Winning the Race for Survival: How New Manufacturing Technologies are Driving Business-Model Innovation

An employee works on a production line manufacturing protective suits at a medical supply factory in Xinzhou district of Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, in Hubei province, China February 12, 2020. Picture take February 12, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS

The COVID-19 pandemic is liberating manufacturing and production companies to experiment with radical new ideas. Firms are coming up with new ways to maintain production despite disrupted supply chains, or they are mobilizing to design new products as demand for existing products collapses.

With revenues falling universally, companies are doing everything in their power to safeguard cash reserves. This has allowed some firms to discover new ways of doing things without large investment.

As most manufacturing firms continue to realize their revenues through traditional channels, COVID-19 has created the need for rapid and radical innovation in both business and operating models. The future belongs to those who are able to manage uncertainty and innovate rapidly.

Firms that rebound from the pandemic disruption will have some choices to make.

  • What is the role of advanced manufacturing and production technologies in shaping new operating and business models?
  • What are the operating and business-model innovations worth keeping once the crisis is over?
  • Will firms quickly return to “business as usual” or will they examine what worked (and what didn’t) during this period of “mass experimentation at scale”?
  • Would the resilience achieved today only be made possible through super-human efforts justified by being in crisis mode, and not sustainable in normal modes of working?
  • Will only the handful of superstar firms and state-funded oligopolists get stronger and more dominant in the manufacturing landcape?

In this context, the World Economic Forum has been working with its Advanced Manufacturing and Production community to find the answers and ensure the manufacturing sector remains relevant in this fast-changing environment. The findings are published in three releases:

  • 1
    Sinking, swimming or surfing: perspectives on operating and business models (May 2020)
  • 2
    Accelerating business models innovation (forthcoming July 2020)
  • 3
    Transforming industries at scale (forthcoming October 2020)