Survey: Manufacturers worried about employee safety, sales decline

Posted on Apr 30, 2020 :: Insight on Manufacturing, Web Exclusive
Jessica Thiel
Posted by of Insight Publications

The top concerns for Wisconsin manufacturers include employee safety and health, sales decline and economic disruption, according to the results of a WMEP Manufacturing Solutions survey.

Manufacturing leaders and top executives representing 147 companies throughout the state completed the survey between April 21-27. It was aimed at identifying the impacts of COVID-19, learning the actions manufacturers are taking to combat the crisis and providing a benchmark against which manufacturers can gauge their response.

Key findings included:

  • Most manufacturers indicated their businesses are seeing negative impacts rather than positive compared to last year at this time. 37 percent of respondents described their current state of business as down greatly, 27 percent down significantly and 13 percent down somewhat. Just 3 percent described their position as up greatly, with 3 percent saying it’s up significantly and 6 percent saying it’s up somewhat.
  • Major steps companies have taken to respond to COVID-19 include deferring capital expenses (64 percent), reducing non-labor expenses (60 percent), increasing inventories of key supply items needed for production (48 percent), reducing working hours (46 percent) and instituting furloughs/unpaid time off (31 percent).
  • Top measures to reduce and prevent spread of the virus include implementing travel restrictions, symptom monitoring (including temperature taking), changing working hours, adding workplace restrictions such as limiting use of common areas like break rooms, and creating a COVID-19 response plan.
  • More than 88 percent of respondents said their company had logged no active cases of COVID-19, with 8 percent saying they had active cases reported with little to no active impact on business, 2.04 percent with active cases that led to partial shutdown for a period of time, and 0.68 percent with active cases leading to total shutdown.
  • The top primary concerns among respondents were employee health/safety, sales decline, economic collapse/disruption and state economic restrictions.
  • The top secondary concerns included materials sourcing, uncertain return timeline, sales decline and cashflow.
  • Reported positive effects of the situation included a validation of remote working effectiveness, improved operations and new product development opportunities.
  • The following were concerns for many manufacturers: falling order volumes (52 percent), future COVID-19 outbreaks (51 percent) and supply chain continuity (51 percent).
  • 40 percent characterized their business outlook as somewhat negative, with 18 percent describing it as very negative, 34 percent somewhat positive and 7 percent very positive.
  • After restrictions are lifted, most say their business will be somewhat worse than before (35 percent), with 32 percent saying it will be about the same as before, 21 percent saying somewhat better than before and 3 percent saying much better than before.
  • 33 percent predict it will take six to 12 months to normalize after restrictions are lifted, with 28 percent saying three to six months, 18 percent saying less than three months, and 22 percent saying more than 12 months.

WMEP will conduct a second survey May 19-26 and release the results via a webinar scheduled for 8 a.m. on June 2. In addition, the organization will offer two free upcoming webinars: “Reducing the Risk of COVID-19 to Operations and Employees” at 11:30 a.m. on May 11 and “Act Now, Plan to Leverage Opportunities” at 11:30 a.m. on May 18. Visit wmep.org for more information.