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One in Four U.S. Manufacturers Considering Automating Due to COVID-19

Industry News
Thomas Coronavirus and manufacturers

One in Four U.S. Manufacturers Considering Automating Due to COVID-19

Contributor: Thomas

Two-Thirds of Manufacturers Likely to Reshore as Result of Pandemic Impact

Thomas, the leader in product sourcing, supplier selection, and marketing solutions for industry, today released a new survey reporting on COVID-19’s impact on the U.S. manufacturing and industrial sectors. The survey examined more than 1,000 North American manufacturing and industrial suppliers to determine how they have been affected by the global pandemic as well as trends in the space that will continue to shape the industrial sector post-pandemic.

A key survey finding shows that one in four U.S. manufacturers are considering expanding industrial automation as a result of COVID-19, while an additional 20% report they already have systems in place.

Additionally, a whopping 64% of manufacturers report they are likely to bring manufacturing production and sourcing back to North America — a 10% increase from the same sentiment reported in the March 2020 survey.

“The COVID-19 pandemic will fundamentally redefine how industrial companies approach their supply chains and will further advance the digital transformation of manufacturing. By embracing real-time resource management, redundancy, reshoring, and the convergence between the digital and physical supply chains, manufacturers will come out of this crisis even stronger than they were before,” said Tony Uphoff, president and CEO of Thomas. “It’s encouraging to see that even in the most uncertain and challenging of times, the North American manufacturing sector is adeptly rising to the occasion by pivoting production to address the urgent need for PPE and other medical supplies, hiring additional skilled workers, and supporting the industrial economy.”

Additional key survey findings include:

  • Future of Industry: While 41% of manufacturers are predicting a decrease in demand as a result of the outbreak, 91% are confident that the sector as a whole will recover.
  • Job Security: 56% of manufacturing companies have not laid off employees due to COVID-19, and 30% of companies are actively hiring.
  • Impact of Non-Essential Businesses: 64% of manufacturers report their business is affected by the shutdown orders impacting other non-essential businesses, with the transportation (77%), automotive (75%), construction (70%), and agricultural (69%) sectors most drastically affected.
  • Relief Efforts: While a majority (85%) of all companies surveyed report they have not shifted to produce supplies related to COVID-19 relief efforts, medical and healthcare, agricultural, and automotive manufacturers are leading the charge to produce PPE.
  • Financial Aid: 63% of manufacturing companies report having applied for financial assistance and of that group, 60% report they applied for the Paycheck Protection Program, 17% report they applied for Economic Injury Disaster Loans and 9% report they applied for Debt Relief and Express Bridge Loans from the Small Business Administration.
  • In-Demand Materials: In order to stabilize supply and keep production on schedule, manufacturers reported the most vital items to be personal protective equipment (42%), metals (37%), fabricated materials (29%), and machining tools and parts (27%).


The study was conducted online using Qualtrics. This survey was a follow up to the March survey and is the third installment in the series of surveys examining COVID-19’s impact on U.S. manufacturing. The survey polled over 1,000 North American suppliers with revenues spanning from less than $4.9 million to over $500 million. Click here to get a copy of the Thomas Industrial Survey: COVID-19′ Impact on North American Manufacturers.

To be a part of our future industrial research, join the Thomas Industry Survey Panel to participate in the collection of business intelligence shared on a monthly basis through the free Thomas Industry Update daily newsletter.

About Thomas’ COVID-19 Response

Thomas has launched a three-part COVID-19 Response in light of the global pandemic. First, the Thomas COVID-19 Resource Hub provides mission-critical, real-time information and important updates to keep industrial business leaders up to date. Second, a new industrial sourcing filter on identifies suppliers with readily available products and service capabilities as COVID-19 Response Suppliers; over 2,000 suppliers are now included in this group. Finally, Thomas is facilitating partnerships between manufacturing companies to keep industrial businesses moving forward during this time.

About Thomas

Thomas provides actionable information, data, analysis, and tools that align with and support today’s industrial buying process. Its solutions include the Thomas Network at, industry’s largest and most active buyer/supplier network. Through Thomas Marketing Services, the company provides full-service industrial marketing programs and website development.Thomas Product Data Solutions helps manufacturers connect with design engineers through advanced CAD/BIM and data syndication services. Thomas Industrial Data supplies sourcing and supply chain trend data to media, investors, analysts, and researchers to provide market insight and inform decision making. Thomas WebTrax® provides opportunity intelligence on in-market buyers to help marketing and sales teams track, identify and engage high-value prospects. Thomas Insights delivers original content to help marketers and supply chain professionals inform their decision-making, through leading titles including Inbound Logistics®, Thomas Industry Update, Industrial Equipment News® (IEN®), and the Thomas Index™.

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