A straw poll of business leaders from the manufacturing sector has shown that 66% have witnessed a slump in productivity with 75% furloughing workers in order to keep costs down. However, while the report reveals a major challenge ahead in the sector, several UK manufacturing businesses are finding new ways to keep production going.
In addition to gathering this quantitative data, money.co.uk also asked a sample group of UK manufacturers about how they are continuing to operate whilst still protecting their staff from the threat of COVID-19. The responses from the manufacturing community were as varied as they were illuminating.
At one end of the spectrum, a food manufacturing plant boss said they had no choice but to “close all operations”. However, for one valve manufacturer, a can-do attitude of “masks and smiles” was proving enough to keep the wheels of industry rolling. For the vast majority of manufacturers though, working from home and rotational shift patterns for shop floor workers have proven the most effective measures.
“Those that have the possibility to work from home do so”, said one steam equipment manufacturer, “and those working from the manufacturing facility undergo a quick health screening prior to entering the building”. Elsewhere, other effective strategies included shielding over-60s, reduced staffing levels, split shifts, consolidated shipments and furloughing up to half the workforce at any one time.
For a specialist sensor manufacturer at least, the crisis has presented an unexpected opportunity. “We are soon to implement an online webinar and training platform for our customers in reaction to COVID-19”, they said. “This may actually prove to be a long-term service for customers if it is successful. We would not have done this had COVID-19 not forced us to respond to the ban on face-to-face customer meetings”.
Money.co.uk’s research also shed light on the biggest challenges currently facing British manufacturers. Unsurprisingly, “cash flow” and a “drop in sales” were among the chief concerns, with one valve and instrumentation supplier even revealing that customers were actively withholding payment on pre-crisis invoices, until normal business resumes.
For others, worries extended beyond the stress of money woes into more practical areas. These concerns ranged from “international shipment delays and costs” to “reduced air travel impacting cargo space availability”, as well as key contacts being unavailable through furlough and the constant pressure of trying to “do the right thing”.
Based on the research, money.co.uk has summarised the top five activities that UK manufacturing business leaders will be investing in, to ensure their operations can continue throughout this crisis and beyond.
- Using the time to engage with customers and understanding what their future pain points are likely to be - developing product and service offerings that specifically address their needs
- With exhibitions and face-to-face demonstrations off the agenda, manufacturers are turning to digital media to showcase their products and capabilities
- Understanding how technology can be utilised to provide a virtual presence in customers’ plants and facilities
- Segmenting customer bases and understanding which customers have vital operations that can be assisted with
- Planning financially and understanding what help is available from the government to navigate this crisis.
In response to the survey, money.co.uk has created its own business interruption loan guide with all the answers manufacturing businesses need to gain access to vital government aid during the COVID-19 crisis.