Chinese manufacturers taking the lead in COVID-19 recovery, followed by Europe and the US


As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the globe and governments take different approaches to tackling the virus, Ease, the provider of mobile audit and insights software for manufacturers, has released exclusive findings, using its own plant floor insights to monitor manufacturing activity across different countries since the COVID-19 outbreak.

The manufacturing industry, and the global supply chains that support it, have been the hardest hit throughout the crisis. Certain sectors, such as consumables and other packaged goods, have seen an upswing in activity in recent months. In contrast, other industries, including aerospace and automotive manufacturers and their associated suppliers have seen a marked decline. What makes the COVID-19 pandemic so influential is the sheer breadth and scale of the potential impact, and those that rely on supplies from critically impacted countries have been hit especially hard.

Since the start of the pandemic in January, China has been the quickest country to resume activity, with its total plant floor audits back up to 60% capacity within five weeks from when operations were at their lowest during the outbreak. When compared to Europe, which has taken eight weeks and Mexico and the US central taking nine weeks, it is clear that the restrictions put in place by different governments have had a significant impact on regional recovery rates. 

With the WTO predicting a fall in global trade between 13% – 32% in 2020, the quarantines, travel restrictions and closures imposed by different countries have disrupted normal economic activity across the globe. The US East Coast followed a similar pattern to Europe with both regions returning their auditing rates to 60% during the first week of June. In comparison, the US central didn’t drop its auditing rate below 40% during the whole period of 1 January to 1 June 2020 and has recovered rapidly when compared to Europe and other parts of the US. 

Most companies, even those with solid contingency plans in place, are updating operation and policies daily. Further findings from Ease show that some manufacturing facilities were auditing for COVID-19 specific process compliances e.g. social distancing, as early as March. The audits with COVID-19 specific questions more than doubled during the month of May as manufacturing plants began to re-open, with 16,000 COVID-19 related audits conducted in comparison to the 6000 audits that were carried out in April.  

As China continues to fast-track its road to recovery, it is now exceeding the previous number of audits conducted at the beginning of the year. In fact, it is nearly 50% higher than the pre-COVID-19 impact, with auditing levels reaching 150% as of 1 June 2020. 

As the effects of coronavirus unfold, manufacturers are asking what actions are needed to ensure business continuity whilst demonstrating compliance. With plant shutdowns having already inflicted multi-million-losses on many organisations, manufacturers are feeling the pressure to prepare for the rebound and how to increase their manufacturing and supply systems’ resilience.

Auditing software will not only provide an overview of the plant floor as a whole, looking at how operations are being conducted, but it will also indicate employee’s safety. Mobile COVID-19 audit software makes the process simpler by allowing team members to complete checklists on a mobile device, documenting verification activities and providing real-time information on hidden problems. This last piece is critical from a liability perspective, as companies will have little defence if it can be shown that the company ignored safety issues.

“While manufacturers fight the daily impact of COVID-19 on operations, they must also be cognizant of other opportunities to limit or mitigate the risk” said Eric Stoop, CEO at Ease. “The case for digital transformation has never been stronger, allowing manufacturers to achieve greater levels of efficiency with fewer resources. As we ramp back up, manufacturers will need to rethink how they have organised their processes, their supply chains, and look at the critical gaps they have in their digital infrastructure. The ability to readily share and analyse operations and real-time data will significantly alleviate some of this pressure, by providing deeper insights into what is happening on the plant floor and how assets are being used. Advanced analytics have the ability to provide a more detailed, accurate and up-to-date picture of plant operations, giving companies a fighting chance of emerging from the crisis with operations that are safer, compliant and more resilient.”

Many manufacturers are beginning to come out of the survival stage of the pandemic and into a recovery phase, giving them time to learn lessons from the crisis. Businesses will be able to use this opportunity to make significant changes to their operations in order to ensure they are more resilient and agile in the future.

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