Reuters recently (on September 15th) announced reports on the manufacturing industry that showcased four consecutive months of growth following a stagnant, pandemic fueled period that marred the overall market for basically the first half of 2020. So, again, good news is we’ve seen more growth with data showing that manufacturing production rose 1% in August, which was preceded by 3.9% of growth in July. Numbers are obviously still way down across the board, but we’ve seen some recovery.
That said, economists warn that we could be faced with another downturn in production and revenues as Fall begins to set in and the feared Covid spread, which remained at relative bay during the summer months – is on the path of resurrection as colder temperatures take precedence and viruses begin to make their push once again.
So, what can we do?
It’s easy to sit back, buckle in, and hope for the best while navigating the ride. However, “easy,” doesn’t pave the way to greener pastures. As we came off of the first major pandemic surge, we learned new things about setting up our floors differently and working to make our shops safer working environments for all parties involved, including post-production and shipping methods… We heard numerous accounts of businesses completely redoing their layout of their operations to make way for distancing practices and opening up spaces for easier accessibility related to sanitation and overall cleanliness. Good strides.
As we move our way towards another potential wave of this collective Covid nightmare, it’s not too late to plot for flexibility. How can you best utilize the tools, machines, and human resources at your disposal to reimagine what you can offer in a pinch. When Covid hit the first time, major upticks in cleaning supplies and PPE devices/wears were experienced throughout the global economy. Manufacturing facilities couldn’t keep up with the demand. So while other parts of the industry were down, some were way up.
The question is, how can you best position yourself to transition into a spot where you can help produce in a state of emergency? If the demand ceases to exist for your specific area of expertise for a short period of time, can you not adopt another mode of production to keep your operation solvent through tricky times? Obviously this isn’t easy and it probably easier said than done, but, it’s something you need to be thinking about as a shop owner and/or employee. Being creative and quick to the punch is going to keep things afloat when the going gets weird.
According to a statement:
“It is looking increasingly like the recovery in factory production will stall in coming months if no one from Washington is going to ride to the rescue with another pandemic stimulus package,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York. “The coronavirus has made the public cautious and this uncertainty is keeping factories from opening back up completely.”
So, what can we do to ride the predicted second wave of this inopportune storm?
Flexibility is key. Start thinking about ways you can creatively utilize your resources to help other sectors of the industry that will inevitably become bogged down with overloaded demand, and start marketing that you’re available to help wherever help is needed. Sure, it might be uncomfortable, but, it’s doable with a little forethought and a lot of action.
And while we’re talking about “worst case scenarios,” (in a roundabout way), don’t forget to keep supply chain bogs in mind as we enter another period of uncertainty. To borrow from an article we put out back in August:
Domestically diversify network of sources for job critical components and production materials. Many of you that are turning the pages here already do this. And that’s likely the very reason you’re thumbing through – to find specialized partners to fulfil components of a greater task/job that you either don’t have the inhouse bandwidth for, or prefer to source out to focus on other pieces and parts that make up the inherent hole. Either way, this is a good thing. It’s the whole “putting all your eggs in one basket” situation. In this time of pandemic, if a shop closed and it was the one shop you placed all your eggs in, where would you be? Some people are experiencing this exact situation, and it’s not a comfortable place to be in. Scrambling to find that second option in a dire time will often prove to be an unfruitful exercise. Plan well, and, if you don’t have a plan at all, consider it. Alliances are good things – especially in a time of hardship.
Consider strategic overflow / safety stock. We know, we know. Space is at a premium in all the work that we do. And, further, a big part of the reason we’re outsourcing pieces/components of a greater production task is because we just don’t have the means and/or space to store all the different variables that go in to creating whatever the specific job is. That said, it’s not a bad idea to consider, where feasible, to increase capacity – whether that’s vertical storage solutions, or an additional “storage locker” of space to put an “emergency” influx of raw material/stock so we’ll have it in a time where (and when) the supply chain shuts down. We live in an on demand culture, but sometimes that line of thinking doesn’t yield desirable/realistic results. There’s value in reserves – which has never been more proven than right now.
Keep it “local.” If we can help it, let’s try to keep the work in our own domestic walls. If it’s feasible to be able to flex our collective operative missives and adapt to indefinite ebbs and flows of strange manufacturing demands, we should. Work together with your competition and partners to hit this thing head on. Keeping things in our collective (domestic) house, will, with some luck, keep us all financially viable and our heads above water. At the end of the day, we need to hold each other up in order to see our usual manufacturing processes and integrity through to the other side of the storm.
With all this said, if indeed another chapter in the Covid Chronicles comes to fruition, the ultimate operative optic is to ensure the safety of the people accessing your facility on a daily basis. Keep your employees – your extended family – healthy during times of unease (and always for that matter…)
There are ways to keep your employees healthy without entirely cutting off the manufacturing process.
- Provide bolstered sanitation products and tools
- Hand sanitizer
- Plenty of soap
- Plenty of paper towels
- Put a policy in place to “clean up” with regard to personal hygiene and machine/tool sanitation. Keeping the floor clean will deter the spread of germs.
- Consider reconfiguring the layout of your floor to ensure appropriate “distancing” measures.
- Be cautious of incoming and outgoing packages. Wipe them down before handling, and, employ the standard of wearing gloves.
- If you can handle some of your processes remotely under the guise of properly functioning technology resources, use them. The more people you can keep productive “offsite,” the better.
- Communicate. Strong communicative lines is going to equal stronger bonds – from your internal and external teams, to your customers and shipping contacts.
Don’t fear, persevere. Together we can keep America’s manufacturing sector strong, and prosperous. Keep an open mind, and get yourself prepared for what could be coming. And if it doesn’t, well, at least there’s a plan in place that will keep continuity moving if another pandemic comes unexpectedly down the pipeline. If nothing else, Covid-19 has taught us that we absolutely need to stay on our toes. There’s no comfort in remining stagnant and flatfooted because your “normal” can change overnight, or rather, in the blink of an eye…