The coronavirus outbreak has had an impact unlike anything seen in recent history. The human cost has been monumental, with more than three million losing their lives and countless more suffering serious health problems after contracting the disease.

There has also been a major financial impact, with the pandemic having significant consequences for the global economy. The after-effects are set to be felt for years or even decades to come, and the outbreak has forced organisations across all sectors to re-evaluate how they operate.

A huge part of that has been a change in working conditions, and research from Microsoft and YouGov found that 87% of employees said their companies had adapted to hybrid working. Meanwhile, those in the manufacturing sector have seen a swift transition towards the Industry 4.0 movement – so-called because it’s being classed as the fourth major industrial revolution.

So, how has Covid influenced the digitisation of certain processes? Where would we be if the pandemic hadn’t necessitated that rapid rate of progress? And what might the future hold?

How has digitisation been improved in the wake of the pandemic?

Crisis often brings opportunity and all industries affected by Covid were forced to quickly pivot and seek out solutions. Industry 4.0 technology played a leading role in that evolution. For example, cloud computing and 5G connectivity helped businesses ensure everyday tasks could continue via unimpeded access to both the web and internal IT infrastructures from remote locations.

For manufacturing plants, Flex Ltd’s Paul Baldassari talks of how automation and robotics enabled safe social distancing of employees on the shop floor, while simulation played a crucial role in showcasing how things would work on a virtual level before being put into practice.

What would the business world look like without Covid?

When the pandemic hit, companies were forced into changes that under normal circumstances would take years. The good news was that the framework for adopting these technologies was already in place, so in reality the next major hurdle was the implementation itself. That’s easier said than done, of course, and there were still workflows and systems to be perfected. But for a lot of businesses those processes are now firmly established, which means they’re ahead of the curve.

Do we now have a better eye for planning, developing and implementing digitisation?

There’s no doubt that many businesses were faced with a sink-or-swim scenario that demanded the creation of effective solutions that they could facilitate in double-quick time. Having overcome those hurdles, they now have a better understanding of digitisation and everything it entails. For others, there are consultants who can assist with the implementation of digitisation across a number of sectors, and that’s a service that could prove increasingly popular over coming years as organisations seek to play catch-up in the wake of the pandemic.