COVID-19

What will manufacturing look like as companies start to reopen?

Mitchell Hartman May 27, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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More automation could be a solution to crowded, hands-on production lines. Ethan Miller/Getty Images
COVID-19

What will manufacturing look like as companies start to reopen?

Mitchell Hartman May 27, 2020
More automation could be a solution to crowded, hands-on production lines. Ethan Miller/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

There have been some recent signs of slight economic improvement in May — now that states and businesses are tentatively reopening.

That reopening includes manufacturing, where, for example, auto plants have started ramping up production again. That comes along with new health monitoring and assembly-line precautions to keep workers safer.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s manufacturing index for May rebounded from a record low, but it’s still at its lowest level since 2009.

Manufacturers of autos and aircraft, oil and gas producers have all been hit hard by plummeting business and consumer spending.

Even in sectors where demand is still high, like food processing, the coronavirus has infected workers and slowed production. Arun Sundaram at CFRA Research says some meatpacking plants shut down, retooled and reopened.

“Not to the full capacity pre-COVID-19,” Sundaram said. “There are still challenges keeping workers safe, social distancing within the plants.”

Increased automation and the use of more robots could be a solution to crowded, hands-on production lines.

But Ned Hill, at the Ohio Manufacturing Institute at Ohio State University, says in the near-term, don’t bet on it.

“I don’t expect to see lots of capital investment,” Hill said. “Companies right now are trying to pay attention to their burn rate on cash, to make sure they stay open.”

Manufacturers laid off 1.3 million workers in April.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The latest: President Donald Trump signed an executive action directing $400 extra a week in unemployment benefits. But will that aid actually reach people? It’s still unclear. Trump directed federal agencies to send $300 dollars in weekly aid, taken from the federal disaster relief fund, and called on states to provide an additional $100. But states’ budgets are stretched thin as it is.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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