAD and other tools (disclaimer – I’m CEO and co-founder).