Yes, it’s true that coronavirus COVID-19 has affected global business in disruptive and shocking ways – much the same way as the Asian tsunami of 2004 and 9/11 affected the countries around the Indian Ocean and the U.S., respectively.

Not unlike pandemics in the past, this one will impact industry for a long time to come, with the casualties in the short-term being supply chain and manufacturing. So, when this wave of infectious pandemic subsides – whether in weeks or months – how will industry respond? Could the disruption that coronavirus has caused force a change in global supply chains and manufacturing beyond the short-term? Could this pause in production steer the epicenter of global manufacturing away from China and to more local regions? And, finally, will we now be forced into a primarily digital economy, where ecommerce becomes the standard-bearer and not the afterthought?

It Begins with Resilience

The answer to all these questions begins with resilience. As the world is more connected, both socially and economically, what happens in one corner more often than not impacts another corner — many times instantaneously. On the other hand, interconnectedness and technology are both forcing and allowing for greater resilience in industry and manufacturing.

The World Economic Forum reports that as China’s production facilities shut down in January, the world held its breath – literally and figuratively – and financial markets shuddered. In the short term, some manufacturers began looking at other regions that were not as hard hit by the pandemic, or began manufacturing completely different products that were more immediately needed – like facemasks or ventilator valves. In the long term, manufacturers will be looking at better and more transparent planning, and adding resilience, responsiveness and reconfigurability to their KPIs. It is very likely that manufacturing will become more regional and have the ability to respond to changing consumer needs and demand more quickly.

Agility & Planning

According to Sunil Chopra, IBM Professor of Operations/MIS at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, he foresees larger companies leaning towards greater agility and planning. This will take the form of smaller manufacturing facilities in multiple locations rather than large, concentrated production in one geographic area.

Meanwhile smaller companies will benefit from leaning on technology and digital functions, from 3D printing to more flexible warehousing
options. The latter eventuality is particularly relevant to small ecommerce businesses, many of which rely heavily on global manufacturing capacity, supply chain and distribution. They too will now have to consider resiliency in their operations, while other businesses will have an opportunity to enter the digital space. While the first thought is on the care and wellbeing of owner and employees, the fact is that some businesses will profit during this pause.

Household supplies and food/grocery retailers will benefit during the financial shutdown – Digital Commerce 360 reports that Blue Apron, Inc’s stock price increased five times in the past week. Other brick-and-mortar businesses that rely on interpersonal interaction, like car dealerships, are
increasingly turning to online engagement, like scheduling one-to-one appointments virtually and introducing new services. Ultimately, the disruption we are forced to address now will create a change in consumer buying behavior over the long-term – not only in what consumers buy, but how. Adapting to a digital presence will be more pervasive and valuable than ever.

CITC COVID-19 Business Resources

We’re here to help during the COVID-19 shutdown with free digital tools, resources, and trade experts ready to assist your small to mid-sized business during these times of uncertainty.

Kuntal Warwick
Kuntal Warwick

Global marketing and business professional with senior-level experience across industries, including higher education, arts/culture, healthcare/biotech, cleantech, and with a focus on innovation.