COVID-19 update: Pandemic impact and response

Feb. 3, 2021

With U.S. demand down and capacity coming on line in Asia, China is poised to become the world’s largest oil refiner in 2021, according to Bloomberg. “The COVID-19 crisis has hastened a seismic shift in the global refining industry as demand for plastics and fuels grows in China and the rest of Asia, where economies are quickly rebounding from the pandemic,” reported Saket Sundria, Gerson Freitas Jr. and Rachel Graham. “In contrast, refineries in the U.S. and Europe are grappling with a deeper economic crisis, while the transition away from fossil fuels dims the long-term outlook for oil demand.”

The Chicago-based digital manufacturing institute, MxD, was awarded $15 million to boost U.S. manufacturing’s COVID-19 response. The CARES Act funding through the U.S. Dept. of Defense will help address critical public health and infrastructure needs and support manufacturing as it mobilizes in response to COVID-19. MxD’s programs will focus on supply chain resilience and transparency, rapid and secure medical device deployment, and pharmaceutical industry production optimization.

In response to the growing need for socially distanced project execution services, Honeywell Process Solutions completed a fully remote control system migration for Hungarian pharmaceutical manufacturer Richter Gedeon Plc. The first of its kind migration project—deployed at Richter’s production facility in Dorog, northwest of Budapest—involved updating a Honeywell Experion PKS R431.5 control system to the latest R511.3 release. The Honeywell service team executed the migration tasks using limited resources allowed on site and completed the work during strict schedule constraints associated with a plant shutdown.

“Honeywell’s Remote Migration Services will help us reduce total cost of ownership, increase production rates, extend the life and performance of their systems and improve response to changing business demands,” said Csaba Ódor, deputy head of investment, Richter Gedeon.

Pandemic market conditions will boost adoption of AR/VR technologies while slowing 5G uptake, according to studies released by research firm MarketsandMarkets. The augmented and virtual reality markets are projected to grow at a 38% and 28% annual clip, respectively, through 2025. The report cites increasing demand for AR devices and applications in healthcare, retail and e-commerce as key factors driving AR growth. More affordable VR devices and growing adoption of head-mounted displays in different industries were cited as reasons for VR market growth. Meanwhile, growth in the 5G Infrastructure market is expected to slow from 29% to 23% annually due to pandemic conditions, a still-healthy rate driven by exponential rises in data traffic, the need for high data transfer rates with low latency, and rising adoption of IoT and machine-to-machine connectivity across various industries.

Citing a critical mass of automation products for life sciences manufacturers, Festo announced that it now offers COVID-19 diagnostic and testing device manufacturers a one-stop-shop for essential automation solutions, including systems for decapping, kinematic sample-handling, and fluid dispensing. This critical mass of life sciences automation products from Festo will enable device manufacturers to bring products designated for pandemic-related diagnostics and testing to market faster and with less engineering overhead. “The pandemic has created an urgent need to ramp up development and production of high-speed diagnostic and testing equipment,” said Craig Correia, director of life science, Festo North America. “Festo is not only expanding its range of product and system solutions, but also is allocating resources in terms of custom engineering and assembly.”