How manufacturers can lessen the impact of future coronavirus lockdowns

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the manufacturing sector unevenly. Some parts of the industry, such as aerospace and automotive, are facing the bleakest outlook in living memory. But others are thriving, with demand increasing for vital products such as food, drink and some medical devices.

Ensuring social distancing measures are adhered to remains of paramount importance but, for many, this continues to seriously affect production levels. The lack of clarity around Brexit is also seriously hampering the industry’s ability to plan.

So what can manufacturing firms do as more lockdowns threaten to impact operations further?

      Keep up to date with the latest guidance

The Government, in consultation with industry and unions, continues to update guidance for working safely in factories, plants and warehouses.

It is vital to stay up to date by taking in the latest changes and considering the impact that they will have on operations.

Read the latest government guidance on working safely in factories, plants and warehouses.

      Stay close to your customers and your suppliers

Having a clear picture of demand from customers and availability of materials and components from suppliers has never been more important. Long and complicated supply chains are not easy to manage at the best of times, let alone when they are being disrupted so regularly and so quickly by local lockdowns.

Meanwhile, forecasting demand from customers is proving equally difficult. Here’s how you can mitigate your supply chain risks and monitor demand from customers. 

  • Upgrade your demand forecasting tools
    Forecasting demand using internal metrics like ‘previous sales’ does not work in the current environment. Incorporating additional variables when trying to forecast can help. There are a plethora of external data sets that can help you forecast more effectively, including data from suppliers, customers, weather forecasts, and other economic indicators.
  • Diversify your suppliers by geography
    Diversifying supply chains geographically where possible could be advisable given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic. This will allow you to reduce your reliance on any specific region or country. 
  • Multi-source your supplies 
    Mitigating supply chain risks by developing relationships with new potential suppliers may help to minimise disruption should lockdown suddenly impact the availability of key components and materials. The best prepared manufacturers have multi-sourced key commodities or strategic components to reduce their reliance on any one supplier.
  • Inventory strategies 
    Many manufacturers are implementing inventory strategies to ensure they have a buffer in place in preparation for significant supply chain disruption. 
  • Increase visibility across your customers and supply chains
    Having systems in place to better understand risks and drive actions is key. Now might not feel like the right time to invest in new technologies and tools, but being able to respond quickly to changes in demand and supply chain issues is likely to be more vital than ever before. Consider some of the new technologies that can improve customer communication and supply chain visibility.
      Manage cashflow carefully

Conserving cash and accessing finance has been and will continue to be a top priority for a lot of manufacturers. Explore all of your options when looking to obtain reliefs and support or accessing finance

How are we helping the manufacturing sector?

There's a pressing need for the sector to articulate a plan of action for recovery. To help, we have partnered with Make UK to ensure that the voice of the manufacturing industry is heard.

Together, we are gathering input on the role the Government can play in revitalising local manufacturing economies beyond coronavirus and post-Brexit. We'll then collate the results and communicate through Make UK directly to Number 10. 

If you would like to contribute your thoughts or for more information, contact Ben Horseman

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