Survey: Hoosier manufacturers expect to weather COVID storm

"Welding" by John Kline, License

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business): A new survey suggests many Hoosier manufacturers believe their business will survive the impact of the pandemic.

The 2020 Indiana Manufacturing Survey: COVID-19 Special Edition says while Indiana’s manufacturing industry took a hit early in the pandemic, it seems to be bouncing back toward a strong end to the year. More than 100 Indiana-based companies responded to the survey, many of which said they have “increased confidence” in supply chain, safe working environments, and flexible work practices heading into the new year.

The study was conducted by Indianapolis-based Katz, Sapper & Miller in conjunction with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business at IUPUI and the Indiana Manufacturers Association.

Mark Frohlich, associate professor of operations and supply chain management at the Kelley School, tells Inside INdiana Business the survey showed some companies experiencing hardship while others saw improved business.

“We’ve all been hearing how COVID’s been kind of a story of two different worlds and that’s something that certainly came through this year in the study,” said Frohlich. “Thirty-one percent of the Hoosier manufacturers reported very little trouble in terms of their market and their business. Sixty-two percent said they had major problems but they thought they would survive and then 7% said it was devastating, really threatening their survival.”

Jason Patch, partner-in-charge of KSM’s Manufacturing and Distribution Services Group, says another key takeaway from the survey was the impact of federal and state assistance on manufacturers. Nearly 45% of respondents cited the federal Paycheck Protection Program as the primary reason their businesses were able to continue operating.

“PPP was a game-changer for many of our clients as they were able to shift production, keep employees safe and on the payroll, and adjust supply chain needs accordingly,” said Patch. “According to the survey, the program played a key role in manufacturing companies feeling very supported by the federal government during the pandemic.”

The survey also showed the importance of supply chain management to the manufacturers’ efforts to weather the pandemic. Nearly 77% of respondents said their supply chain partners were able to maintain industry-standard performance, however, they acknowledged the pandemic could still have long-term effects.

“The question might be are there going to be significant changes with regard to how people look at and conduct their supply chain?” said Patch. “The thing I keep going back to is I feel like the survey says maybe there won’t be as much change as we would’ve guessed, but I think what you are going to see is manufacturing companies making sure that they don’t only have a Plan A, but they also have a Plan B and a Plan C…making sure that if we did have to go through something like this again, that we have alternatives.”

Frohlich adds the survey also highlighted the importance of workforce and automation for manufacturers. He says previous surveys showed companies making increased investments in advanced technologies.

“I was curious earlier this year would the pandemic and market and budget concerns and those kinds of things slow down that pace? And I think, if anything, you could say based on what we found this fall…it’s probably been accelerated and I think that there is a real interest now in automating processes,” said Frohlich. “Going forward, I think there’s going to be even more automation just to make workers that much more productive (and) support them in their work.”

Looking forward, Frohlich says the majority of respondents were optimistic about the future.

You can view the full survey by clicking here.

The results of the survey were presented during the IMA’s 2020 Manufacturers Hall of Fame event, which was held virtually this year. The event also featured the announcement of this year’s Manufacturing Excellence Award, which include:

Manufacturer of the Year: Zimmer Biomet, Warsaw

Manufacturing Talent Champion: Ivy Tech Community College, Indianapolis
Lifetime Achievement: James E. Brown of BCI Solutions, Inc., Bremen
COVID-19 Response Champion: Heritage Environmental Services, Indianapolis

The IMA also announced the newest inductees into the Indiana Manufacturers Hall of Fame, which include:

Duke Energy Indiana LLC, Plainfield

Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, MI
FRATCO Inc., Francesville
Glas-Col LLC, Terre Haute
Indiana Michigan Power, Fort Wayne
MPI Corp., Indianapolis
Muncie Power Products Inc., Muncie
Vibromatic Co. Inc., Noblesville
Winamac Coil Spring Inc., Kewanna

“The goal of the IMA Manufacturers Hall of Fame and Manufacturing Excellence Awards is to celebrate and recognize the positive achievements made by Indiana manufacturing companies, and to honor their contributions in furthering manufacturing in Indiana,” said IMA Chief Executive Officer Brian Burton. “As the most manufacturing-intensive state in the nation, Indiana employs nearly 20% of the Indiana workforce – more than 545,000 employees. Additionally, Indiana manufacturing continues to be one of the highest paying industry sectors in the state, and accounts for nearly 30% of Indiana’s total GDP.”

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