Manufacturing AUTOMATION

COVID-19 Updates News Studies & Reports
Report: Ontario mold makers on the rebound, but challenges remain for cross-border business


The latest member survey conducted by Automate Canada and the Canadian Association of Mold Makers indicates a rebound is underway among manufacturers, despite difficulties still facing the industry.

According to a news release, for the second month in a row, 98 per cent of survey respondents say they have resumed their business operations. At the peak of the crisis, almost 20 per cent of respondents had temporarily closed their business.

Responses are voluntary and primarily from companies in the Southwestern Ontario region, which has a significant manufacturing, moldmaking and industrial automation cluster.

Having progressed from a reactionary mode early in this crisis to more long-term planning, the associations say that the July survey shows manufacturers are now putting plans and actions in place to ensure the long-term sustainability of their businesses.

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Profitability planning

The top concerns for manufacturing, based on the responses to this survey, are cash flow and a return to profitability in the face of declines in demand from their customers.

This is also supported by the employment numbers reported in this most recent survey. While hiring has resumed, permanent and temporary layoffs have also increased as manufacturers adjust staff numbers and skills of employees to align with demand. When the survey closed on Jul. 10, respondents had reported having 408 employees on temporary layoff, which was up over the previous month.

“We are a resilient industry. We have gone through tough times and this pandemic is no different,” says Mike Bilton, chair of CAMM. “We know we still have tough times ahead so we are working as an organization to build on how as a team we can move forward.”

The survey has shown the newly extended Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) has remained the most popular financial support program for businesses from the federal government.

Employers also report improvements in health and safety practices in the workplace, flexible work from home arrangements and collaboration among employees.

Cross-border challenges

Difficulties getting employees successfully into the U.S. has been a continued challenge for the mold makers, tool and die companies, and industrial automation firms who responded to the July survey and who are under pressure to resume projects with their U.S. customers. The border restrictions have impacted almost one-fifth of respondents.

The CAMM and Automate Canada boards continue to meet regularly, including twice a week as part of the Windsor-Essex COVID-19 Economic Task Force.

“These surveys, which we have now been conducting for the five months of this crisis, are an incredibly important window into what is happening on the ground in manufacturing,” says Shelley Fellows, chair of Automate Canada.

“I’m pleased to see the trend of improvement continuing for our sectors, however I recognize that there is still a long way to go to return to normalcy and growth. We are committed to supporting our members in that path and will focus on developing programs to help them.”

CAMM and Automate Canada have been assisted in the distribution of each week’s survey by the Canadian Tooling & Machining Association (CTMA).