SME Study Looks at Impact of COVID-19 on Manufacturing Industry

Posted By: Chad Schron, Senior Director, Tooling U-SME on July 16, 2020

SME COVID-19 Study

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to sweep across the United States, there has been much speculation about its long-term impact on the manufacturing industry and the industry’s ability to recover.

In April, SME surveyed more than 700 manufacturing professionals to understand how their companies will begin to recover post-COVID-19.

At that time, according to the SME 2020 COVID-19 Future Outlook Study, over nine-in-10 respondents indicated their company was still operating in some capacity, with half of companies fully active. Only 8 percent of companies were completely shut down.

Survey highlights include the following:

  • 68% of manufacturing professional are optimistic about reaching pre-COVID levels of production by the end of 2020
  • 25% of manufacturing professionals plan to reshore production to the U.S.
  • 62% of manufacturing professionals plan to invest in newer industry 4.0 technology

Preparing for Recovery

Over two-thirds (68%) of respondents said they were optimistic the manufacturing industry will recover to its level of production pre-COVID by the end of 2020.

Today, we see some indicators that recovery has started as states begin to slowly open back up. For instance, at the end of June, the Big Three automakers are moving to resume pre-pandemic manufacturing schedules at their U.S. plants.

Manufacturers are moving cautiously to accommodate supply chain challenges. Some companies are diversifying supply sources to obtain the materials and parts they need.

The disruption appears to have longer-term repercussions. According to the COVID-19 Future Outlook Study, one quarter of respondents indicated that their company plans to reshore production to the U.S. Only 5 percent indicated they plan to outsource more production.

Companies are also facing human resources challenges as some workers are not comfortable returning to the production line due to coronavirus. Some furloughed skilled workers near retirement age may decide not to return at all. 

Based on CDC guidance, companies are focused on putting in place new protocols to ensure employee safety like social distancing measures, worker screenings, and additional cleaning/sanitation procedures.

Reshoring, new hires, updated procedures, increased production — a formal, standardized manufacturing training program for both new and incumbent workers is more important than ever.


More Technology and Industry 4.0

Add one more challenge to the mix: technology. Pushed by the pandemic to creatively address production issues, companies are accelerating the move to Industry 4.0.

According to the SME survey, three-in-five (62%) indicated their companies plan to invest in at least one technology such as Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing, Robotics, Video & Cloud Services, Wireless Connectivity and Digital Security post-COVID-19, with most planning to invest in two.

This is great news for the industry as technology helps boost productivity, safety and quality.

Again, training is a critical element of this digital upgrade to ensure your teams — and equipment — are working to their full potential.


Manufacturing Training Programs

As you move forward addressing this changing manufacturing environment, we are here to help you assess and design learning and development programs to ensure you remain competitive at this crucial time in history.

Tags: "3D Printing", "Additive Manufacturing", "Big Three automakers", CDC, COVID-19, "COVID-19 Future Outlook Study", "Digital Security", "Industry 4.0", manufacturing, "manufacturing training", onboarding, Robotics, SME, "surge hiring", "Tooling U-SME", "Video & Cloud Services", "Wireless Connectivity"