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Engineering impact on COVID-19

How are engineers applying what they’ve learned to help during the COVID-19 pandemic? See six ways automation and control engineering industry knowledge can help.

Engineering support extends to automation, controls and instrumentation to help with COVID-19 responses.

  1. Hands-off production:In general automation and controls enable production without humans, maintaining, quality, consistency,safety and throughput at high levels to help sustain critical supply chains. Sensors measure, send signals to controllers, which make decisions, and tell an actuator what to do. Secure networks transmit information, and software optimizes processes. Laboratory automation increases testing throughput.

  2. Automation upgrades to separate humans: System integrators and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are examiningdesigns of machines and lines to add separation between humans where possible by integrating more robotics (stationary, mobile, and collaborative), wireless secure human-machine interfaces (HMIs) and smarter software to lower risk.

  3. Smarter supply chain management: Automation can help with part management, kitting, delivery, looking at where materials and parts are manufacturedand mitigating risk of future supply chain disruption. Some manufacturing locations may shift to mitigate riskwith reshoring initiatives; doing so creates opportunities to redesign and improve processes and apply more automation and controls to augment efficiencies in the new location.

  4. Sensors and instrumentationand analytics: A myriad of measurements and data analytics go into a pandemic response. Appropriate applications of sensors and instrumentation, secure networks and data analytics present newopportunities for smarter responses.

  5. Automated 3D printing: From maker-space help with personal-protective equipment (PPE) to rapid partcreation and replacement during supply chain interruptions, 3D design and manufacturing is helping;automation and motion controls also help with these applications.

  6. Artificial intelligence applied to logistics support: Analytics software can be applied to track hot spots of need during a pandemic and anticipate logistics requirements, similar to rerouting resources during large-scale weather emergencies.

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