4 Smart Manufacturing Shifts: Adapting During COVID-19 & Beyond
Shift #1


This is installment #1 in Spiroflow’s 4-part blog series: “Making Manufacturing Shifts: Adapting During COVID-19 & Beyond” In this blog, we will provide an overview of COVID-related impacts to industrial manufacturing and address the first shift: modifying production lines for new products. 

The overall impact of the coronavirus outbreak to global industrial manufacturing has been a reduction in demand and a resulting decline in production output. But select industries – food & beverage, snack foods, pharmaceuticals and chemicals – are now faced with the opposite problem: finding a way to increase production and packaging capacity – all while keeping workers safe and adhering to regulations and restrictions. 

Cleaning supplies, toilet paper, dry goods, frozen foods and snack foods – these are just a few examples of products that have been in high demand as a result of quarantine purchasing behaviors. And as a result of sudden demand not planned for, manufacturers are struggling to keep pace. Adding to the 24/7 challenge are staffing concerns and compliance with social distancing and stay-at-home orders. 

In talking with Spiroflow customers, we have identified 4 common challenges that require operational changes on the site floor. 

ShiftOperational Adaptation 
1- Stay-at-home economy/changes in product demand 1 – Modify production line to process a different product (eg. distilleries now producing hand sanitizer) 
2 – 24/7 increased production 2 – Increase capacity of existing production line via equipment upgrades (eg. upgrade conveyor for higher throughput) 
3 – Adherence to social distancing protocols 3 – Remote site management via equipment monitoring software and IIoT technology 
4 – Commercial to household product demand4 – Modification of packaging lines for small packaging capabilities

Shift #1: Modifying Existing Production Lines for a Different Product 

Through our series, we will examine each shift in terms of: industry examples, benefits, expectations for time needed to make the modification, safety and compliance. Today we will take a closer look at shift #1: modifying existing production lines in order to process a different product. 

Why would I modify my production line during COVID?

If COVID regulations and conditions mean that product orders have dried up, your business may want to evaluate cost-effective modifications that can be made to your existing production line and begin manufacturing an in-demand product. 

For example, Spiroflow has worked with a number of distilleries who have modified their production line to produce hand sanitizer. In Japan, Sharp electronics has started making surgical masks at production facilities previously used to manufacture LCD display panels. Clothing manufacturers are shifting from normal clothing items to producing hospital gowns. There are many other modifications being made on global production lines to adapt to changing demand. 

Keep in mind that some modifications may mean sourcing new materials or ingredients, which may prove challenging and require guidance on testing. Please contact Spiroflow to discuss modification options.

I need to keep my operation running 24/7. How much downtime can I expect while equipment modifications are made?

Our team is dedicated to getting permanent installations up and running as quickly as possible, but our flexible, mobile conveying systems allow us to modify your production line even faster. While installation times vary by operation, a simple modification, such as a conveyor upgrade or addition of a bulk bag filler can take place in under a day, in some cases in as little as a few hours. Spiroflow manufactures 9 sizes of flexible screw conveyors to easily fit your existing process. 

This means less downtime when you most need your operation to continue without interruption. 

Will I need to update my control systems with modification?

Quite possibly. It is something you should evaluate as part of the modification. For an equipment-only upgrade there may only need to be a slight modification or no change at all to your control systems. Mobile equipment options can include integral control panels so that they can truly be unpacked for fast, “plug and play” capability. For more complex modifications, control systems modifications may be necessary. Call Spiroflow to talk to a control systems engineer to evaluate your specific requirements. 

How can I ensure that my operational changes meet new worker, product safety and compliance standards?

Some production line modifications may be able to be made without the need for an on-site vendor visit. In this case equipment is ordered and shipped to your site, after which your crew assembles the project package.

In the event that installation, layout assistance or an installation inspection is needed on site, make sure to send your equipment vendor any COVID-19 specific safety protocols, requirements, restrictions or procedures before they arrive. 

For our own Spiroflow staff, we make sure to reach out in advance to understand your site’s specific safety requirements. Once we arrive on site, we follow your guidelines strictly. Communication on safety protocols prior to the site visit is the key for ensuring worker safety while vendors work to install and commission new equipment on site. 

How do I create the most value from equipment purchased for production modification after COVID events?

Ensuring that you purchase flexible, mobile equipment can mean getting the most out of your investment. When making equipment purchases for COVID-related modifications, look for equipment that can be reused to improve your existing operations when things return to normal. 

Don’t forget, any changes to products can be assessed in our test labs at our production facilities to get your modification right the first time. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 in our Making Manufacturing Shifts Series, Increase the capacity of your existing production line via equipment upgrades, coming soon!