Market survey: COVID-19 impact on China’s manufacturing industry

COVID-19 is negatively affecting manufacturing in China and causing series supply chain challenges according to a Control Engineering China April survey. More automation with faster digitalization is the most-expected result in a ranked list.

By Aileen Jin May 14, 2020


Learning Objectives

  • Survey shows COVID-19 impact on Chinese manufacturers in April.
  • 46% felt severe business impacts of COVID-19, according to a Control Engineering China survey of manufacturers.
  • More automation and faster digitalization is the largest expected result of COVID-19.

Control Engineering China held a market survey about coronavirus’ (COVID-19’s) impact on China’s manufacturing industry from April 6-9, 2020. More than half of the respondents’ enterprises were negatively affected by COVID-19 and had serious supply chain problems and more automation with faster digitalization is the most-expected result. The survey received 536 valid questionnaires from 23 provinces and regions of China.

46% of manufacturers in China: Severe COVID-19 business impact

Among the respondents who participated in the survey, 36% said COVID-19 had a severe impact on their companies’ business. Among respondents, 46% said their companies were negatively affected, but the degree is not easy to measure; 14% said measurement is not available yet, but it may have an impact if it lasts for a long time; 1% of respondents were unsure whether or not there was an impact; 3% said they were not affected.

In response to the epidemic, the main measures taken by companies include: travel restrictions (74%); active development of emergency plans (61%); encouragement of working from home (52%) and increased production of related product categories to meet new market demand (48%).

When asked: “What suggestions and measures have been put forward by the engineering and technical experts of the companies to mitigate the impact of COVID-19?” the high-frequency words appearing in the respondents’ answers include in sequence: remote office work, enhance protection, increase cloud deployment, new product development and accelerate digital transformation.

Survey: 57% of critical work can be completed remotely

The survey shows remote working is not suitable for everyone. Only 48% of respondents said they could complete key parts of their work remotely, 31% were unsure, or could only complete certain parts of the work remotely, 21% cannot complete the critical part of the work at home. When asked: “What percentage of critical work can be completed remotely,” the average percentage of responses is 57%.

For 57% of respondents, COVID-19 seriously affected the company’s supply chain; 30% said there was a supply chain problem, but the overall impact was not large; 6% said they are unsure yet. Measures taken by companies to respond to supply chain problems include increasing supply chain emergency and standby resources (54%) and adding new manufacturing capabilities to replace supply chain interruptions (43%).

The measures taken by enterprises to deal with supply chain problems include: increasing supply chain emergency and reserve resources (54%), adding new manufacturing capacity to make up for supply chain disruption (43%).

Many large-scale industry events, such as user events, seminars and professional exhibitions, have been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19. Among respondents, 30% said this has a greater impact on themselves, and they will miss many opportunities to interact with advanced manufacturers, learn new technologies and put them into operation; 57% said that although they lost the opportunity to participate in specific offline activities, but in fact, they could also make up for it through other channels. For example, they would participate in more online activities.

COVID-19 lessons learned: Manufacturer survey in China

Will manufacturing companies learn from COVID-19 to prevent it in future? Among respondents, 64% said their companies should be a little more prepared and may still encounter similar unexpected production challenges; 27% said companies should be more prepared to deal with possible future challenges; 5% expect no difference in preparation; 4% said they would still be unprepared.

In the long run, what impact will COVID-19 have on the future development of Chinese manufacturing companies? The respondents ranked the options in order of priority: Increasing investment in automation equipment and accelerating the digital transformation process; increasing intelligent management of upstream and downstream supply chains and deployment of emergency plans; adjusting production and R&D directions according to new global market demands; launch more remote intelligent services based on the Industrial Internet; pay more attention to the management of health, safety and environment (HSE).

Aileen Jin is editor-in-chief, Control Engineering China. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,


KEYWORDS: COVID-19, manufacturer impact, China


Is your company accelerating automation and digitalization investments as a result of COVID-19?

Aileen Jin
Author Bio: Aileen Jin is editor-in-chief of Control Engineering China.