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Pandemics | A new level of flexibility is required

In the seventies, science still believed that the plagues of mankind would soon be defeated (Clinical Infectious Diseases: Fauci, 2001). But we are currently experiencing quite the opposite.

For years now, we have seen an increasing number of situations that led to a worldwide public health emergency: SARS in 2002, swine flu in 2009, Ebola in 2014, Zika in 2016 and COVID in 2019 (WHO: Weekly Epidemiological Bulletins). The current COVID pandemic has impressively demonstrated how it spreads around the world: ASIA, EUROPE, AMERICAS.

As a result, the risks for companies sky-rocket to unprecedented heights. The current division of labour, the classic production types and the associated supply chains are being questioned. A new level of flexibility is required to make risks in such an environment manageable, while a balanced triad of local, regional and global is gaining in importance.

 Supply chains must, on the one hand, be stable, on the other hand they must be flexible in their structure. The procurement of raw materials, semi-finished or finished products or even production services must be more widely spread. The balance between horizontal and vertical integration, and thus the own production network, must be reviewed. To be able to react quickly to any changes, a company must be in a position to shut down production fast and to ramp it up equally fast. This can be achieved through flexible work systems but also through lean structures with manufacturing systems in “mini plants” flexible in volume. This approach also supports the goal of low inventory levels in the plants and the supply chain, and thus the creation of necessary cash reserves (cash flow). Fast ramp up of a supply chain is more likely possible with standardised and modularised products, since manufacturing in the first stages of production can be non-order-related. Flexibility is asked for not only in the immediate environment of production. The current crisis has also shown that indirect functions can also be made highly flexible, even spatially – see Work 4.0.

These new levels of flexibility can help make risks manageable. To this end, INNOand relies on its proven approach of INNOVATION – ORGANISATION – TRANSFORMATION.