How the industry is pivoting in the wake of COVID-19

Oct. 21, 2020
Thomas Wilk says a picture is emerging of how the industry has been changing since March.

Welcome to the first autumn issue of Plant Services! The leaves are falling and it’s getting darker outside earlier, and before you know it we will all be turning our clocks back by an hour.

It’s safe to say that few if any of us could have predicted the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact, from our jobs to our family lives. Ordinarily I would be getting ready this month to see many of you in person at the SMRP Annual Conference; however, I’m looking forward just as much to seeing you online this year at the virtual event.

From the Editor

This article is part of our monthly From the Editor column. Read more from Thomas Wilk.

As time goes on, industry is building a bigger and clearer picture of these impacts. One such study was conducted recently by WorkStep, which found that 70% of industrial workers (and 80% of women who were surveyed) feel their safety and their family’s financial security are in conflict due to the pandemic. Also, nearly 40% of survey respondents stated they did not feel like their work environment is safely protecting them from the virus. (This finding matches a data point from Plant Services’ own survey from this past June, where 42% of respondents told us that a stronger health and safety program was needed at their plants, including PPE inventory.) Our interview with WorkStep CEO Dan Johnston explores some of the long-term implications of these data.

However, what is also clear is that many (perhaps most) plants are still operating, observing new health and safety best practices while continuing efforts to optimize product quality and reduce unplanned downtime. Sheila Kennedy’s cover story collects six new case studies that focus on success with predictive and prescriptive maintenance tools, and Ron Marshall contributes a feature article on new methods to monitor and control compressed air systems.

Perhaps the most common pivot point has been a shift to remote work. We’re happy to present a panel discussion article on this topic from the Leading Reliability virtual conference in June, featuring five industry experts who outline how remote technologies will continue to change the face of reliability.

I’d also like to use this month’s column to highlight the first-ever Plant Services “12 Under 30” class. One of the challenges facing our industry is how to recruit skilled full-time workers from among Millennials and Gen Z. And about the only thing everyone can agree on is that there is no single pipeline of talent to tap into.

In this month’s Tech Toolbox column, Sheila Kennedy asks a dozen accomplished industrial professionals under the age of 30 how they arrived at their current positions, and what they now would recommend to others seeking career direction.

We’re proud to share their insights and advice with you this month, as well as a technical article written by one of the honorees, and wish them well as they continue their industrial careers!

About the Author

Thomas Wilk | editor in chief

Thomas Wilk joined Plant Services as editor in chief in 2014. Previously, Wilk was content strategist / mobile media manager at Panduit. Prior to Panduit, Tom was lead editor for Battelle Memorial Institute's Environmental Restoration team, and taught business and technical writing at Ohio State University for eight years. Tom holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MA from Ohio State University

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