Technology-industry professionals are used to things changing quickly, but the changes that have occurred in life and business during the past few weeks thanks to the COVID-19 virus are nothing short of astonishing. Just earlier this month in the U.S., it was business as usual, but, today, entire industries have been brought to their knees. The economy has taken a drastic turn, and sometimes it seems like anarchy has ensued, as individuals fight over supplies and politicians point fingers at each other for not doing more sooner. It’s still very much an evolving situation, but, so far, how are manufacturers coping with the various consequences of the coronavirus pandemic?
Recently, the NAM (National Assn. of Manufacturers) conducted a survey of 558 respondents to better understand the industry impact of COVID-19 up to this point. At the time of the survey (late February through early March), 35.5% of manufacturing firms said they were already facing supply chain disruptions, but a majority (53%) of respondents said they anticipated change in the coming months. More than 78% said that uncertainty around the COVID-19 outbreak is likely to have a negative financial impact on their businesses.
Supply chain disruptions often came in the form of parts arriving late, pushing back manufacturers’ own timetables and creating some additional costs. Some manufacturers noted they’ve already had to find alternative suppliers. While most respondents seem to categorize disruptions as manageable or minor, the sense among respondents was that things would probably get worse. For instance, NAM says respondents anticipated reduced customer demand and the need to re-evaluate work schedules amid an influx of requests for employees to work from home. Manufacturers are also trying to grapple with the need to stagger shifts and manage “higher-than-normal” absences due to the virus. Half of NAM’s respondents (50.8%) said they have an emergency-response plan, while the other half of respondents (49.2%) said they do not have an emergency-response plan.
In response to the pandemic and the survey, NAM released a policy action plan on March 9, which was revised on March 18 to include expanded measures. Most notably, the association is calling on the federal government to create a “Manufacturing Resiliency Fund,” which would include $1.4 trillion in loans to provide liquidity to manufacturers and small businesses. The updated and expanded COVID-19 Policy Action Plan Recommendations also identifies five key policy areas where NAM says legislative and administrative action would help combat COVID-19 and future public health emergencies. These five policy areas include recognizing manufacturers’ critical role in the COVID-19 response, protecting manufacturers from insolvency, ensuring economic security for manufacturing workers, reducing regulatory burdens, and setting the stage for economic growth.
No industry remains untouched during this time of great uncertainty and change. Manufacturers were already starting to feel the pressure of the crisis early this month, arguably before the situation really began spiraling into whatever it is now. NAM’s efforts to protect manufacturing could go a long way in making the eventual recovery from the pandemic easier and more successful. Many people and many businesses are hurting in the wake of this terrible virus. It’s hard to imagine businesses going forward will operate without an emergency response plan that takes pandemics into consideration.