2020 – tough and valuable lessons (December 2020)
The latest issue of WITTMANN’s “innovations” magazine has just hit the streets. There is plenty in it to interest, uplift and inform the plastics industry reader. Not least the editorial comment piece from Michael Wittmann. Michael’s assessment of the eventful year just gone is, as ever, straightforward, direct and something of a tonic at this time. There is so much constraint, uncertainty and doom mongering all around us that I wholeheartedly recommend that you find a copy of “innovations” online and read it through, if only to lift the spirits a little. For myself I have just a few points to add – lessons perhaps – that might help us on our way next year.
1. We survived. Many did not and will not. For all its ills the pandemic succeeded in stripping things down to the bone. It also redefined some fundamentals and essentials. Manufacturing – and its key role in preserving social interconnection, safety and cohesion – is one of those essentials.
2. General ignorance about manufacturing remains alarmingly high. In the early stages of global procurement panic, many – who should have known better – demonstrated an amazing ignorance about how things are actually made. Something that doesn’t yet exist – like PPE equipment – is not already lying in a warehouse. It needs to be specified, designed for manufacture, tooled, and then molded. All of which takes time, effort, creativity, brainpower and cost. If the 2020 pandemic has done nothing else, the continuing education of society and governments in this respect could and should be useful to all of us.
3. Plastics is health-preserving and life-saving. Although perhaps politically, we must not say so – at least not too loudly. The emergency manufacture and supply of gowns, screens, gloves, masks, and equipment of all kinds has been designed and made from various polymers with very little fuss and attracting scarcely any credit. Actions speak louder than words, and the performance of the plastics sector in this crisis has been exemplary.
4. There are plenty of other silver linings. The sensitivities, strengths and weaknesses of various global supply chains have been exposed. This is a good thing, since these chains can now be strengthened in the light of the pandemic. The impressive plastics industry performance in medicine and healthcare now bodes well for opportunities and new markets in modern industries such as electronics, telecoms, biopolymers and many other aspects of infrastructure.
In short, at this time of good will, there are actually some good reasons to be cheerful. The traditional Christmas message of hope and light in the darkness is perhaps needed more than ever. And so may I, as ever, wish all WITTMANN readers a very happy and peaceful holiday season, with optimism for the New Year.