Ending a four-month decline following the COVID-19 crisis, the US manufacturing industry finally began to stabilize in May. The recent survey from the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) shows that the Purchasing Managers’ Index inched up last month to 43.1 (from 41.5 in April).
While the index continues to be in a contraction zone, it has climbed up from 11-year lows. As many as six manufacturing sectors showed signs of growth in May, even though demand continues to remain uncertain. Although the data is still weak, the early signs of improvement are largely in sync with the idea that reopening the economy in various areas is helping to boost manufacturing activity to some extent.
Philadelphia Manufacturers – The Worst May be Getting Over
Manufacturers in and around the Philadelphia region have experienced severe supply chain disruptions since March of this year. Like most other sectors and geographies, Philadelphia manufacturing companies were forced to reduce their staffing levels following the COVID-19 restrictions and shutdowns.
A survey in early March revealed that about 73 percent of the middle market manufacturers in Philadelphia said that their supply chains would be impacted by coronavirus.
While the virus was at its peak, Boeing was forced to shut its manufacturing facility outside Philadelphia for two weeks after some of the workers tested positive for COVID-19. The factory, which is a prime hub for the manufacturing of military rotorcraft, went through a deep clean phase before it could safely reopen.
However, as of today, considering the encouraging job data and the gradual improvements in consumption and demand, the manufacturing sector in Philadelphia should see the start of better times. Pennsylvania, as well as the rest of the country, should now start focusing on leveraging the inherent opportunities for its manufacturing sector.
A market analyst at Infiniti Research said that manufacturers should now start preparing to compete in the future rather than attempting to maintain status quo or recreating the past. Kane Partners LLC, a premier manufacturing recruiter in Philadelphia, is working with various manufacturers and engineering professionals to meet the current employment demands in the most effective way.
Changing Face of the US Manufacturing Industry
The manufacturing industry in the US now is significantly different from what it was just a decade ago. The output growth in manufacturing during these years has been primarily concentrated in a handful of industries, such as aerospace, pharmaceuticals, and electronics.
Although the sector has faced headwinds due to global competition, some of the biggest American manufacturers have continued to thrive. People speculate that many jobs will be leaving China and coming back to the U.S. because of the manner in which China handled the virus. However, smaller and medium manufacturing units across the country, as well as in Philadelphia and other parts of the state, have been facing the heat.
Combination of Right Policies and Right Technologies
The COVID-19 crisis has allowed time for the industry to reflect on why it lost manufacturing to China and other global competitors. With renewed support and commitment from the government, “Made in America” can once again occupy a pride of place. With the right labor policies and promotion of local talent, small and mid-sized manufacturers in Philadelphia and elsewhere can once again begin to thrive.
In comparison to countries such as South Korea, Japan, and Germany, the US manufacturing industry has been slower to adopt cutting-edge technologies and robotics. It is time for manufacturers across the country to consider upgrades and replacements of older machinery and equipment with advanced technologies in order to improve operations and create globally competitive products.