RI Manufacturing Leaders Say Workforce AND Technology Needed to “Reboot” Manufacturing Post-COVID

Polaris MEP Survey Explores What Is Required to Accelerate Manufacturing Sector Recovery

Providence, RI – July 27, 2020 – A new poll by Polaris MEP shows Sales continue to be the greatest challenge currently facing the Rhode Island’s manufacturers. The survey also explored what it would take to accelerate the recovery of the sector, with half of respondents saying Workforce would be the key to bouncing back to pre-COVID19 conditions.

“What manufacturers need from the support network falls into two main areas: Workforce and Technology,” said Christian Cowan, Polaris MEP Center Director. “More automated equipment and more skilled people would help our manufacturers get not just back to business, but back to better.”

Polaris MEP, an affiliate of the national Manufacturing Extension Partnership, provides competitive business improvement programs to Rhode Island’s manufacturing industry. The survey was a follow-up to a previous poll of owners and CEOs conducted in late April, 2020.

If state funding were to become available, 60% of manufacturing leaders said they would use some of it for training their Workforce and 67% would apply some of the financing to purchases of Technology such as advanced machinery or software.

Asked for their thoughts on “Re-Shoring,” responses were varied. The majority pointed to Workforce as a factor required for successfully bringing manufacturing back to Rhode Island. “We need more skilled labor, more people with mechanical abilities,” said one manufacturer.

Additional highlights of the survey of CEOs/owners include:

  • 37% of respondents said that it would take less than a month for their company to return to “business as usual,” were COVID-19 to disappear today. This was an increase of six percentage points from the May survey.

43% predicted it would take more than three months (vs. 42% in late April).

  • 53% of manufacturing business leaders said that Sales had been most affected by the pandemic, down from 60% in the previous survey.

Accordingly, 30% said that a Market Rebound was needed for manufacturing to recover more quickly.

  • Operations was reported as a “most affected” area by 4% of respondents in late April; this rose to 17% with the July survey.

“I’m proud of our nimble Rhode Island manufacturers, bringing back more workers, ramping up production and still following state health guidance,” noted David Chenevert, Executive Director, Rhode Island Manufacturers Association. “It’s not surprising that Operations would be an increasing challenge as they meet the growing demands of COVID.”

Chenevert said that manufacturers continue to honor the RIMA Pledge put in place during the early days of the pandemic, committing to plant safety. Cowan said many also are working with Polaris MEP engineers on distancing and PPE solutions as needed.

About Polaris MEP

Polaris MEP provides competitive business improvement programs to grow Rhode Island’s manufacturing industry. Polaris MEP is a statewide nonprofit organization. An affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP), the consultancy is a business unit of URI Ventures (formerly, the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation). www.PolarisMEP.org

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