Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Survey: Ont. manufacturers focusing on diversification, profitability

August 20, 2020
By Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Diversification plans are on the agenda as many manufacturers rebound from the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, says the latest survey conducted by the Canadian Association of Moldmakers (CAMM) and Automate Canada.

Exploring opportunities in new industry sectors – like medical equipment, other segments of the automotive industry, aerospace, and food and beverage – was listed as a priority among respondents, along with expansion into new export markets such as Mexico and South America.

“We know our industry is resilient,” says Mike Bilton, CAMM board chair.

“We were hit hard but, we were ready with a strong team on our board, with Automate Canada and with our local economic development organization. Many of our members are still struggling, some are rebounding, and some are thriving. We now are looking ahead to ensure we get back on track even stronger, by applying what we’ve learned to date.”

The associations have been conducting monthly impact surveys of the industrial automation, mold making and tool and die sectors following weekly check-ins during the first few months of the pandemic

In the August survey, the top concerns for manufacturing are border restrictions and a return to profitability given pressures from a weakening economy.

One hundred per cent of respondents reported that they had resumed operations. The number of employees on temporary layoff also dropped to a six-month low and the number of employees on furlough dropped precipitously from an average of 400 each month to under 20.

The number of new RFQs is now consistently higher than the number of programs being cancelled. Sixty-six of respondents
reported receiving new RFQs in the August survey, down from the 77 per cent of respondents reported in July.

A recent webinar held in partnership with the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation attracted over 100 attendees from the industrial automation and mold making, sectors, providing information on border issues from representatives of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Eighty per cent of manufacturers have begun planning for a second wave of COVID-19 and are focusing on improving profitability.

“Our survey program has allowed us to be the voice for our industries, reporting concerns and needs to all levels of government,” says Shelley Fellows, chair of Automate Canada. “The information provided to us has been invaluable in shaping our responses to this crisis.”

During the early days of the pandemic, many manufacturers halted or slowed operations and laid off large numbers of employees, using government programs like the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to preserve employee numbers and protect cash flow.

Six months in to the crisis, manufacturers have resumed operations, returned employees to the workplace and have focused on planning for doing business in a greatly altered landscape, with access to their most important export market – the United States – hampered due to border closures.

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