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Research

Poll results: Coronavirus, COVID-19 impact on engineers and industry

Coronavirus impact data was collected from March 12 to 17 from visitors to Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, Oil & Gas Engineering, and Consulting-Specifying Engineer websites. Half of respondents’ business have negative effects; half have supply chain problems. Results cover impact on business, company responses, travel, future outlook, government strategies and other topics.

By Mark T. Hoske March 19, 2020
Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology COVID-19 engineering impact survey, March 12-17

Half of the respondents to a Coronavirus (COVID-19) impact survey said their businesses have been negatively affected, and about half have supply chain problems. Leading company actions to date focus on limiting travel (77%); encouraging work from home (52%); working on contingency plans now with changes expected soon (52%); and eliminating travel (36%).

Survey method

From March 12 to 17 from visitors to Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, Oil & Gas Engineering, and Consulting-Specifying Engineer websites gave coronavirus impact data. Of 158 responses to the CFE Media and Technology survey, 84 respondents answered all questions, and 74 answered some of the questions. Margin of error is 10.6%. Questions cover coronavirus impact on business, company responses, remote work and operations, supply chain, travel, user group and trade shows, future outlook for similar challenges, government strategies by country, and advice. Incentive was a chance to win a $50 gift card.

Survey results

Among respondents, 69% were from the U.S., though 24 other countries were represented. Most among those were India, United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia, all in the single digits.

The survey asked if the respondents’ business is negatively affected by Coronavirus. About half said yes, with 13% saying yes, a great deal; and 36% saying yes, but not much or difficult to measure. Also, 21% said no; 26% said not yet, but it will if it goes on for long; and 5% were not sure. Total is 101% due to rounding.

Figure 1: About half of survey respondents said their companies were experiencing negative effects from coronavirus (COVID-19). Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology COVID-19 engineering impact survey, March 12-17

Figure 1: About half of survey respondents said their companies were experiencing negative effects from coronavirus (COVID-19). Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology COVID-19 engineering impact survey, March 12-17

Actions taken in response

The survey asked what among 24 actions the respondents’ companies were taking because of coronavirus. The top 10 responses were:

  1. Limiting travel
  2. Working on contingency plans now; expect to see changes soon
  3. Encouraging work from home
  4. Eliminating travel
  5. Delaying or eliminating hiring
  6. Adding supply chain contingencies, secondary sources, etc.
  7. Delaying or eliminating investments
  8. Mandating work from home (for those that can)
  9. Adding new manufacturing capabilities to make up for breaks in supply chain
  10. Increasing production of relevant product categories to meet increased demand.

The survey also asked an open-ended question: What operational initiatives is your company taking to prevent the spread of coronavirus in your facility? Responses represented in a word cloud and included sending out health updates, changing sanitation processes, issuing gloves, hand sanitizer. Largest words in the cloud were hand, updates, and health, followed by sending, home, travel, and links.

Figure 2: About half of survey respondents said their companies were experiencing negative supply chain effects from coronavirus (COVID-19). Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology COVID-19 engineering impact survey, March 12-17

Figure 2: About half of survey respondents said their companies were experiencing negative supply chain effects from coronavirus (COVID-19). Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology COVID-19 engineering impact survey, March 12-17

Another question asked what technologies, processes or advice not mentioned here are the engineering-minded people in your organization suggesting or offering to help with the coronavirus impact? The largest words in the cloud of responses were home and work.

Not everyone can work at home

Even so, remote working doesn’t work for everyone, as 45% said they can complete critical parts job functions at home, 31% cannot, and 24% were not sure/only some parts.

Figure 3: What operational initiatives is your company taking to prevent the spread of coronavirus in your facility? Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology COVID-19 engineering impact survey, March 12-17

Figure 3: What operational initiatives is your company taking to prevent the spread of coronavirus in your facility? Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology COVID-19 engineering impact survey, March 12-17

About half of respondents said their company is having supply chain problems. Eight percent said they were having severe problems, 40% minor problems, 39% no problems, and 12% were unsure.

Cancellation or postponed industry event and user groups is a big problem for 15% of respondents and a medium-sized problem for 36%, with 49% saying it’s not a problem; they can get the information needed virtually and/or from suppliers.

Is coronavirus teaching us anything? The survey asked if respondents’ companies would be more or less prepared for similar challenges in the future: 26% said yes, absolutely more prepared, 54% said a little more prepared but expect similar challenges, 18% said they expect no difference. One respondent of 87 respondents to that question said their company would be less prepared next time.

Figure 4: What technologies, processes or advice not mentioned here are the engineering-minded people in your organization suggesting or offering to help with the coronavirus impact? Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology COVID-19 engineering impact survey, March 12-17

Figure 4: What technologies, processes or advice not mentioned here are the engineering-minded people in your organization suggesting or offering to help with the coronavirus impact? Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology COVID-19 engineering impact survey, March 12-17

Government strategies

What strategies should the U.S. government review to help address this type of situation in the future?

Three ranked responses were:

  1. Incentivize re-shoring of key manufacturing segments back to the USA (pharmaceutical or feed-stock products (ranking score 154)
  2. Invest in medical research and development to speed vaccine development and virus testing capabilities (ranking score 153)
  3. Do even more to promote manufacturing automation where production can be completed with minimum operator involvement (ranking score 89).

Review health and wellness news related to engineering atop each of the websites mentioned, now focused on coronavirus, COVID-19.

www.controleng.com

www.csemag.com

www.plantengineering.com

www.oilandgaseng.com

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

KEYWORDS: COVID-19 engineering impacts, survey

Half of respondents say their businesses have been negatively affected by COVID-19.

Supply chain problems are being experienced by companies of half of the respondents.

31% cannot complete critical part of their jobs at home.

CONSIDER THIS

Catch up on engineering effects of COVID-19 at CFE Media and Technology websites; share your impacts in our ongoing poll.


Mark T. Hoske
Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.